Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bollywood and the Victorians

In Anthony Trollope's Framley Parsonage (1860), Lord Lufton, the heir to Framley Court, has fallen in love with Lucy Robarts, the sister of a local clergyman. Lucy is aware, though, that Lord Lufton's mother has other plans for her son: she wants him to marry a woman with money and social position. Lucy knows that Lady Lufton will strongly disapprove her as a potential daughter-in-law.

So when Lucy learns from her brother Mark and his wife Fanny that Lord Lufton intends to come to the house the next day in order to propose to her, she is dismayed:

"He must not let Lord Lufton come here to-morrow."

"Not let him!" said Mrs. Robarts. Mr. Robarts said nothing, but he felt that his sister was rising in his esteem from minute to minute.

"No; Mark must bid him not come. He will not wish to pain me when it can do no good. Look here, Mark;" and she walked over to her brother, and put both her hands upon his arm. "I do love Lord Lufton. I had no such meaning or thought when I first knew him. But I do love him—I love him dearly;—almost as well as Fanny loves you, I suppose. You may tell him so if you think proper—nay, you must tell him so, or he will not understand me. But tell him this, as coming from me: that I will never marry him, unless his mother asks me."

In Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Brave Heart Will Take the Bride, 1995), Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) has fallen in love with Simran (Kajol) while on a Eurail holiday. Simran's father has arranged her marriage back in India with a man she's never met. Raj follows Simran to India, and finds the village where her wedding preparations are taking place. In one of the most famous shots in Indian cinema, Simran rushes to Raj's arms through a vast field of flowers, and pleads with him, "Take me away from here." His response:

"Main tumhe bhagakar ya churakar le jane nahin aaye hun. Bhale meri paydaish England main hui ho par hun main Hindustani. Main yahan tumhe apni dulhan banane ke liye aaya hun aur tumhe yahan se le jaoonga tabhi jab tumhare bauji khud tumhara haath mere haath main denge."

(I haven't come here to elope with you or to steal you. I might have been born in England but I am Hindustani. I've come here to make you my bride. I'll take you from here only when your father gives me your hand in marriage.)

Clearly Anthony Trollope was a fan of DDLJ.

DDLJ quotes taken, with slight modification, from Anupama Chopra's Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (British Film Institute, 2002)


  1. I often thought about that, the Austen books are also a bit similar to some older Bollywood films.

  2. Lime(tte), many thanks for your comment! You're probably also aware there are even some Austen remakes. My favorite is the delightful Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It, 2000), a modern-day version of Sense and Sensibility which was a worthy contender for my list of Favorite Films of the 2000s. There's also Bride & Prejudice (2004), of course, and the recent Emma remake Aisha (2010).

    I think we're overdue for a Bollywood version of Persuasion. I can think of several actresses who would make a wonderful Anne Elliot, with Tabu being perhaps my current first choice (though I'm certainly willing to entertain other possibilities!).

  3. It is always a pleasure to read your posts. I enjoyed reading this, KWK and Vivah posts.

    I may be repeating myself here, I did not like Vivah. I saw it on the big screen here in Sydney and found it too sugary, slow and as you have rightly pointed out all the interesting action takes place only in the last 30 mins. It became a hit in India due to its resonance in small towns and rural hinterland. I remember telling my sister in India not to waste her time in seeing this movie which of course she promptly ignored and in our next phone chat, proceeded to tell me how much she liked the movie! So there u go - siblings in a family may themselves have differing views about a movie and so not surprising that a lot of people did like Vivah.

    I just wanted to make a small correction about inheritance. According to Indian Law, decades ago the law was changed to make both daughters and sons eligible for the family property (previously only sons could inherit the property). In practice, most often girls tend to forgo their share coz they know their dads/brothers have worked their back off paying for their dowry and wedding expenses. This of course applies to middle class educated women. The poor have no choice in the sense there is very little property to inherit in the first place.

    I really liked the way you have outlined the reasons you liked Vivah!

    As for KWK, perhaps one can explain the curiosity factor ie how is the actor or actress really like as a person on their own that makes us watch these programs. Having said that, I have only seen a few episodes of season 3 and I must confess - most of them were a big Yawn! I skippled the SRK segment coz he is too full of himself. The most cringe worthy was Johan Abrahams show.

    Sorry for the long comment! Have a good weekend - it is friday here Down Under

  4. Many thanks for your extensive comments, Filmbuff--the pleasure's mine.

    Thank you for the correction about Indian inheritance laws; I'll make a note in the post itself. At some point you may want to give Vivah a re-watch to see if your opinion about the film has shifted any closer to your sister's. I certainly enjoyed it (even) more the second time, which I wasn't expecting.

    That curiosity you describe about what an actor or actress is really like is very natural. We spend hours of our lives watching them and sympathizing or empathizing with their characters; we've laughed and cried over their fates. Of course we want to find out if the actors are as charming, funny, likeable, etc. in real life as they are onscreen.

    But if they aren't—and how could they be?—it affects my ability to suspend my disbelief when I'm watching them perform. I'd really rather not know. However, judging by the vast number of people who follow all the magazines, websites, television shows, Twitter feeds, etc., devoted to the offscreen lives of actors, I'm clearly in a small minority.

    Thanks again for your comment!

  5. Hi

    I too belong to the minority since I am not on face book or twitter and I do not read online mags or sites to know more about actors. KWK is the only show I have seen and that too a few episodes now and then.

    I may give Vivah a second glance if and when I find the time coz right now I have a pile of To Be Watched DVDs - lots of olden goldies (my modest collection vis a vis people like Memsaab who are a treasure house of old films) and several new ones too (I am lucky to get a good supply from my siblings here).

    I did see some very good films in 2010 and would highly recommend them to you - Dhobi Ghat, Udaan, Ishqiya, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, No One Killed Jessica (based on true incident) and Tere Bin Laden (too good).

    Another recent movie that i really liked is Lara Dutta's Chalo Delhi. Vinayak Pathak the lead male actor has done a fab job. For once we have a different kind of movie than the usual run of the mill.

    I am looking forward to your reviews in case you decide to watch these recos!