Last week, while having drinks with my colleagues, one of them asked the group: What Bollywood movie is your guilty pleasure? Answers ranged from Guda (1998) to Padosan (1968) to many more entertainers we’ve probably forgotten. When it was my turn, it took me less than two seconds to say decisively Mujhse Dosti Karoge! (2002). At first, there was silence, but soon everyone was chattering about the strange sense of comfort this film provides, just like the famous ‘gobi ke parathe’ Hrithik Roshan’s character can’t get enough.
I got home and watched the movie again and my suggestions were immediately flooded with titles like Hmm Tum (2004)Salam Namaste (2005)Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002), the woefully written but incredibly entertaining I Hate Luv Stories (2010), the underestimated Break Ke Baad (2010) and the highly relevant Love Aaj Kal (2009) (one with Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan; not talking about the other). Memories of watching and loving all these movies came flooding back, which also made me realize that the last Bollywood rom-com I enjoyed was probably a decade ago.
Which is now? Did the demise of Imran Khan’s acting career put an end to this particular genre? Or has the onus shifted to alternative actors like Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao? With the bucolic charm of Bareilly replacing the sweeping shots of Budapest, the Hindi romantic comedy is now more rooted in India, as seen in films like Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017)Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017)Badhaai Ho (2018)Luca Tsoupi (2019) and Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017). There is also Badhaai Do (2022), Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020) and Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021)—films that shine a spotlight on the LGBTQA+ community, which is fantastic, but those films are few and far between. The success of mass entertainers likes KGF (2018), Pushpa (2021) and RRR (2022) prompted film industries across the country to refocus on the “hero”. The fact that Bollywood films are flopping like never before has obviously shaken things up. Trends suggest that we will see a lot more Hindi films doing what they did in the late 70s and most of the 80s until the success of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) changed the game.
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