Tuesday, September 20, 2011

1990 – Many love stories

Last week when someone told me that his friend’s sister had eloped, I was surprised and the only question I asked was, “Do people still elope?” I thought the concept of elopement was passé because kids these days “fall in love” after so much clever calculation that it becomes impossible for the parents to object.
This incident took me straight back to the first year of my college in the 1990s when a classmate’s mother walked into our class to enquire about her daughter who’d been missing for the past 2 days! The interesting part of the story was that this absconding classmate had “eloped” with her car driver (oops...chauffer it should be). Just into college and added to it, we were students of English Literature - just imagine our state of mind when we heard the story! Of course by the end of the final year, though we had gotten used to the elopement stories we got excited every time – if it wasn’t the French tutor, it was the rich guy next-door who happened to be a glorified cowherd and then there was the girl who “ran away” with the neighbourhood auto rickshaw driver!!
Those of us who grew up in the late 80s and 1990s were mostly a bunch of dreamers. We dreamt of love stories, lovers and sometimes careers. Yes, very much in that order.
The late 80s and the 1990s was the golden-era of love stories. Cinema reflects society and vice versa and so this was the period when some of the most memorable love stories got made (memorable for us kids, unforgettable for our poor parents). Wow! What movies they were!

• Geethanjali (the cult Telugu movie which inspired our Indian film makers in so many ways)
• Maine Pyar Kiya (come on, don’t laugh. Have you forgotten? Some people were smitten by the doves and even Alok Nath)
• Qayamat se Qayamat Tak (I still sigh at the very mention of it)
• Dil
• Idhayam (the heavy, heavy Tamil movie that melted many hearts)
• Eeramana Rojave
• Punnagai Mannan
• Aashiqui
• Dil Hai ke Maanta Nahin (with a clever modern-day twist and the famous line “Pooja beti Bhaag”. Thank God the hero of that movie hadn’t yet turned a producer – else he would have written a song for the situation “Bhaag bhaag pooja bhaag”, with a few swear words thrown in )
• ....the list goes on (definitely not in a chronological order).
All these movies had the quintessential dialogue of the era “Is duniya ki koi taakat hamein rok nahin sakti” translated into all Indian languages!!! My generation grew up watching such movies and listening to songs like “Main duniya bhula doonga teri chaahat mein”, “hum pyar karne waalen, duniya se na darne waale”, “roke kab ruki hai, manzil pyaar ki”. Ha! Such inspiring words and I guess that did it. So inspired we all were that we forgot to plan ourselves a career... we just loitered around, found jobs and life-partners – some traitors didn’t even fulfil the secret pact that the youth of the 1990s had made to themselves – they quietly sneaked into arranged marriages!
The trend of the movies and the society slowly changed and brought in the idea of “sacrificing love for the sake of family respect”...with convenient happy endings. Prem and Pooja bottled up their feelings for each other (Maine Pyar Kiya) and if not for hoarse voice of Amrish Puri that said “Ja Simran”, our giggly Raj would've never got his Simran. Sacrifice became a recurring theme in half a dozen ‘SuperBad Tamil movies’ produced by SuperGood movies with melodic ‘strains’ by SA Rajkumar.
Cut to today - just like youngsters today, the characters in today’s films are straightforward, less dreamy eyed, more practical and ready to drop old lovers and pick new ones without as much as a tear drop. Parental consent is not quite an issue (if at all parents form part of the story). What is interesting is that most of the leads (both the girls and boys) have their own careers. In the 1990s, even the college-educated guys had to chop wood for a living in case they eloped!! The definition of falling in love and relationship seems to be changing. Though it broke my heart, Gautam Menon conveyed to his audience that it is only in a movie that Jessie can marry Karthik against all odds but the real Jessie (out of the movie) moves on and marries someone else. Of course there are good movies being made today too but they only have a certain love angle to a larger subject. Even in movies that claim to be in Romance genre (I hate luvv stories, Anjana Anjani, Break ke Baad, Paiyya, Engeyum Kaadhal) I somehow feel the fiery passion, an essential part of a love-story, missing. VTV, Mynaa and Madrasapattinam were perhaps some exceptions in recent times. I’m unable to think of any such strong examples in Hindi though. Please tell me if you can think of any.
Like I said earlier, cinema is definitely a mirror to the times we live in. People are keener on establishing a comfortable position for themselves in this competitive world. Relationships, if at all they happen, are just sub-stories.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: Timepass - Memoirs of Protima Bedi

Though I've been eyeing it for a long time, I picked up this book from my lending library on a day when I was particularly in a "I am-just-going-to-follow-my-heart" state of mind.
The book is a collection of letters and excerpts from Protima Bedi’s journals. She wished to publish her Autobiography someday but little did she know that it would be published posthumously.
The presentation of the book is as raw and as simple as Protima Bedi’s outlook towards life. The book does not carry any air of the classy-literary style that one would expect from a noted classical dancer's memoirs nor do you find the sensationalism of a bold model's life story. The journal entries are all straightforward and the letters are simple and straight from the heart. Beyond being known as the Nudist of Juhu and the creator of Nrityagram, we see a very simple, even innocent person at the core. Her exploits, love affairs, struggles are all discussed very honestly and in a matter of fact style. The few black and white photographs that are added could have been of a better quality. They also don't contribute much to the story of Protima Bedi. Pooja Bedi and the editor perhaps didn't have accesss to many good pictures.
Initially, I felt the title of the book “Timepass” was rather frivolous. Only later does one realise that it sums up her simple philosophy of life. She says only birth and death are the two truths of life and everything else in between is just “timepass". There are such small, sometimes unintended, nuggets of wisdom in many chapters. The book offers some surprising and shocking moments - for instance, when she casually mentions names of celebrities and well-known people as her lovers/friends and when she talks about the ordeals she faced during her Odissi training days and the initial days of Nrityagram.
The last couple of chapters are very moving and philosophical in nature. The readers are taken to another level in terms of their understanding of Protima Gauri Bedi (How she dropped the name Bedi and added Gauri is quite funny). Her thoughts and actions during the last few chapters almost seem prophetic. One perhaps just needs to be in touch with his/her inner self to walk the path to sheer Bliss.
Inspiring in parts, thought provoking and touching in parts, this book is a good read for those who appreciate the essence of of free-spiritedness and is sure to be more than just a “timepass”!