Lessons on unrequited love from Hindi masala movies

Guest post by BollySpektator

While I love blogging, in the past few years I’ve found it very hard to write. There are multiple unfinished posts on my hard drive, and I have little energy to complete them.  So when my younger sister offered to write a post for me, I jumped at the chance! She wrote this months ago, and has been wondering when her post will be published. So without further ado, over to BollySpektator. Hope this is the first of many of her posts….

I recently watched the movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) and it made me think. Yes, really. What if the movie-makers had given the vacant characters a real life? What if these characters had jobs or were shown to care about something other than themselves? What if they hadn’t chopped off Fawad Khan’s role? Would the film have touched a chord with me then?

For those who have not yet watched it, this movie is an ultra glamorous take on unrequited love. Ultra rich boy and rich girl meet. Boy falls in love with girl. But the rich girl is pining for another boy. Then ultra rich boy meets another rich girl. This rich girl falls for him but he is still in love with the first. To add depth to the story, rich girl two also has a back-story of another rich guy pining for her. And so it goes.

Stories of unrequited love have a way of touching the hardest of hearts. For love that is reciprocated and you can act upon, the romance soon passes into the standard life-story of marriage, children, etc. But with unrequited love, you never get past that first beating of the heart, the first flutter of emotions and those stupefying daydreams. It is as if romance lives on, in an idealized version. And even more, it is further intensified with the bittersweet agony of unfulfilled longing. So, if ADHM did not bring the longing of unrequited love to life for me, what would?

To analyze this very profound and important question, I turned to the encyclopedia of emotions: the world of Hindi masala movies and their expressive songs. After deep study, here are my conclusions, with examples to illustrate my point.

Conclusion 1: The object of the longing should be desirable. Otherwise it is hard to sympathize with the unrequited love!

Song – Tum pukar lo (Khamoshi, 1969): Ah, what can I say. This I think is the ultimate song of unrequited love. The guy pines for the love of his life while unknown to him, the woman hearing him sing is pining for his love. Dharmendra at that time was at the peak of his handsomeness. A full view of his face, longing for the woman of his dreams, would melt my heart, like butter in the Indian summer. But just being able to see his profile and no more, brings me completely in tune with the agony suffered by the woman (Waheeda Rehman) hearing him sing.

Song – Hum tumhe chahte hai aise (Qurbani, 1980): They (Vinod Khanna and Zeenat Aman) are both photogenic and in the prime of their life. So even if the picturization of this song is more like an ad for swimwear than an ode to love or longing, I can find oodles of sympathy for the guy, who longs for the woman, just as intensely as a dying man might long for life. She however, cannot return his feelings.

Conclusion 2: Extension to conclusion 1. The plot around the suffering should be well drawn so that I can feel sympathy for the sufferer.

Song in the context of the film – Pal pal dil ke paas (Blackmail, 1973):

I know I am not the first in recognizing the romantic appeal of this song. The lyrics are full of expression of love. And they are all the more appealing to me because here is an expression of a man’s love for a woman without allusion to her beauty. Many a woman has dreamed of having someone love her, the way the female character (Rakhee) is loved by the male character (Dharmendra) in this film. He is bashful and insecure and very aware that he is laying himself open for rejection. And rejected he is. She is already in love with someone else and does not return his feelings. He is broken-hearted and withdraws with dignity, keeping his unrequited love in his heart.

Song in the context of the film – Din dhal jaaye (Guide, 1965) – They are together and yet separated by walls of misunderstandings. He yearns for her love but she, thinking he has betrayed her, rejects his love. He is heartbroken, caught in the web created by his actions, losing her yet unable to explain to her that it was the fear of losing her that had prompted him in the first place.

Conclusion 3: Extension to conclusion 1 and 2. The plot should offer an understanding of why the person loving continues to love, and why the love cannot be reciprocated.

Song – Tum mujhe bhool bhi jao (Didi, 1959): He is too busy righting the wrongs in society to have either time or thought for love. She understands that and that only makes her love him more.

Tumko duniya ke gamo-dard se fursat na sahi,

Sabse ulfat sahi, mujhse hi muhabbat na sahi,

Mai tumhari hun yahi mere liye kya kam hai,

Tum mere ho ke raho, ye meri kismet na sahi…

I really love the song: the lyrics, the music and the way it is sung. Still, I cannot stop the thought that if the woman had a fulfilling job (like the man) the thoughts of love wouldn’t have occupied her mind so much!

Film – Bombai Ka Babu, 1960: This is a prime example of conclusions 1, 2 and 3 meeting together! Desirable object of longing, check. Sympathy for the sufferer, check. Sympathy for the suffering, check.

Babu (a young and handsome Dev Anand), pretending to be the long lost son of a well-to-do family, falls in love with Maya (a radiant and beautiful Suchitra Sen) – his supposed sister. How can this love ever be fulfilled? Despite his repentance, he cannot reveal the truth of his deception. His deception has brought hope and joy back to the bereft family. He cannot shatter the parents who have embraced him whole-heartedly. And Maya? She only doubts him and repels his advances. His one-sided love is doomed.

