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10 most tragic love stories of Hindi Cinema

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DEVDAS (1955)

Bimal Roy directs one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life in a very brilliant and poignant way. There are no elaborate sets as in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas but Roy’s Devdas has in it the pain that would melt one’s heart. The acting by the main characters…and not so main characters is brilliant and heavily analyzed. Dilip Kumar is not called the ‘tragedy king’ for no good reason. He underwent psychological assistance after playing Devdas. Suchitra Sen brings the perfect essence into Paro with her weighted words and Vyajantimala is perfectly cast as Chandramuki. Every actor/actress has the potential to bring you to tears.

Devdas

I have watched Devdas 2002 and it compares in no way to this movie. I agree this movie is not in colour and is not elaborate but I think that it what makes it realistic. Roy makes you believe that what you are watching is a village and not a palace (as Bhansali depicted in his version). Calcutta is shown as it should be and Chandramukhi’s kotha or clothes are not that elaborate either. (We must remember that she is no queen like Madhuri Dixit in Bhansali’s version). I have also seen Oriya villages (that are very similar to Bengali ones) because I originally come from one and I can say that Roy makes the village perfect. No Zamindar in a village had sparkling houses (as in the new Devdas).

Apart from the realism in location, Roy’s Devdas thrives in making the characters real. Sorry to say, Shahrukh was Shahrukh and not Devdas in the new movie whereas Dilip Kuman epitomises the real Devdas as he brings the character to life. There is no melodrama as in the new one and the actors succeed totally into delivering dialogues with deep meaning and weight. Everything is irreplaceable.

The music is brilliant. Every song seems to haunt you. The lyrics are deep and probing and perfectly suited to the story. Everything in this movie is perfect.

I can go on forever because there is so much I can say. Nothing can explain the depth in this movie; be it the dense story or the excellently portrayed and perfectly realistic emotions expressed by the actors. I get pulled into the movie whenever I see it and I always end up crying. This is one of the rarest and absolutely perfect movies I have seen. Bhansali’s Devdas is in no way comparable to this movie except for the fact that it can boast stunning colour and lavish and glamorous sets. But personally, that does not appeal to me. That is not realism; it is a dream world which we should not aspire to achieve. Aesthetic elements do not make a movie great if the actors haven’t acted well and the story loses realism. I would choose Roy’s Devdas anytime and give it 10/10. Nothing can surpass the talent and understanding of the material by the director in Roy’s Devdas. Allow me to quote what Elvis Mitchell of THE NEW YORK TIMES said for The Two Towers (obviously that film also deserved this praise)- ‘Never has a film so strongly been a product of a director’s respect for its source… Creating a rare perfect mating between filmmaker and material.’ This also applies perfectly for Roy’s Devdas. We will never be fortunate to see a movie like it if Bollywood continues to be clichéd and not adventurous.

MADHUMATI (1958)

Tinged with whimsy, ‘Madhumati’ is a primeval tale of reincarnation, with retribution and eternal love. Bimal Roy, a poet of light and shadow, draws you in with sheer lyricism. Cinema here is more than just the telling of a story.

Madhumati

On a stormy night, Devendra (Dilip Kumar) and his friend (Tarun Bose), who are on their way to railway station, take shelter in a creepy and deserted mansion. Exploring the house, Devendra finds a painting of its former owner, Raja Ugaranarayan, and feels he has painted the portrait.

This cues a flashback to his previous life as Anand, when he worked as a foreman on a timber plantation, owned by Raja Ugaranarayan (Pran).In the hauntingly beautiful jungle, he sees Madhumati (Vyjantimala), a beautiful village belle, and falls for her elemental appeal.

Initially her father, the Pan Raja (Jayant) disapproves of their relationship, but when Anand vows to marry her, everything works well. But, the wicked Ugarnarayan casts his evil eye on Madhumati. When Pan Raja goes to the city, Ugaranarayan arranges for Anand to visit a nearby village. And then the news of Anand’s accident reaches Madhumati, and she rushes to the mansion, little knowing that this is a plan to trap her…

‘Madhumati’ won 9 Filmfare Awards.

Vyjantimala is excellent, and Dilip Kumar’s convincing turn at befuddlement, earnestness and fascination anchors our belief in the events.

The story, punctuated by plenty of dark cloudbursts, sustains its suspense through complications that include a flashback within the flashback a train wreck in the frame story, and no less than three different embodiments of the heroine.The film deploys an eerily romantic atmosphere, enhanced by Salil Choudhury’s background score and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s editing.

The imagery evokes passion, linking the beautiful Madhumati with nature and tribal cultures, beyond the grasp of capitalist appropriation.

