I don’t know whether it’s my lack of understanding of the term ‘love’, but one topic I’ve always gravitated towards in my writing is love in our Bollywood movies. On one hand, our films have taught me how to love love – and on the other hand, I feel like they’ve ruined my own love life. I think that’s the big conundrum for any hopeless romantic who’s also a huge Bollywood fan: how do you balance your love for the movies with your eternal disappointment that real life just doesn’t match up? When you see things play out so perfectly on-screen, how do you not script your life just a little bit in your head, and how do you not feel that slight sting when your own relationships don’t match up to Imtiaz Ali’s latest thought-provoking story?
The first time I remember sitting back and thinking, ‘Shit, I want that,’ was during the gazebo scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, when Rahul plays the air piano for Anjali. Imagine my emotional state when, years later, the very same scene was recreated as a date in Dostana – exactly what I wanted in real life, but occurring again only on-screen. Anyone who gets where I’m coming from probably has a running list of such film moments in their head: moments that, no matter how simple, have hit you like a ton of bricks and made you wistful for all the things that could be – or could have been.
The thing is, for the most part, we like to believe we’re practical people. We like to think that we’ve got a fairly realistic view of life, and we know objectively that celluloid is exaggerated, sensationalized and meant to provide escapism. We understand that happily ever after is nothing but a work-in-progress, and we get that people in real life have more layers than those on a screen. And yet. Yet we’re out there looking for a great big romance like the films. Yet it’s a little bittersweet every time we watch a romantic film: it’s wormed its way into our heart, but it’s also made us feel like we’ve woken up from an amazing dream only to realize that none of it is real.
So what is it that keeps us going back to the movies? Why is it that, even when we try to develop the cynic (realist?) within us, we can’t help but squash it again and again? I don’t have a definitive answer – to any of this, really – but what I do know is that the movies make me want to believe otherwise, despite better judgment. And I guess that’s what the hopeless romantic takes out of the movies: the hope that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there just might be a little magic around the corner.