Last week, I watched an old black-and-white Hindi movie on television, glued to it from start to the end, which is rare for an impatient me who can’t stick to a channel. Today’s films are full of violence that I cannot watch, so like a child, I shut my eyes whenever there is a fight sequence on and as long as I can hear dishoom-dishoom.
Then, as one would expect, there will be an item number, with vulgar gestures and cheap dancing. To crown it all, there will be romantic scenes that you can’t watch with your family. If ever the domestic help enters the room and these awkward scenes are on, you have to do quick search for the remote; but so long as the formula works and money is coming in, producers will be happy to sacrifice the message.
This old movie, however, was about real romance, even though the lead pair never holds hands. By just the way they looked at each other, the actors are able to convey what lay in the character’s heart. In the old cinema, the screenwriters developed their characters. The boy and the girl would brush each other mildly, causing the girl to drop her books, which the boy would pick up for her like a true gentleman. The scene was shot so gracefully that even today’s young audience would be thrilled. The pair then has some more meetings and falls in love, gradually.
If the song ‘Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua’ from ‘Shree 420’, in which the legendary pair of Raj Kapoor and Nargis are soaking in the rain under a single umbrella, was the zenith of romance in Indian film history, today’s screen chemistry would be the nadir. Romance itself has changed to infatuation. You meet in the morning, date in the afternoon, go out again in the evening, and by the night you think you’re in love.
The Indian film heroine used to be in decent clothes, head covered with pallu, gliding like an ethereal beauty. Even the brides those days were shy as described in the epics. Their eyes under their heavy veils would be fixed on the floor, moving neither hither not thither, and their cheeks would go red at a single glance of the groom. Today it would be difficult to pull off even on screen. Where would you find quiet, demure girls and sensible boys aware of their limits to copy?
I know I sound orthodox. Even my grandchildren wonder which era I belong to. Things have changed and so have the values, but I miss the romance of yore, the fragrance of which has stayed on for years.
(The writer is a grandmother and a freelance contributor)