Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Top 10 Bollywood love stories?

We're regular (if often exasperated) viewers of Namaste America's Geet TV, which airs Saturday mornings on a local independent channel. We watch it mainly for music clips from Bollywood movies past, present and forthcoming—in fact, seven years ago the clips it was airing from Devdas (2002) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) were what inspired us to seek out our first Bollywood movie (KHNH, of course).

This morning Geet TV a did a show on the Top 10 Love Stories since 1990, as voted by the vistors to the Namaste America website. Here are the results, in ascending order, with my commentary:

10. Jab We Met (When We Met, 2007): This is a favorite of many Bollybloggers, but for some reason I'm resistant to its charms. Shahid Kapoor is indeed appealing—this is the film that created a legion of diehard Shahid fanwomen like Ajnabi—and Kareena Kapoor acquits herself surprisingly well. But Tarun Arora isn't a credible romantic rival, and too much of the plot is borrowed from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). If I were choosing a Shahid movie, I might have picked (heresy, I know) Vivah (2006) instead.

9. Maine Pyar Kiya (I Fell In Love, 1989): Sorry, but no movie in which Salman gets the girl is going to wind up in my Top 10 love stories—his real-life violence against women (alleged, of course) has landed him permanently on the E & I blacklist. (We also find his acting wooden and his dancing laughable.) Anyway, if I was going to cheat and include a movie from the late 1980s I would probably choose Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988); a typically articulate review is offered by theBollywoodFan.

8. Fanaa (Destroyed by Love, 2006): As is required of every great love story, it's got some wonderful songs (the teasing courtship song "Chand Sifarish," the seductive "Dekho Na" and the gorgeous "Mere Hath Main"), and excellent chemistry between the main couple (Aamir and Kajol). For me, though, the masala quotient is just a bit too high; Ajnabi and theBollywoodFan feel differently, though.

7. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something is Happening, 1998): No argument from me here, despite Salman's presence as Shah Rukh Khan's rival for Kajol. Plus, Bollyviewer has discovered the secret of Anjali's missing years.

6. Dil To Pagal Hai (The Heart is Crazy, 1997): I'm a huge fan of both Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit, and think Karisma is the more interesting Kapoor sister. Thanks to a rash impulse one afternoon in the Bombay Music DVD shop, I even own this movie. But there is no way that I would put this in my Top 10 love stories, or Top 10 anything. Disappointing on pretty much every level. I'd rather see a wildly uneven but genuinely affecting movie like Dil Hai Tumhaara (2002) on the list instead of this one.

5. Jodhaa Akhbar (2008). This movie is beautiful. Aishwarya Rai is beautiful, Hrithik Roshan is beautiful, the sets and costumes are beautiful. What it's not is moving. Again, I'm definitely in the minority on this one; the review by Memsaab makes a strong case for its inclusion. I think I'd put Veer-Zaara (2004) in this slot, though.

4. Devdas (2002): I've never quite understood why Devdas (in any version) is considered a great love story—the title character's tragic death-spiral isn't very romantic viewing. But this film is compelling thanks to its sheer Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed sumptuousness, Ismail Darber's great music, and the affecting performance of Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi, the courtesan whose selfless love for Devdas is utterly spurned. Still, not exactly a date movie.

3. Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai (Say You Love Me, 2001): Wound up on my list of flat-out awful films of the 2000s. I find it unwatchable. I'd dump this one in a New York minute and substitute Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003).

2. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Takes the Bride, 1995): I'm only amazed that this didn't come in first, as it always seems to in polls like this. While some scenes don't work for me, this movie and its songs are classics and the Shah Rukh-Kajol chemistry is undeniable.

1. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (My Heart Belongs to Another, 1999): A surprise first choice. I liked this film quite a bit when I first saw it, towards the beginning of our Bollywood viewing, but I'm not really sure what I'd think of it if I saw it again. On the positive side, it has a young, vivacious Aishwarya Rai as a dancer who loves a musician (Salman), but agrees to marry the rich man (a very sympathetic Ajay Devgan) her father selects for her. It's also got the lush direction of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and excellent songs by Ismail Darbar (also big pluses for Devdas). On the down side: Salman. Even so, I think this one would be on my list, too.

But this list still seems pretty strange. For one thing, the biggest jodi in the early 1990s was Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla, but none of their films make the list (Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (We are Travelers On The Path Of Love, 1992) is one I'm eager to see). I'm amazed (and relieved) by the absence of Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (What Am I To You, 1994), and amazed (and dismayed) by the presence of Dil To Pagal Hai and Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai. And given the preferences of the voters for Shah Rukh, Kajol, and Hrithik, I'm sure that Veracious and I both want to know why Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) is missing from the list entirely (though I find K3G a little too polished to be a personal favorite).

As ever, your own nominations and comments are welcome.

Update 12 June 2011: We recently re-watched Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and you can read my (not entirely positive) responses here.

Update 17 March 2012: The viewers of Namaste America have created another eyebrow-raising list, this time of The Top 10 Shah Rukh Khan movies.


  1. I love lists - especially when it comes to tearing apart lists compiled by "popular" votes! :-)

    Out of this list, only Kaho Na Pyaar Hai and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would ever make it to my personal romantic favorites. I gather that one major requirement for liking KNPH (and Hrithik) is the possession of TWO X-chromosomes! ;-D And HDDCS? Con - (as you note) Salman. Pro - Salman does NOT get the girl! For the rest, I would include Aamir Khan-Pooja Bhatt starrer Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin (a very faithful remake of It Happened One Night), Akshay-Saif-Kajol's Yeh Dillagi (a remake of Sabrina), Kajol-Ajay's Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (a remake of French Kiss), Paheli, Parineeta, Hum Tum and Mr. And Mrs. Iyer. Most of these, I admit, I havent seen in years. So maybe I should re-watch before I commit to my list!

  2. Bollyviewer, I loved your list, and thought it far superior to the one the Geet TV viewers came up with. I, too, was surprised by the absence of Hum Tum, and (apart from KKHH) Rani movies in general--Paheli is another excellent choice. Parineeta has Saif, Sanjay and Vidya Balan, all shamefully missing from the viewers' list. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer might be an unconventional choice, since it takes place during communal riots, but Konkona Sen Sharma and Rahul Bose were excellent together. Thanks for the reminder, too, about Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, which I also thought was charming. I'll definitely have to seek out the others.

    And finally, you've explained the mystery of why I keep finding Hrithik movies added to the Netflix queue I share with my partner! If you like KNPH there must be something there (besides Hrithik's baby blues--and other attractions--I mean) that I'm missing. Despite my Y handicap I'm not entirely blind to his appeal, but I do think that K3G is a better showcase for his talents.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. You're quite right that it was Jab We Met that turned me into a total fan of Shahid's. :-D (Although I think he's re-earned my favor on a semi-regular basis since.) I think the rest of this list is pretty surprising, though. Like you, I'm surprised that DDLJ didn't make it higher--maybe Indian audiences are slowly tiring of its ubiquitous airings? And given its major hit status, I'm very surprised that Vivah didn't make it at all. (Just because I don't care for it doesn't mean I'm blind to its appeal, I think.) Dil To Pagal Hai sucked, and Devdas is not a love story. It's just not. Saawariya has more going for it as an argument for true love, and that's saying something. While I did, as you say, enjoy Fanaa, the forces that separate the leads are not romantic enough to qualify it for the list either IMO.

