How Amrita Singh, Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla-starrer Aaina addressed taboo within the framework of a family entertainer
Amrita Singh and Juhi Chawla played siblings that fell for the same man, played by Jackie Shroff, but this cliched love triangle was handled rather deftly.
Editor's note: Whatever happened to watching a film, just because? When was the last time you watched a film, just because you stumbled upon on it, or heard someone mention it in passing? We're so used to reviews, previews and a barrage of recommendations — it almost feels like it is impossible to enjoy watching a film without it being topical. And so, here's a new column we're introducing — Films, Just Because — where we talk about films, just because.
When it comes to the so-called 'bold' or 'mature' themed stories in popular Hindi cinema, there are only a select few that also translate into all-round entertainers. Usually, films in this genre find that the focus is on highlighting the elements that make the story unabashed, say for instance the free-spirited antics of the leads in the misfire called Neal ‘N’ Nikki (2005), or tropes that help heighten the element of boldness such as the 17 or 18 kisses that were peppered over Mallika Sherawat's debut Khwahish (2003). Often overlooked when it comes to the filmographies of the people who were involved in its making, Aaina (1993) is one of the few romantic dramas in Hindi cinema that blended a tabooed theme seamlessly with the elements of a wholesome family entertainer. The tale of two siblings falling for the same person might have been previously visited but Aaina is an exception as it remained honest to not only the demands of a popular Hindi film (read: the song-and-dance routine) but at the same time, also refused to chicken out in terms of going against the tide.
Aaina begins with a school contest where Roma, in spite of losing to her sister Reema, insists on getting the first prize. Reema happily gives her award to her sister but rather than being grateful, Roma sees this as the world order being set right. This is how Roma (Amrita Singh) operates — the world functions according to her whims and fancies. Years later, Reema (Juhi Chawla) falls for Ravi (Jackie Shroff) but he is smitten by the outgoing Roma. The docile Reema silently accepts fate and takes solace in her grandmother’s (Dina Pathak) wise words, who reminds her that like Roma, she too can become whatever she desires. Roma and Ravi are engaged but Roma leaves him at the altar to try out a career in films. In typical Hindi film fashion, Ravi marries Reema and some years later, their happiness is eclipsed by Roma's return. Embittered at losing to her ugly duckling sister, Roma starts playing Ravi to leave Reema and take her back. How Reema fights the biggest fight of her life forms the rest of the story.
In many ways, Aaina is a unique alchemy of a Mills and Boon kind of romance and the classic good-will-ultimately-triumph-over-the-evil kind of fairy tale. In the book, 40 Retakes author Avijit Ghosh mentions that Aaina’s director Deepak Sareen got the kernel of the story from a Mills & Boon novel that featured two sisters with contrasting natures being in love with the same man. Sareen had been an assistant to Yash Chopra since Deewar (1975) and discussed the idea with Honey Irani, a famous child artist, whose later credits included playing the ‘evil sister’ in Seeta Aur Geeta (1973).
Irani had been formerly married to screenwriter Javed Akhtar and although she had never really written anything up until that point, it was Yash Chopra's wife Pamela Chopra who loved the idea and wanted to develop it into a TV series. But once Yash Chopra heard the narration, he was not only impressed with Sareen and Irani but also also insisted on Aaina being a film. While Irani collaborated with Shanker Iyer and the late Dr Rahi Masoom Reza on Aaina, Yash Chopra gave her an outline of another film that he wanted to develop and that is how she eventually penned Lamhe (1991).
Aaina shines thanks to a great treatment where the drama is never allowed to go overboard. Even with all the ingredients that could have made the film melodramatic, the mood remains mature and the execution taut. The film scored immensely thanks to its casting where Jackie Shroff, as the man who discovers true love after falling for the glitter only to see his past threaten his world, perfectly compliments the duo of Juhi Chawla and Amrita Singh.
Film writer Avijit Ghosh observes, “two women fighting over a man can be the corniest of topics” but credits Aaina’s treatment for managing to redeem the stalest of the subjects. And, Amrita Singh and Juhi Chawla, who portrayed the opposing siblings, flawlessly made a great part of this possible. Singh won a Filmfare for Best Supporting Actress and this is also perhaps one of those roles for which a particular actor is born to play. In a career that had spanned almost a decade by the time she featured in Aaina, Amrita had barely got a role that went beyond being a typical Hindi film heroine and it also became a great note to take a temporary break from films. It was during the shooting of Aaina that she married Saif Ali Khan, who incidentally was working on Parampara (1993) that was being directed by Yash Chopra, who had produced Aaina. Aaina was later remade in Telugu as Aayanaki Iddaru (1995), in Tamil as Kalyana Vaibhogam (1997) and in Kannada as Yare Nee Abhimani (2000).
The early 1990s were a very charged-up time for love stories and especially the love triangle. Saajan (1991) had released a few years earlier and had in many ways revived the triangle but the biggest compliment that Aaina got was from K Balachander, the legendary Tamil director, who had enthralled Hindi audiences with his Ek Duje Ke Kiya (1981). Sareen mentioned in 40 Retakes that Balachander had found Aaina to be “very sophisticated and lyrical”, and this is quite true. Besides the Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen’s music (lyrics by Sameer) that featured hits such as 'Meri Sanson Mein Tum' (Kumar Sanu, Asha Bhosle), 'Dil Ne Dil Se Kya Kaha' (Lata Mangeshkar, Nitin Mukesh) and 'Goriya Re' (Lata Mangeshkar, Jolly Mukherjee).
The film's treatment was perhaps the mix of a director in the waiting for years and a writer who suddenly discovered herself that adorned Aaina with a kind of uniqueness that is rare to come around.
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