The Romantics – More PR, less Cinema and lots of miscredits

For five decades, Yash Chopra loomed large over Hindi filmdom and regaled generations of viewers with a pathway to a world where they could live an alternate life for 3 hours and feel fulfilled. While the world celebrated him for his romances I felt his best was in the genre of action and drama like Deewar, Kala Paththar and Trishul which incredibly channeled the angst of the common man of the 70s. It would have been great if the Netflix documentary The Romantics celebrated his work and left it there. But it snatches the achievements of others and hands it on a platter to Yash Raj Films.

The trailer of The Romantics

Arjun Kapoor says the commercial norms of most of today’s cinema is cut out from the same cloth of Yash Chopra. It ignores the truth that Chopra was influenced by the style of his elder brother and more importantly, Raj Kapoor. It deserves a post of its own. Poonam Dhillon credits Pam Chopra with introducing Punjabi music to films and stalwarts like Ghulam Haider and OP Nayyar turned several times in their grave. Someone says Kabhi Kabhie introduced the vulnerable gentle hero who needn’t be macho all the time to cinema. I wonder of they have seen the heros from the 1940s till the early 70s. Needn’t go that far. Just see Rajesh Khanna in Amar Prem or Bachchan himself in Alaap.

Talking about the 80s, they all say VCRs led to people deserting cinema halls without even mentioning how TV serials of the 80s with their superior content made people sit back at home. They credit Chandni with bringing romance back to cinema whereas it was Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (released a year before) that brought in a whiff of fresh air. A month after Chandni came Main Ne Pyar Kiya that reversed industry trends for good. But this is not about facts but projecting Yash Raj as the be all and end all of Hindi cinema. There is no mention of Yash Chopra directing a giant like Dilip Kumar in Mashaal because who cares about Kumar anyway. Yash Chopra knew his music well and the contribution of legends like Khayyam, Lata Mangeskhar and Shiv-Hari stand out in his filmography. But there is no mention of it. Despite Sanjeev Kohli providing inputs about Yash Raj in it, there is no mention of his father Madan Mohan, whose music was used for Veer Zaara posthumously. The farce is right at the end of the first episode when there is a collective excitement about their own head talking about their own work in a documentary made by them.

Forget snatching credits from others. By saying Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was the first movie where the lovers chose not to elope and sought parental approval, they ignored their own Kabhi Kabhie and Barjatya’s Main ne pyar kiya. Reema Lagoo was the original cool mom ala Anupam Kher in DDLJ, who gave her kangan to her son and asked him to go and get the bride. Even in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama, a much diffident Sharmila chooses her husband against her dad’s wishes but leaves the home only with her father’s blessings.

It gets comical when Dhoom is celebrated at length as Bollywood’s greatest action outing. By now your head just starts reeling under nonsense. But it goes further when talking about Befikre, Aditya Chopra says until then we never did romcoms in India! It reaches a point of no return.

There are several good moments here and there in the documentary. The first episode covers Yash Chopra’s journey from Punjab to Bombay and his rise through BR Films. There is also some good behind the scene visuals of Chandni, Darr and DDLJ that bring a lot of delight to those who have grown up watching them. Some decent analysis of trends and box office behaviour is also there, where you soak in the magic of cinema. But all this narrative building and appropriation just leaves a very sour aftertaste.

If you have scaled the Everest, say by all means that you have climbed the Everest. But don’t say that you are the first one to do so when generations before you have already done it.

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