    So, what would my top ten Indian romances be so far? (Keep in mind I've only seen around 120 Indian movies, not all of them Hindi.) I can't rank them, but KKHH, Jab We Met, Veer-Zaara, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, Anand (the Telugu one), RNBDJ, Hum Tum, HDDCS (although for Ajay's character, not Salman's), and, finally, Chameli (I realize it's an odd choice, but Rahul and Kareena's characters slow approach toward one another is very romantic to me). If I made a Hindi-only list, it might take me more time. :-)

  4. An excellent and thought-provoking list, Ajnabi. I'm shamefully ignorant of Telegu cinema, but your reviews of Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana and Anand make them sound highly appealing.

    I also haven't seen Chameli, because I'm not the world's biggest Kareena fan. But I did like Rahul Bose very much in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, so perhaps I should give this one a chance.

    Speaking of characters slowly finding their way towards one another, I'm glad you mentioned Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which is a film that I really enjoy. I think in part it's because the characters actually grow and change: the quiet, introverted Suri realizes that he must come out of his shell to win Taani's love; and Taani realizes that she has unfairly shut Suri out of her emotional life. And now that I think of it, Nandini comes to a similar awareness in HDDCS because of Vanraj's steadfastness and self-sacrifice.

    Love at first sight is fine, too, or as you say, living for 20 years on a week of love (Veer-Zaara is one of our favorites). But there's something especially romantic about watching the love between characters develop and deepen over time. And isn't that what we all hope for in our own relationships?

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. Pessimisissimo, I should warn you that in Chameli it's only slow movie-wise... In the time depicted it's only one night! :-) I did like that the ending, while not conventionally wrapped-up, was still positive. A lot of people consider this Kareena's best performance--myself included--so the film might be one where you can enjoy her. I know Bebo is often an acquired taste. ;-)

    Good point about Suri and Vanraj's self-sacrifice; I very much appreciate heroes who do that--within reason. And if you do have a chance to seek out NVND and Anand, I hope you do; they really are wonderful.

  6. Interesting post. I liked the way you have given your alternatives as well as linked reviews of other bloggers.

    My list of romantic movies would include - Anand (Telugu), Parineeta, Hum Tum, HDDCS, DDLJ, Chalte-2, Meerabai Not Out. Jodha Akbar,QMQT

  7. Ajnabi, many thanks for the recommendations of NVND and Anand--I've added them to our Netflix queue.

    And as for lovers' self-sacrifice "within reason," I hope I don't sound contradictory when I say that I'm not so sure I'd add that qualifier :-). After all, how reasonable are Veer (Veer-Zaara), Vanraj (HDDCS), Suri (RNBDJ), Aman (KHNH), or Shalu (DHT)? (Or, for that matter, Romeo and Juliet, Salim and Anarkali (Mughal-e-Azam), or Laila and Majnu?) While I don't think I'll be called on to emulate any of these heroes or heroines in real life, thankfully, in stories I can appreciate a little passionate madness, as well as the pleasures of mature love.



  8. Filmbuff, many thanks for your list. I'm with you on the first half of Chalte Chalte, with Raj and Priya (Rani) falling in love as they travel through the gorgeous landscapes of India and Greece. (This is the part of the movie that, along with DDLJ, JWM borrowed much of its plot from.) But I don't think Chalte Chalte would ultimately make my top 10 list. As big a fan as I am of both SRK and Rani, in the second half the post-marriage fights, Raj's jealousy and insecurity, etc., don't leave me with a sense of optimism for this couple. And since they're still arguing as the credits roll, I wonder how long their reconciliation is going to last.

    Meerabai Not Out is one that I haven't seen, mainly because in general I'm allergic to sports films; Chak De! India is a recent exception to the rule. But since I like so many of the other movies on your list perhaps I should make a second exception for Meerabai.

    Thanks again for your comment!

  9. Cool theme here (and thanks for the links with your commentary)!

    The list is hardly surprising when we assess with respect to the more popular actors of the genre from the last two decades. The DDLJ-DTPH-KKHH craze phase was when my fondness for Bollywood hit rock bottom. If I'd cheat too, I know Maine Pyaar Kiya and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak would more than likely be in the Top 5.

