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The complex web of relationships in Hindi cinema: An analysis of love, marriage, and the lingering past

Hindi cinema has often delved into the intricate dynamics of relationships, particularly focusing on the triangular tension between a husban...

Hindi cinema has often delved into the intricate dynamics of relationships, particularly focusing on the triangular tension between a husband, wife, and an ex-lover. These films explore the emotional turmoil, moral dilemmas, and societal pressures faced by individuals caught in such complex situations. This essay critically examines notable Hindi films like "Woh 7 Din," "Gharonda," "Swami," "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam," "Prem Kahani," "Faraar," and "Ijaazat," which poignantly depict the struggle of dealing with past romantic entanglements within the confines of marriage.

Woh 7 Din, Gharonda, and Swami: Navigating the Shadows of the Past

"Woh 7 Din" (1983), directed by Bapu, presents a poignant tale where the protagonist, Maya, is torn between her husband and her past lover. The film underscores the emotional conflict and societal expectations that weigh heavily on her decisions. Maya's journey from being a spirited young woman in love to a dutiful wife highlights the sacrifices and compromises often demanded by marriage in traditional Indian society.

Similarly, "Gharonda" (1977), directed by Bhimsain, explores the aspirations and disillusionments of a young couple trying to build a life together in a city. When the past lover re-enters the scene, the protagonist's struggle is compounded by the economic and emotional pressures of urban life. The film’s realistic portrayal of middle-class life and its challenges adds a layer of complexity to the romantic dilemma.

"Swami" (1977), directed by Basu Chatterjee, offers a more introspective look at the theme. The protagonist, Saudamini, finds herself in a marriage arranged by her family, while her heart yearns for her past lover. The film beautifully captures her internal conflict and the gradual acceptance of her new life. It reflects on the Indian cultural ethos where duty often overrides personal desires.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: The Heart's Dilemma

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" (1999) stands out for its opulent portrayal of love and sacrifice. The film follows Nandini, who is caught between her past love, Sameer, and her husband, Vanraj. Bhansali’s narrative brings to the fore the intense emotional struggle and the ultimate act of selflessness as Nandini grapples with her feelings. The film’s lush visuals and powerful performances underscore the theme of love’s enduring impact and the noble acceptance of marital duty.

Prem Kahani and Faraar: Love and Law

In "Prem Kahani" (1975) and "Faraar" (1975), the heroine’s predicament is heightened as her ex-lover is a fugitive. In "Prem Kahani," directed by Raj Khosla, the conflict between love and duty is embodied by Rajesh Khanna's character, who is a revolutionary on the run. The protagonist, played by Mumtaz, is torn between her love for him and her loyalty to her husband (Shashi Kapoor), a police officer. The film’s historical backdrop and revolutionary theme add a dramatic intensity to the personal conflict.

"Faraar," directed by Shankar Mukherjee, similarly places the heroine (Sharmila Tagore) in a difficult position. Here, the ex-lover’s (Amitabh Bachchan) criminal past and the husband’s (Sanjeev Kumar) role as a law enforcer create a high-stakes scenario where personal and professional loyalties collide. Both films explore the theme of love being tested by external circumstances and the moral dilemmas faced by the characters.

Ijaazat: The Indelible Presence of the Past

"Ijaazat" (1987), directed by Gulzar, offers a nuanced and sensitive portrayal of the impact of a past lover on a married couple. The film, based on Subodh Ghosh's story "Jatugriha," follows Mahender and Sudha as they navigate their marriage while dealing with the lingering presence of Mahender's ex-lover, Maya. The film’s poetic narrative and evocative music by R.D. Burman underscore the emotional depth and complexity of the characters' relationships. "Ijaazat" stands out for its mature handling of themes like forgiveness, acceptance, and the passage of time.

These films collectively highlight the multifaceted nature of romantic dilemmas in the context of marriage. Hindi cinema, through these narratives, reflects societal attitudes towards love, duty, and individual desires. The portrayal of the past lover’s presence in these films serves as a catalyst for exploring deeper emotional truths and the resilience of the human spirit. As these characters navigate their complex relationships, they embody the universal struggle between the heart's desires and the obligations imposed by societal norms. Through their stories, Hindi cinema continues to offer interesting insights into the human condition and the enduring nature of love.

By Pratik Majumdar 

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