Woody Allen, amongst other masters of cinema celebrates the cinema, the movies, the great stars of their times, ones they grew up watching on the silver screen…the movies that made them fall in love with them. You got to love and savor these childhood and teenage memories, for they will never betray you.
Long before the film school introduced us to world cinema, speaking for my part of the country, my hometown, Lucknow, star studded Hindi films were all that the movies meant to us. With the exception of Pather Panchali, and the Hindi New Wave films of the Benegal, Nihalani variety was all that one knew of in the 70s and 80s. On the one hand it was the Bachchan euphoria and on the other Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh and Ardh Satya were blockbusters. Especially Ardh Satya that ran to packed houses in Lucknow’s Capital Cinema near Hazratganj.
On Saturday evenings going for a movie after a meal in Royal Café, where a non-vegetarian meal for a family of four costed rupees 10/- with a band playing western music in attendance, was a ritual that was as sacred as any religious festival. It was the influence of my maternal side that movies were a religion for us. My father would take potshots at my mother and grandmother, calling “Star & Style” and “Stardust”, “granths” more sacred than Ramcharitmanas! From Devyani Chaubal, the well-known gossip journalist of the time, being manhandled by Dharmendra to Amitabh’s alleged alliances and Vinod Khanna joining Rajneesh, these gossip pages carried all and my maternal folks reveled in those stories.
There were two other movie-maniac families apart from ours. Dr. Veena Wadhwa, one of my mother’s closest friends, whose son Pavan is one of my closest childhood friends was one such family and the other was a very respected senior of my parents and Lucknow’s top ophthalmologist, Dr. KC Garg’s family. So, our three families would either go for Saturday movies together or invariable meet at the theatres and celebrated our common connection- Hindi films! This whole phase seems so surreal now.
This new series on Just Cinema is dedicated to movie memories of our growing up years, and whatever pleasant or unpleasant associated with going to the movies in those days. My first memory of watching a film in theatres is of Dev Anand, Hema Malini starrer Johnny Mera Naam and of course films of Amitabh Bachchan.
I, however, begin this series with a film that has many memories associated with it. Kumar Gaurav and Vijayta Pundit’s, Love Story (1981), directed by Rahul Rawail. In the final film though Rawail was denied the credit due to his difference with producer Rajendra Kumar, Kumar Gaurav’s father and a superstar of the 60s. It was an instant blockbuster and Kumar Gaurav an overnight sensation. It was a ‘love story’ that all fifteen and sixteen years old wanted. The hero’s introduction flying a private airplane was so aspirational that most teenagers started to imagine themselves as potential Kumar Gauravs. And Gaurav romancing Vijayta Pundit on the tunes of one and only R.D Burman made many fall in love-the first crush for a lot of college kids in the Hindi heartland was Ms. Pundit incarnate. The movie did a golden jubilee (52 weeks) in Capital Cinema and every day while returning from school we would look at lobby pictures of the film.
I personally loathed songs in movies until Love Story came and I found myself daydreaming to, “dekho maine dekha hai ek sapna phoolon ke shehar mein ho ghar apna...” (See, I have seen a dream of our house in the city of flowers) and “kaisa tera pyar kaisa gussa hai tera…” (Your love and anger both baffles me…). The sheer romance of your partner coming to your workplace to thaw your temper was indescribable. Stuff fantasies are made of.
Love Story is undoubtedly the most romantic Hindi film of our school days that made escapist romance fashionable. Poor Kumar Gaurav’s following films bombed, and he unfortunately turned out to be a flash pan in the pan, but Love Story remains a milestone film of my growing years without doubt.
Sharad Raj is a Mumbai based independent filmmaker & Senior Faculty at Whistling Woods International.