OMKARA (2006)

When someone makes an adaptation of one of the greatest Shakespearan tragedies, you have to stand up and take notice. And especially Vishal Bhardwaj, someone who had made Maqbool the toast of the festival circuit and on par with some of Kurosawa’s best work. Akira Kurosawa, one of the best directors the world has ever seen, has made quite a few Shakespearean stories brilliantly( See Throne of blood, Ran).

Omkara

Omkara is a poem in itself. Every aspect of the movie has the dedication and tenacity of the director stamped on it (considering he has handled direction, dialogues, screenplay, music, and even sung a song). The beauty of Omkara lies not in its portrayal of Othello, but the fact that it uses Othello as a platform to weave an intricate tale of love, obsession, treachery and tragedy. Yes, Omkara is an adaptation of Othello, but that is not the strength of the movie. The real strength of the movie lies in the performances of all the characters, and the gripping narrative. From the word go, Omkara has you by the crotch (pardon the usage), and lets go only after the last credits have rolled off.

I found myself relating to every character in the movie, even the minor ones. It engages you on a level that few movies ever do and does it without asking too much. Because there are no long monologues. The dialogue is succinct and apt. The visuals are always pretty, many of the frames like paintings taken by themselves. In other words, despite belonging to that post-Tarantino MTV generation, expecting constant stimulation and engagement to be provided to you instead of actively investing it, I had no trouble with this movie.

The ending is tragic, leaves you shocked and deep in thought afterward. Omkara now has a permanent place on my shelf. I recommend it to anyone who is a skeptic of Hindi cinema. It certainly changed my outlook.

SADMA (1983)

Sadma is the story of an idealistic young man Somu (Kamal Haasan) who rescues an amnesiac young girl, Reshmi (Sridevi), from a brothel and takes charge of her life. She has the mental age of a five year old and her parents are looking all over for her. Reshmi gets in and out of trouble. Somu has to deal with her pranks and misdemeanors. He is pursued by the very sexy young wife (Silk Smitha) of his boss. Eventually the amnesia will go away – we have been told that it is just a matter of time. But when memory returns will the memories of Somu fade from Reshmi’s mind?

Sadma

What can one say about Kamal? The man wrote the book on acting. Here he is young, very good looking and absolutely perfect as the idealistic school teacher who decides to rescue a girl in trouble. Stalked by Silk Smitha, he also get ample opportunity to flex his dancing skills in a fantasy item number! Sridevi is very good as the five year old trapped in a young woman’s body. She has the expressions and gestures down pat. Maybe there is exaggeration in the acting, but I can see her as a hyperactive 5 year old. Then she provides a perfect contrast as the young woman who wakes up from this nightmare. Silk Smitha has ooomph in ample measure and there is also ampleness to her. One wonders how good some of today’s anorexic leading ladies would look with those curves! The ultimate tragedy of the film leaves one in shock and mourning for what could have been while at the same time Reshmi’s return to normalcy is celebrated.

The film is well directed and the camera work is extremely beautiful. Kamal still has traces of his South Indian Hindi accent, but is miles ahead of his Ek Duje ke Liye days. All in all this is a very satisfying cinema experience.

PYAASA (1957)

Pyaasa is a crowning achievement, not only for Guru Dutt, but for whole of the Hindi and World cinema.

Pyaasa is the story of a poet (Vijay played by Guru Dutt) who is an idealist. The world does not seem to care for him or his poetry. It opens with what probably is the best opening sequence in Hindi cinema. Vijay sees a beetle fluttering over flowers, awakening the poet in him. A poem is born, only to be rudely terminated by the beetle being stamped over.

Pyasa

There are two women in Vijay’s life. Meena (Mala Sinha) is his lover from college. She leaves him to marry a wealthy publisher. The other is Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), a prostitute. She loves his poetry and through that, him. Both Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rahman have played roles which must have been real courageous in the 50s. They are women with negative shades. One is selfish and other is not virtuous, unlike how Indian audience wanted to see their women in films during that time.

The theme of failure and frustration of an idealist runs throughout Pyaasa. The pain and anguish of Vijay is because of the materialistic world he lives in. Vijay’s story is tragic and Guru Dutt consciously refrains from making a hero of him. Vijay’s sacrifice is his revenge on the society. At the end, only Gulabo who is a romantic herself, stands by his side as Vijay prepares to run away from the society.

The songs are a powerful device in Pyaasa to give voice to Vijay’s frustration. The musical score from S.D.Burman is brilliant and an important part of the film. Sahir Ludhanavi’s lyrics are timeless. He flexes his artistry in both Urdu and Hindi/Awadhi.

