Relationship status: it’s complicated

an inescapable bond: In Bandini , Deven (Dharmendra) offers Kalyani (Nutan) a life free of her past, but Kalyani is a prisoner of her love for Bikash (Ashok Kumar).

an inescapable bond: In Bandini , Deven (Dharmendra) offers Kalyani (Nutan) a life free of her past, but Kalyani is a prisoner of her love for Bikash (Ashok Kumar).  

In the midst of straight and simple romances some Hindi films over the years have celebrated the passion that comes with demons attached

You are often in a three-person relationship: you, the one you love and your demons. You often wonder why the most celebrated love stories are often sanitised of these demons. You try to peek into the lives around you, look inside the perfect or imperfect little cocoons. However, those in relationships are secretive; they pretend to be normal, but probably have their demons deliberately tucked away safely, far from the prying eyes of neighbours and friends. Lonely, with your demons and your lovers, you look around and eventually find a reassuring resonance in some Hindi films you have grown up with.

Captive love

Like in Kalyani, the prisoner of her love, played by Nutan in Bimal Roy’s Bandini (1963), a film set in the 1930s against the freedom struggle, when men and women were trying to carve their individual identities against a changing nation. A caregiver, Kalyani does the unthinkable: takes away the life of an invalid woman in her care because she turns out to be the wife of her freedom-fighter lover Bikash (Ashok Kumar). Kalyani is serving a prison sentence. When the jail doctor arrives, she assists him, looks after patients and exposes herself to diseases; every day she tries to redeem herself. The doctor, Deven (played by Dharmendra), falls in love with her and offers her a life free of her past and the accompanying guilt. Deven chooses to be in love with a rare woman, one who has done the forbidden. But Kalyani is a prisoner of her love for Bikash. Unable to free herself of him, she chooses the uncertainly of a relationship and life with him.

Transient love

In a charming, unsteady gait Anand Babu walks into the chamber when Pushpa is singing. Her song is about the fleeting night and the eternal wait for Krishna. He becomes her regular client, they spend evenings together, he intoxicated with both his bottle and her voice. A remake of the Bengali film Nishipadma (1970), in turn based on a story by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Shakti Samanta’s Amar Prem (1972) portrayed an unlikely relationship between a businessman and a woman once married, soon after rejected by her husband and eventually sold to a brothel. They grow to love each other without any definitions attached, their intimacy bound by lack of everything they desired in conventional societal relationships. He has a wife, and Pushpa makes her family in her room with him and a neighbourhood child she grows to love. All three form a relationship, transient and nameless, and only years later do they come together again.

Elsewhere, Sudha and Mahender meet in a waiting room years after they have been separated in Gulzar’s Ijaazat (1987), based on the short story ‘Jatugriha’ by Subodh Ghosh. Their marriage was never just both of them; Mahender’s free-spirited girlfriend Maya was always a part of their togetherness. Until Sudha feels her present overwhelmed and overtaken by this undefined affection. She leaves and makes a life of her own, and years later the waiting room brings them together to confront each other. The song ‘Mera kuch samaan tumhare paas pada hain’ becomes a metaphor, talking of the impossibility of arriving at a closure in a relationship, how the significant moments will continue to lurk in memory.

Guide (1965) based on R.K. Narayan’s 1958 book of the same name, has Rosie and Raju guide locked in a unique relationship. They are better lovers and rebels when Rosie is transgressing her marriage. It’s in getting to know Raju that Rosie also discovers herself. Later, left to themselves, they battle insecurities and get caught in the same roles they were trying to run away from. Like Rosie, Raju must also find his purpose away from her. The story is about not giving up one’s own self, even for a short burst of love, desire and happiness.

Revolutionary love

Then you have Vikram, who does everything he can to attract Geeta’s attention. Only, Geeta has her heart set on ideals that drew the brightest young people to the Naxalite movement in the late sixties and early seventies (Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi, 2005). The ideals represent themselves in the man Siddharth Tyabji, vocal of his politics and ready to fight the class war in the forsaken villages of Bihar. You wonder why Geeta must refuse Vikram, you can see through her mistakes, you wonder about her choices, or if it is at all about love. Years, marriages, morality and ideals later Geeta finds her sense of identity in the change she brings around her village. But the years of struggling together for an egalitarian world and the failed revolution change Geeta, Siddharth and their love. This time, Geeta opts to live her quiet life with Vikram, his abilities different, his fall no less sudden than his success, but his desire for her no less. They, like many others, are outside the walls of classification in love, but they remain together as the story and film leaves them in the end.

Strange love

Desire becomes tragic in Ketan Mehta’s Maya Memsaab (1993), loosely based on Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1856). Maya desires objects, people, difficult loves and her own self. But she can’t desire endlessly without paying the price for her insatiability.

There are great stories and great cinema of either unrequited love or where lovers get together against enemies that are caste, class, religion, or family honour. But when there are no enemies outside, there are those stories where the relationship struggles internally with the forbidden. At the age of 15 when it seems that future does not exist, Sandhya is in a strange relationship with Shyam, a teacher at the local school (Haraamkhor, 2017). It is almost as if they both need to do the forbidden or else they could disappear like dots in the barren landscape of their village. In the sameness of classrooms and tuitions, they meet each other every day. They don’t say much, their secret makes them distinct from everyone else in the village. And then you ask if there is at all a meaning to the word “love” in their world. Or if their story is one of the stories not often told. The ones not about love, but about the grey space in your heart where emotions meet and struggle, but can’t find a name or definition.

The writer is an assistant professor in English literature at Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 8:03:02 AM |

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