Conclusion 4: Anomalies to Conclusions 1-3. Of course there have to be anomalies!

Here are some stand-alone examples of songs that do not fulfill any of the previous 3 conclusions but still bring to life the bitter-sweet, heart wrenching longing and frustration of unrequited love.

Song Ae dil hai mushkil (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, 2016): Although the movie didn’t touch my heart, this song did. Seen independent of the film’s self-absorbed characters, this song very melodiously and soulfully brings the intensity of the bitter-sweet longing of one-sided love to life. Starting with small, short stretches of simple music gliding into higher notes and a complete orchestra. And the lyrics are so appropriate: …tere bina guzara, ae dil hai mushkil…

I wish someone would write a truly heart-wrenching story around this song… Bollyviewer?

Song in context of the film – Jo tumko ho pasand (Safar, 1970): This song is on the surface a joyous, typical “singing paeans to the woman you love” song. But in context of the movie, I find it fits my definition of unrequited love. He is besotted with her, willing to do anything to keep her happy. If she wants to call the day, night, then so would he. He is over the moon (doesn’t matter if it is day or night!) that she has agreed to be with him. But in reality, some part of her heart still belongs to another and she does not love him back with the same intensity.

I find this song very romantic but always have to shut down a voice in my head singing “Jo tumko ho pasand vahi baat kahenge, peepal ko agar taad kaho taad kahenge”. I cannot figure out why it is romantic to say day is night, but not peepal (a type of fig tree native to Indian subcontinent) is taad (palm tree)?

SongJise tu kubul karle (Devdas, 1955): In this song, and movie, I cannot sympathize or understand the sufferer, nor do I find the object of longing (a very plastic Dilip Kumar) desirable. But the frustration of one-sided longing is so clearly and so melodiously expressed here.

Darpan ko dekha (Upaasana, 1971): The song very aptly expresses the suffering and the unfulfilled dreams of the man (Feroz Khan) whose love is not returned. However, I am not able to drum up much sympathy for him. It could perhaps be because of the way the song is filmed. It seems he is announcing his suffering to her and wanting her immediate action on his petition. Hardly her problem if you have decided to love her regardless of her feelings!

So, what films/songs/actors illustrate the longing of unrequited love for you?


8 Responses to Lessons on unrequited love from Hindi masala movies

  1. dustedoff says:

    As I reading through this, it struck me just how many love triangles Feroz Khan has acted in – either being the one suffering the pangs of unrequited love, or the one who is the actual recipient of the love that another pines for.

    Some lovely songs in this list (and some delightful quips! – including those captions, which had me giggling all through). Thank you for that. And thank you for being back, Bollyviewer – and BollySpektator, for such a fun post!

    • BollySpektator says:

      True about Feroz Khan and the love triangles he’s played in. It hadn’t stuck me till you said it.
      And thanks for your comment. It was fun writing this post. I would love to write lots more… if my resolution lasts and Bollyviewer keeps the captions coming!

    • bollyviewer says:

      Thanks, Madhu! Hindi songs should be patented as multipurpose multiuse items – you can mine them for so many things and recycle them endlessly to come up with something fun each time. 🙂

  2. Anu Warrier says:

    BollySpektator, I’m so glad you stopped researching vineyards to explore Bollywood instead. 🙂

    But I quite liked Ae Dil Hai Muskhkil. 😦

    Loved your tippani and big sis’s captions. I can see that she must have been very hungry while posting this article.

    Love the songs – well, not Tumko jo pasand which always struck me as being a whiny doormatty song.

    Please continue to write – we need many more lessons from Bollywood courtesy the Bolly sisters!

    • BollySpektator says:

      Thank you for the encouragement Anu! When Bollyviewer wouldn’t budge and start writing new posts I had to take matters in my own hands.

      About ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’: what would be the fun if we all liked the same things? And I didn’t actively dislike it…just that it didn’t leave much of an impression.

    • bollyviewer says:

      I can see that she must have been very hungry while posting this article. I am always thinking of food, hungry or no!

      And I liked Ae Dil Hai Mushkil too – even though I felt the distinct lack of Fawad Khan.

  3. BollySpektator says:

    Hey BollyViewer, I had thought this post had gone into the cold storage for ever. But, you have finally posted it, and with a such a lovely dose of your irreverent captions. It was worth the wait. 😀

    • bollyviewer says:

      Sabr ka phal? 😉

      By the way, after going over your thesis, I would like to add conclusion #5. I am most moved by the suffering of a good looking guy when his love is unrequited – like Dharmendra in Blackmail. If the same character were played by Jeetendra, for example, I would have no sympathy with the sufferer, and Pal pal dil ke paas would lose most of its romantic appeal! And good looking women do not trigger my sympathy in the same way because Hindi movie women are: a) usually suffering, and b) almost always better looking than their male costars.

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