Bollywood films take us to a world of make believe where “anything” is presented as being possible. Remember those Big B films of the 1980s and 70s when Vijay would single-handedly bash up dozens of the bad guys.? He would romance the heroines ( never mind if the heroines were daughters of millionaires while he may have been a car mechanic), sing songs and care for his mother- the hero in other words was a super human being also know as “superman”! These films were said to be very cathartic for our masses who felt that they were living their dreams through the three hours that they spent inside the theater
But the same period also showcased some films which were about “ordinary mortals”- or the middle classes. It dealt with issues around their lives. Though it had “de glamorized” heroines and heroes it still managed to have an audience among a group of people. Hrishikesh Mukherjee , Basu Chaterjee and later Gulzar made a number of such films. There was another group of film makers who also made the same genre of films– The Rajshri productions.!
While Hrishida and Basuda’s films died a slow death in the post nineties era of liberalization and open markets, the Rajshri films did not. Actually, like the phoenix this production house rose again- making and remaking films to fit the need of the new times.
Thus, was made “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” - a saccharine sweet love story with a middle aged heroine masquerading as a teenager. Compare this to the original – “Nadiya ke Paar” which was made in the 1980s .Set in the rural districts of northern India, it had a young Sadhana Singh and Sachin playing very believable characters of Goonja and Chandan. It had no great wedding songs and neither did it have any garish sets. The movie probably did not do very well in regions outside of UP and Bihar.
But come, the 1990s the production house dished out the same story with a so called “star cast” going on to become one of the biggest hits of the decade! This film (or shall we say the longest wedding video?) had characters who lived “ extremely over the top” lives. They followed it up with “Hum Saath Saath Hain”. “Main Prem ki Diwani hoon”- similar drivel with story lines based on an “ancient value system” irrelevant in today’s context but again made saccharine sweet in very over the top sets!
I have grown up watching many Rajshri production films – “Geet Gaata Chal”, “Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaye”, “Paheli” etc. I loved the simplicity that they were able to bring out in their characters. Sachin was one of their permanent fixtures – very symbolic representation of the uncomplicated youth of his times. Among their heroines, there were a lot of fresh faces –usually very ordinary looking girls that one could identify with- completely fitting the characters they played.
So why the shift to Salman and Madhuri? Can a person seriously believe Madhuri’s portrayal of Nisha in “Hum Aapke….”. or Kareena’s in “Main Prem Ki Diwni hoon”? I think the closest that any character in one of their recent films came true to their usual type was Bhagyashree in “Maine Pyar Kiya”. Trouble was that while “Prem” became a permanent fixture in their present day films “Suman” got left behind-this was a pity because “Suman” was the real Rajshri person in “Maine….!”
But that has not bothered them because as they seem to have understood what the public wants. The public obviously wants what they consider “Indian Values” sugar coated in yards of silk and chiffon with jhatkas and thumkas! I guess their “Paheli” heroine today might be mistaken for a extra in their own movie!
The biggest victim of this kind of “going overboard” with gilt and glitz has been the music. While their earlier films had some sweet and melodious music, today we have in their films some very inane tunes with words that somehow do not gel with the times. To put it very simply I can only say that it sounds very false!
I wish the Rajshri Group would go back to making the kind of movies that they used to . .Making it relevant to today’s times, does not require fancy sets and highly paid heroines. The story just needs to be made contemporary but the simplicity which I always thought was their USP need not be compromised upon!
To conclude, I can only say that their films today remind me of a favorite aunt from a small town who has gone to a beauty parlour for a “make over” and emerged looking like she has entered a fancy dress competition. Barjatya babus- bahut ho gaya. Give us back some of your old characters. Salman , Hrithik Kareena or Madhuri are poor substitutes for Sachin, Sarika and Rameshwari. Even Arun Govil in "Saawan ko Aaane Do" was preferable...!!!