The last couple of months have seen two famous filmmakers trying to reinvent and adapt the romance genre defined by them two decades ago. Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil saw the director come full circle from his blockbuster debut film “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, where the protagonist played by Ranbir Kapoor finally accepts that his love will not be reciprocated and understands the value of her friendship. Aditya Chopra’s “Befikre” is a modern take on the notions of love and commitment he has built since his legendary debut film,“Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge”.
Both the films felt fresh and had a sense of maturity showing the mental growth of directors. Further, they showcased the fast and confused lives of the present generation that the protagonists live in where chastity is no longer as important and in spite of the cool, surface-deep emotions they seem to portray, the leads go through an emotional roller-coaster before coming to terms with what they really want.
On the surface, the unabashed conversations, the “act first and think later” mentality and the various partners tried out before finding the right one can feel from being morally wrong to absolutely right depending on which age group one belongs to. the depiction of present culture has also got to do with the society’s acceptance levels. A case can be made that having multiple partners has been prevalent since the time of kings and emperors. However, it was considered a right only of the rich alone. The increase in society’s acceptance levels over the centuries has thrown much-needed light on it and the current movies reflect that.
However, on looking deeper, in terms of emotions, the present two films are not much different from those 90s classics. Yes, the present movies do not have classic starts and the leads are at various mental stages when they meet. We travel with them as they embrace their turbulent emotions and finally settle at a common mental wavelength. The reality is that this is the only main difference between the old and the new. If we look deeper, the feelings of love, friendship, heart-break and separation are experienced the same way as in the past.
The joy in finding love, the sense of realization and the angst of a heart-break are felt in exactly the same way no matter how much the cultures have changed and how much cooler people seem to be. This is because love is truly universal. Times change, cultures change, but be it Shah Jahan, or Raj/Rahul or Ayan/Dharam or us, true love always works the same. The same applies for the female protagonists as well. There is a scene in “Befikre” where Ranveer asks Vaani Kapoor whether she is waiting for her date to palat as he walks off in an obvious nod to Adi’s DDLJ. Vaani replies such things happened in the 90s and that she was just checking him out. However, towards the end of the film, she does palat, which proves the point. In being able to portray that while showing the superficial changes of time, both Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra have reinvented themselves.
Another interesting tidbit is the casting of Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor for the roles. The energy and enthusiasm of Raj is seen in Dharam and the more subtle and romantic Rahul is seen in Ayan. In essence, they are playing Raj and Rahul, the only difference being the present ones are more evolved.
To conclude, love finds new forms and helps build new stories but love in its truest form never changes. It only becomes “old wine in new bottle” with time and the films depict exactly that.
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