Author- Udaya Tara Nayar
As Valentine’s Day draws close, let us recall some of the super hit love stories that swept the younger viewers off their feet. The most memorable story that comes to mind is Raj Kapoor’s Bobby. It made Rishi Kapoor the eternal lover boy of Hindi Cinema. Dimple Kapadia, the film’s heroine, followed up the huge success of her debut by shaking up the nation with her own off screen love story when she announced her marriage to Rajesh Khanna a few weeks before its release.
Another successful screen love story that comes to mind instantly is the Kumar Gaurav debut vehicle, Love Story, directed by Rahul Rawail and produced lovingly by Rajendra Kumar to launch his son in films. The blockbuster of 1981 made Kumar Gaurav a star overnight and he became the heart throb of teenagers all over the country promising the arrival of a youth icon. But alas, the promise remained just a promise. Gaurav’s second picture flopped and arrested his progress.
Rajendra Kumar was heartbroken and, though he tried to get his son back on the success track with Teri Kasam, Janam, Naam and Phool, he realized that his son had run out of the luck that favoured him in his debut. The whole experience had other parents, who desired to launch their sons and daughters, wondering about the future of their kids. Quite understandably therefore Sunil Dutt announced the take off of his son Sanjay Dutt in 1981 with some trepidation.
Sanjay was greeted with huge success when he debuted with a love story safely packed with a good measure of action. The film, Rocky, was an instant super hit. Sanjay’s mother Nargis passed away just before the film’s premiere. Unable to cope with the absence of his mother in his life, Sanjay took to drugs for solace and his career was on the rocks. But Sanjay had better luck than his friend Gaurav. Sanjay’s family comprising Father Sunil and sisters Priya and Namrata and brother in law Gaurav, rallied around him and he bounced back to resume his career with bigger success though not with a love story.
The interesting fact is that the love story has always been preferred by Bollywood makers to other stories for the launch of actors and actresses. “It is safe”, Rahul Rawail once told me. “There is a fair measure of assurance that a love story will draw the targeted youth audience to cinemas on the day of release” says Rawail who had the privilege of launching Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh in the 1983 blockbuster Betaab, a love story and Kajol in Bekhudi, a love story set in Canada released in 1993.
Rahul Rawail’s conjecture proved right when Sooraj Barjatya scored a record at the box office in 1989 with Maine Pyar Kiya, a love saga that took the film’s new star Salman Khan to great heights of popularity. The film won six Filmfare Awards including one for the music director Ram Laxman who gave twelve hit song compositions that piloted the film’s audio track also to huge worldwide success.
A year earlier, history was made at the box office when Qayamat se Qayamat Tak raked in surprise collections at the box office. Its new stars Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla became the favorites of the youth audience and it erased the misconception that love stories that ended with the death of the hero and heroine in the climax had poor prospects at the box office.
As a matter of fact the 1981 blockbuster love story, Ek Duje Ke Liye, which introduced Rati Agnihotri to Hindi cinema audiences opposite Kamal Hasan had proved that a happy ending was not mandatory for thesuccess of a love story. K Balachander, the brilliant director, had quipped that the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, deserved credit for setting the pace for a love story with a sad ending to capture the hearts of audiences with his all time hit play, Romeo and Juliet.
In 1991 Gulshan Kumar produced an unofficial remake of the Hollywood romance, It Happened One Night, and surprised the industry with its success. Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin was an unusual love story for the Indian audience as the father of the young heroine funnily encourages her to run away with the young man who loves her. It was directed by Mahesh Bhatt with his daughter Pooja Bhatt in the female lead opposite the already very popular Aamir Khan and had superb songs composed by Nadeem Shravan. The picture was a runaway hit and it arrived in the wake of the big time success of Aashiqui a year earlier. Aashiqui was a love story directed by Mahesh Bhatt and had music by Nadeem Shravan. It had new actors Rahul Roy and Anu Agarwal in the lead cast.
The Nineties witnessed the monumental success of Aditya Chopra’s debut as a director with the most popular love story ever made, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. It had Shahrukh Khan and Kajol in the romantic leads and gave a huge fillip to the career of both actors. DDLJ had a 900 weeks run at Maratha Mandir without interruption and went on and on to rival the all time record set by Sholay at the Minerva.
Encouraged by the success of DDLJ released in 1995 , Aditya Chopra’s then assistant Karan Johar made his debut with a love story, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in 1998. The huge hit in the domestic market went on to become the first big hit in the UK market. Jatin Lalit who scored the lilting music of DDLJ worked the same magic with KKHH.
The belief about love stories being lucky for newcomers continues in Bollywood. Whether it is Arjun Kapoor or Varun Dhawan or Tiger Shroff or Shraddha Kapoor or Girish Kumar or Jackie Bhagnani or Harman Baweja or Imraan Khan it goes without saying that their parents or uncles or mentors will advise them to start with a love story. Which is because the biggest stars of today, be it the Khans or Ajay Devgan or Hrithik Roshan or Abhishek Bachchan or Akshay Kumar had begun their careers with a love story.
If there is an exception in Indian Cinema to this rule it is Rajnikant who made his debut as an abusive character in K Balachander’s socially relevant film Apoorva Ragangal. Some destinies don’t follow rules.