Dhadak marks return of intense love stories with star-crossed couple in a Bollywood dominated by rom-coms

Abhishek Srivastava

July 21, 2018 17:52:48 IST

Shashank Khaitan’s Dhadak, this week’s release, also brings back a genre which, to some extent, has largely been forgotten by Bollywood. The genre of tragic love stories and intense love stories, where protagonists meet an eventful end, have stopped trickling by in the past few years. Dhadak, a Hindi remake of the much loved Marathi Sairat, is an effort to bring back the genre on celluloid which once ruled the roost in Bollywood through its powerful and sensitive narratives.

In fact, the reception of audiences to such films in the current millennium has been far from satisfactory and in most cases, underwhelming. Lootera, Anjaana Anjaani, Mausam, Rockstar and the more recent October were efforts to bring back the lost glory, but the reception every time was lukewarm to say the least. Surely and certainly, these films were loved by a certain section but their reception at the box office was extremely tepid. While there were hits like Aashiqui 2 and Raanjhana, the fact remains that cinegoers have certainly developed a lackadaisical attitude towards this genre.

Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter in a still from Dhadak. YouTube

Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter in a still from Dhadak. YouTube

During the '60s, '70s, '80s and even the '90s, tragic love stories were the staple of Bollywood and every decade was defined by a film which triumphed in bringing out emotions aplenty and touched the heart of the audiences. Kagaz Ke Phool, Pyaasa, Pakeezah, Bobby, Ek Duje Ke Liye and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak were films which not only made money at the box office but also gave a plot to chew about, the importance of which resonates till today. These films have now attained the status of cult classics. They have been the biggest sufferers after action comedies and romantic comedies came into vogue.

Various reasons can be accounted for the non-acceptance of such films by the current generation. One is definitely the lack of mystery among lovers due to the onslaught of excessive communication through various social media platforms. Imtiaz Ali, while speaking as part of a panel on love stories a few years ago, had remarked that the entire mystery of romance is lost today because of the dollops of conversation people are having today. No prizes for guessing that Imtiaz was referring to the perils of social media only.

The mega success of Sairat, a tragic love story remains a case study. Despite the change in the social behavioral patterns over the years, it brought back audiences to cinema halls in hordes. If one dives deep to dissect the reason that made Sairat an exception in the current era, one will discover that the film was made with absolute honesty. The authentic depiction of the teenage tragic love drama was brought to the screen without any adulteration. It was thoroughly rooted in the milieu where the film was based. If one were to compare Sairaat with the blockbuster tragic love stories of yesteryear, one does encounter similarities. The storytelling format of such films never compromised with its narration and geographical setting. The two were interlinked with each other and were inseparable.  

Bollywood movies have changed pattern in every decade but one must also not forget that it was this genre that survived the longest despite the onslaught of comedies, dramas, action and lighthearted romantic fares. The taste and viewing pattern of audiences underwent a complete metamorphosis after India went through the phase of liberalisation and was exposed to content from across the world. This underwent a further change when social media became the norm. For the current generation, romance took a different meaning and whenever it was served fresh and raw, it tasted bitter. Films like Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, 2 States, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Tanu Weds Manu though were primarily love stories but had great seasoning of other emotions too. These films were made in tune with the time and the love saga was served in an adulterated format. The result was apparent in their huge box office collections. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a perfect example which despite being a tragic love story, gave no sense to viewers till the climax that they were all in for a rude shock, and relied more on its fun quotient.

In contrast to these films are the rooted ones like Lootera, Rockstar and October which did found acceptance but only among a certain section of audiences. Love and affection at a pan India level was missing for such films. These films were rejected by the younger lot and the those who appreciated and marveled at them were the connoisseurs who have a certain taste in cinema and still enjoy flicks of the yesteryear.

Judging by the initial reception Dhadak has garnered, it is not a patch on Sairat but credit must be given to the filmmaker for investing money in a genre which is on its deathbed. It is often said that a great story will always find its audience and have its reverberation across cross section. True, but stakes for such films will definitely remain high in an industry where filmmaking is more of a business and commercial proposition. The odds of filmmakers betting their money on such films in the future remain extremely negligible.

(Also read — Dhadak: Jahnvi Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter-starrer off to a strong start, mints Rs 8.71 cr on opening day)

Updated Date: Jul 21, 2018 17:52 PM