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Is the Bollywood love story finally discovering nuance?
NIDHI GUPTA  6th Nov 2011

A still from Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D

ollywood is pushing its love stories into new adventurous territories lately. There have been a slew of releases this year, including Pyar ka Punchnama, Luv ka The End, Turning 30, Delhi Belly, Love Break-Ups Zindagi, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Mujhse Fraandship Karoge, with similar themes and temperament. They pose the kinds of questions about love and sex and duty and responsibility for which life does not always provide reliable answers. Recurring heartbreaks and a 'move-on' syndrome characterise these films.

Love, even in Hindi cinema, is no longer that magical moment which has a happy ending in marriage. Anuja Aggarwal, associate professor of sociology at Delhi University, analyses this trend. "Love is being demystified, which is in line with a capitalist society's valorisation of the self and mass consumption," she says.

For veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who was part of the vibrant art house cinema movement in the '70s and '80s, this is not a transition, but a shortfall. "We don't know how to deal with great love stories anymore because people have become too cynical," he says. For the man who gave us gems like Zubeidaa and Suraj Ka Satvaan Ghoda, the best love stories are those that remain unconsummated. "The romance lies in the yearning, in imagination and in probable tragedy," he adds.

“Love is being demystified, which is in line with a capitalist society’s valorisation of the self and mass consumption,”

Saumya Verma, assistant professor of Film and Cultural Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, echoes this notion. "Romance has long been akin to the idea of viraha ras, the twin pain and pleasure of absence," she says. It explains why the Rajs, Prems and Rahuls of the Yash Raj world were so endearing as loyal and pining lovers.

But Anurag Kashyap's DevD changed all that. "Films by Kashyap (and other edgy, off-beat filmmakers like Luv Ranjan of Pyar ka Punchnama) focus on the body of the beloved. Lust is central because he questions the very possibility of romantic love in this age of accelerated sensations and instant gratification," she points out. Even so, she finds love to be one of the biggest commodities being sold today. "The theory of relativity applies here, with the hyper stimuli of today's fast world, everything is on a different pitch," she remarks.

However, it's not as if the pursuit of the eternal love in Indian cinema has been relegated to pages of history. While the new Indian films like DevD or Love Sex Aur Dhokha cater to the middle class in metropolises where gender status has become almost equal, says Benegal, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Jab We Met, both quintessential boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love stories, roped in big money too. "It's all about finding your market," sums up Verma.

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