    I'd definitely include Swades and Lagaan (my kinda love stories there :D), Salman entries in HDDCS (went downhill after intermission, I've learned that's not the view of the minority!) and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (surely!), and Taal (the music!).

    Not surprised at all at there not being many Aamir-Juhi films in there -- they were a great pairing, but I think the test of time reveals most of their films weren't substantive. (That's not to say I think the SRK triad of the mid-to-late 1990s I mentioned I can't stand, was.) There's also a section of Meenaxi which would make my list -- brilliant, and Tabu at her best in all respects!

    From among the new ones, I'd say Tum Mile, and at least one of Love Aaj Kal and Karthik Calling Karthik, but I've only seen them twice each, and am well aware I might be going through a serious Deepikappreciation (can we coin the term, please?) phase. ;)


  10. theBollywoodfan, many thanks for the compliment. I wish I could take credit for the concept, but it's all Geet TV's doing. As Bollyviewer says, there's something irresistible about lists. Many thanks for offering yours!

    While Swades and Lagaan both have worthy heroines for their heroes (the lovely Gayatri Joshi and Gracy Singh, respectively), it seems to me that both films are really about love of country. In each the heroine is a virtuous village girl who ends up as a symbolic stand-in for the nation; but for that reason I find them less personally affecting than other films I mention in the post. (Of course, that's probably one reason why you find them to be especially affecting.)

    I agree about Taal's striking musical numbers (and Aishwarya Rai dancing in them), but I find my emotions engaged more directly by the hominess of a movie like Ajnabi's choice Kandukondain Kandukondain. And speaking of Tabu, I'm glad you mentioned Meenaxi. Ever since your review I've been wanting to see it--I'm just waiting for Netflix to finally get around to replacing their lost copy.

    I haven't yet seen Tum Mile, and as for Love Aaj Kal only the Veer-Harleen sections worked for me. I'm very much looking forward to Karthik Calling Karthik--but unfortunately my lover just left town for two weeks and made me promise not to watch it without her. Deepikappreciation--I love it!

    Thanks again for sharing your choices!

  11. I am sure you will like "Meerabai Not Out" - the movie is not focused on Cricket at all ie it is not a typical sports movie. Without giving away any details, I would say that it is a love story with cricket in the background. After a long time I found a modern hindi movie with a truly Indian middle class touch. Please do see this if you get a chance. I would love to know your views as I enjoy reading your reviews.

    I am on board with you about Love Aaj Kal ie the loveleen harpreet story being the more interesting one.

    I too have heard that Tum Mile is a good movie. I hope to see it soon


  12. Filmbuff, thanks for expanding on your recommendation of Meerabai--now if only Netflix would deign to carry it!



  13. I saw Tum Mile last night. Emran Hashmi has acted well. While Soha is an intelligent actress and chooses good roles, she still needs to develop her acting skills. This was obvious when you see Emran's performance. I have seen Emran only in one other movie (forgetting the name) which is all about match fixing in cricket and the story was set in South Africa. Emran did a good job in that movie too.

    I can see why Tum Mile flopped in India. We can perhaps discuss that after you see the movie ie if you intend to see it.

  14. Filmbuff, I will likely see Tum Mile, but it won't be for many months--I have a substantial backlog of viewing (and life events keep disrupting my Bollywood and blogging time). I would still be curious to hear your thoughts about why the film wasn't successful.

    However, theBollywoodFan would probably be able to respond more intelligently--as you may be aware, he's written an extensive review of Tum Mile. While our tastes differ somewhat, I find his reviews to be very thoughtful and perceptive.

  15. Thanks for that reference to TBF's post. I will read it. Good luck with your viewing of backlog films. I too am busy enjoying hindi oldies that I picked up during my last visit to India for a holiday and Tum Mile had to wait for a long time in my TBW pile!

  16. Yes, if only life would cooperate and give us time to do more, rather than less, of the things we most enjoy!