Guru Dutt was a master in playing with lights and shadows. He made the colorless world of monochrome more enchanting than the real. To this end, he is brilliantly assisted by his d.o.p V. K. Murthy,A rare gem from one of the masters of cinema.

KAAGAZ KE PHOOL (1959)

Dutt’s ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ (Paper Flower) very much reflects his own life story. It can be described as poetry on canvas as it’s beautiful, lyrical, agonizing, heartbreaking and a treat to watch. The legendary Guru Dutt pretty much lived the life of the famous painters whose works gained appreciation only after their tragic departure. Dutt’s other masterpiece, ‘Pyaasa’ parallels this. Sadly, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ was a commercial failure after its release. Ironically this is also shown in the film as Sinha’s last film is a commercial disaster. Both ‘Pyaasa’ and ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ somewhat parallel this genius’s life.

Kagaz ke Phool

The cinematography has always been a highlight of Dutt’s films. The use of lighting is very good as it emphasizes the somberness. The light beaming on the screen during the premier of Sinha’s ‘Devdas’ and the spotlight on the main characters during the interval song are examples of the skillful use of light. The overlapping images, the close-ups, and the long-shots all work effectively.

Among the songs, it is the unforgettable ‘Waqt Ne Kiya’, sung by the late Geeta Dutt, that stands out. It’s both shot beautifully and the lyrics are magic as it expresses the silent emotions conveyed between the two protagonists. ‘Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari’ is also a good track. The rest of the songs range from okay to adequate. The Johnny Lever track could have easily been left out. The character itself was not really necessary.

The relationship between Sinha and his estranged wife seems a little hazy. Perhaps it was a good idea not too put too much focus on them as the film was mainly about Suresh and Shanti’s relationship. The characters of Mrs. Sinha and her parents are very caricaturish.

The chemistry between the enigmatic Guru Dutt and the luminous Waheeda Rehman is electric. They convey so much without saying anything. As Sinha says, ‘We have always understood each other’.

While ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ has its flaws (which I think are very few), it is essentially a beautiful powerful classic. The storytelling is simple without being too emotionally manipulative or preachy. ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ is a gift to cinema.

KHAMOSHI (1969)

A powerful insight into the strain put on a nurse (Waheeda Rehman) as she uses ‘experimental’ treatment methods to save a patient from tumbling into the abyss of madness using trust, dedication & affection as her only tools she combats desperation, paranoia, & animosity. Her patient unable to express his feelings to a woman who mistreated him by lulling him into web of deceit, where she uses him for his talents then discards him. The nurse tries in vain to convince the woman responsible for the affliction her patient suffers from that she is needed for his rehabilitation only to be admonished by the head of the hospital saying that she cannot solve societies problems even though society seems to be responsible for the constant stream of patients the hospital receives. This draws her down a spiralling staircase of depression as she is told to forget/deny her true feelings for a patient under her treatment which ultimately leads to her demise as she remains forced into silence (Khamoshi) instead of venting the emotions that she feels for the man that she loves…

Khamoshi

An exquisite soundtrack from Hemant Kumar (composer & producer) along with songs such as Tum pukar lo.. (Hemant Kumar & Kishore Kumar) & Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi (Kishore Kumar) make this film an enduring classic which stands the test of time.

“Khamoshi” tells the story of a nurse Waheeda Rehman who is used by her Doctor, Nasir Hussein to test his theory on the treatment of male mental patients by showering love on them by female nurses. He conveniently ignores the fact that the nurse herself might fall in love with the patient. After successfully treating Dharmendra, Nasir wants Waheeda to treat Rajesh Khanna.

She refuses as she had fallen in love with Dharmendra – who considered Waheeda only as a good nurse and wed his girlfriend, shattering Waheeda. But Nasir pressurizes her to take up the case of Rajesh Khanna. She tries to remain aloof from Rajesh but finds herself being drawn towards him. She cannot express her feelings to him as she is forced to accept that she is performing just a job. The “khamosh” feelings play havoc and she herself turns mad. She shrieks at the Doctor and tells him that she had not acted but had really loved Rajesh Khanna. Tragically, only by becoming mad was Waheeda able to remove the veil of “Khamoshi” on her feelings. The climax deeply pains & touches the viewer’s heart.

Khamoshi, one of the great classics of Hindi cinema, revolves around Waheeda and its her best performance ever. With Dharmendra she is gay & chirpy, but with Rajesh she is sad & aloof, her eyes betraying the pain of unrequited love and foreseeing the impending doom. Gulzar’s exquisite lyrics were beautifully composed by Hemant. The haunting music & beautifully etched performances linger on. It is a remake of a Bengali film “Deep Jale Jaaye” starring Suchitra Sen, directed by Asit Sen.

EK DUUJE KE LIYE (1981)

What really sets ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ apart from other love stories is its disturbing ending. Otherwise the film itself is no different than other love stories regarding star-crossed lovers that have been made several. Some of the songs are nice (but not great) and mostly forgettable. The use of the language barrier between the two characters was something different and new. Also there are some nice sequences that prevent it from being just another romantic film. The director deserves credit for executing them. Performances are quite decent. Rati Agnihotri does well for a newcomer.

Ek Duje ke Liye

Madhavi is very good. Kamal Hassan is quite alright in a few scenes and very bad in some. He seems to just not get the right expressions particularly in the crying scenes (which are unintentionally funny). However, the guy can surely dance! Shobha Khote is extremely annoying and almost want to press the mute button. ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ is certainly one of the better films of the 80s. A different love story it is and I’d recommend it to viewers who enjoy romantic films but beware of its disturbing conclusion.

A movie in which love knows no color, status or origin. The director does a fantastic job retaining the nuances of both Tamil and Hindi and the movie comes out so well. The locales and the beaches are simply amazing. Set in the coastal town of Visakhapatnam, this remake of a Telugu film with almost the same cast has an unconventional ending leaves the viewers in shock. The songs are gr8 and acting superb. This is definitely a movie that transcends time and the problems that are faced by the protagonists are the same faced by many couples in love today. Watching this movie in 2006, I feel that the screenplay could have been better, the scenes change abruptly and the colour combinations are not always correct. But, all said and done, it’s a wonderful movie all should watch.

HEER RANJHA (1970)

Heer Ranjha

This has to be one of the most unusual Hindi films ever mainly because the whole movie was in verse. this movie was based on the legendary story written by waris shah, the punjabi version of romeo and juliet. Raj kumar was campy but awesome,, he was made to play ranjha. His dialog delivery is unique and fits this genre of movies to a T. the music was extra-ordinary., the dialogs and lyrics written by kaifi azmi nothing short of spectacular.the lead actress was the only weak link,a log of wood may have done better!! Nonetheless, this movie is an achievement in the world of desi cinema and needs to be seen by movie aficionados everywhere.

It is based on legendary tale of love and passion from the land of punjab. wrtitten in 16th century by Warris Shah, the cinematic adaptation is brilliant! Since the original creation is in poetry, the director took a bold step to have the entire film in rhyme…which strangely works like magic. inspired by the paintings of sobha singh, a legendary painter from punjab, the imagery of the film is wonderful. Thanks to cinematic genuis of cinematographer jal mistry! Sets and art direction of the film also stands out, and so does Chetan Anand- the director and Kaifi Azmi, the dialogue writer!

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

Indian cinema has offered so many ‘young love stories’ like ‘Bobby’, ‘Dil’, ‘Tezaab’, ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ etc. However, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ remains my favorite of the lot. It is a somewhat dramatized but humble adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. There have been numerous adaptations but what really make this film work are the two leads and the music.

QSQT

I like how the characters were written. Raj isn’t the typical macho hero or a romantic, he’s just an ordinary young who joined his father’s fabric business. Similarly, Laxmi isn’t some damsel in distress or a clichéd spoilt brat rebelling against her parents. She’s a strong minded young lady who’s ready to sacrifice all for her love.

Aamir Khan makes his entry to Indian cinema as leading man. He does nothing short of a brilliant job as the naive young Raj. The fact that he’s a newcomer only adds to the character’s childlike personality. Juhi Chawla already shows that she’s here to stay. Not only is she naturally vivacious but she, in a wonderfully subtle way, displays Laxmi’s innocence, childlikeness and determination. It’s no surprise that since then Aamir and Juhi have been popular for their on screen chemistry. The supporting cast is adequate where Alok Nath stands out.

Mansoor Khan’s direction also deserves mention as he does not waste much time on unnecessary subplots. He stays mainly focused on the story of the two lovers. Only the beginning, where the conflict between the two families begins, appears a little too dramatic and clichéd. But once Raj is introduced, the film takes off towards a better direction. The background score is irritating most of the time.

This was the time when great soundtracks were making a comeback in the commercial Hindi cinema considering that the 80s were infamous for poorest quality in cinema. The songs are soulful, melodious and memorable. After all, who doesn’t know ‘Papa Kehte Hain’, ‘Gazab Ka Hai Din’ and ‘Ae Mere Humsafar’? This is the album that made singer Udit Narayan an overnight star.

To me, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ is one of the most memorable tragic love stories on the Hindi cinema screen. What makes this film unique is the incredible chemistry between the two leads and their characterization. Simply great!

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