1988. The Ronald Reagan era had just come to an end. Mikhail Gorbhachov’s “perestroika” and “glasnost” policies were witnessing their high noon in the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall was to come crashing down barely a year later. The Cold War was witnessing its last hour of frost. Michael Jackson was “moonwalking”. Sachin Tendulkar had just broken into the Bombay team, while still playing school cricket. Imran Khan was a long way off from contracting the first of his three marriages, still sporting the “Big Boys Play at Night” tee.
Meanwhile, Bollywood was churning out films bearing cringe-inducing names like Zulm Ko Jalakar Raakh Kar Doonga, Kasam Paida Karne Wali Ki, Watan Ke Rakhwale. Eighties was the decade of Bappi Lahiri disco beats (with suitable doses of inspiration from the West), Jitendra, Sridevi and hundreds of background dancers carrying pots and what-nots in the dream-dance sequences of Hindi movies manufactured in the studios of Madras and Hyderabad in the same way as a factory would produce socks or bottled soda.
And then, in the summer of 1988, comes a film the title of which fills us with similar trepidation. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Qayamat what? Aamir Khan who? Juhi Chawla who? Would this be another inglorious addition to the long and painful list of bazinga-titled films (due apologies to Dr Sheldon Cooper) that infested the 1980s — arguably the worst cinematic decade for the Hindi film industry?
QSQT ushered in the romance genre and lit up the Indian silver screenwith high cinematic standards. Though released in 1988, it was more of a precursor to the genre of youthful, realist romance brand of filmmaking that we witnessed a decade later with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (directed by debutant Aditya Chopra, released in 1995) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
But history was to be made, moviegoers were to be awed, young men and women were to be driven into heart-rending ecstasy, crooning to the songs that are still hummed by those of us who absorbed QSQT as precocious adolescents. We realised we had been served with an era-changing and genre-defining movie. There have been few such films in Bollywood’s over a hundred-year-old history which have been harbingers of sweeping cinematic change. QSQT, undoubtedly, was one.
QSQT brought about a clear, almost tectonic shift from the 80s style of action-packed, multi-starrers, those hackneyed and formulaic factory productions that lined the decade like bare trees that give no shade. QSQT ushered in the romance genre and lit up the Indian silver screenwith high cinematic standards. Though released in 1988, it was more of a precursor to the genre of youthful, realist romance brand of filmmaking that we witnessed a decade later with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (directed by debutant Aditya Chopra, released in 1995) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (directed by debutant Karan Johar and released in 1998).
Released in 1913, Raja Harishchandra is generally acknowledged to be India’s first movie. In 1931, came Alam Ara— the first Indian “talkie”. 1955 — Devdas starring Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Vyajantimala ushered in a decade of the melancholic “tragedy king” hero. 1969 — the gangly Rajesh Khanna and the sultry Sharmila Tagore’s Aradhana sizzled the silver screen with the combined sensuality. Thus was signalled a generational shift from erstwhile three reigning superstars — Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand — to a younger, fresh and romantic superhero, unafraid to woo his heroine with his impish smile and tree-hugging chartbusters. Few years later, Amitabh Bachchan’s Zanjeer (directed by Prakash Mehra, 1973) and Deewar (directed by Yash Chopra, 1975) had the “angry young man” exploding on screen.
But the genre of the multi-hero action starrer of the 70s had degenerated to pathetic levels in the 1980s. And the eponymous movie banner of Nasir Hussain was already reeling under the shock of an unprecedented three successive flops in the late 80s. Something that the astute filmmaker, whose first directorial venture was the 1957 matinee hit Tumsa Nahin Dekha, had never experienced in his three-decades-plus filmmaking career.
It was then that he decided to handover the baton to his son Mansoor Khan — thenin his early 30s, making his first film. The story was essentially a Romeo-Juliet redux. A sort of a“Rajputana Romeo-Juliet”, where the unbending Rajput pride is the root cause of the inter-family animus leading to the tragic end for the young lovers.
They went for fresh faces. Aamir Khan was Nasir Hussain’spaternal nephew and was already displaying his precocious talent. The female lead was the relative newcomerJuhi Chawla (a former Miss India), who essayed the “hum/humein/humaari” Rajput aristocracy lingo with a wide-eyed innocence and endearing elan.
They went for fresh faces. Aamir Khan was Nasir Hussain’spaternal nephew and was already displaying his precocious talent. The female lead was the relative newcomerJuhi Chawla (a former Miss India), who essayed the “hum /humein /humaari” Rajput aristocracy lingo with a wide-eyed innocence and endearing elan
The hero lies his way through the entire movie. Lies to the girl about not knowing her antecedents. Lies to his own father and his family about not knowing who the girl’s father was. Makes false promises to his own father, uncle and family that he would “forget” the girl. And then ultimately elopes with her in the dead of night. But you could relate to his lies. They weren’t malevolent or insidious. They were cute. Any young man in his shoes and a beating heart would perhaps do and say the same.
Can you believe that the lyrics of such youthful songs — such as “GhazabKa Hai Din, Dekho Zara”, “Ai Mere HumsafarEk Zara Intezar”, or “AkeleHain To Kya Gam Hai” — were written by a man pushing 70?
Coming back to Romeo-Juliet. Nothing new in that. But what really was unprecedented was the treatment. The freshness exuded by the movie. The lead pair actually looked like college kids and actually looked in love. The screenplay was very contemporary and not dated or over-the-top. The music was chartbusting, despite RD Burman, a favourite and permanent fixture of Nasir Hussian films since Teesri Manzil (1966), being junked in favour of debutantes Anand-Milind. The septuagenarian lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, another permanent fixture of all of Nasir Hussain films, was, however, retained. Can you believe that the lyrics of such youthful songs — such as “GhazabKa Hai Din, Dekho Zara”, “Ai Mere HumsafarEk Zara Intezar”, or “AkeleHain To Kya Gam Hai” — were written by a man pushing 70? Majrooh would surpass himself in Mansoor Khan’s next film – Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar released in 1992 — with the iconic lyrics of the unforgettable “PehlaNasha”.
[Unfortunately,Filmfare didn’t think so. It awarded the best lyrics award for that year to Sameer for the songs in the movie Deewana starring Rishi Kappor in his XXL sweaters wooing the late Divya Bharti, though the latter was half his age and size. Incidentally, Deewana was a certain Shah Rukh Khan’s debut film.]
Nostalgia on steroids
Back to QSQT.
I was a 12-year-old kid when I watched it for the first time, 30 years back! There are two things I distinctly remember. One was gratuitously envying the college-going youths in the movie, wondering when would I reach that grownup stage. Second was shedding copious amount of tears during the climax scene, as the lead pair redefines “riding into the sunset”, glorious and red-splashed, taking in those feudal bullets from frenemies.
As I look back, I can say this with confidence that the best performance in the movie by some distance was by Dalip Tahil, who played the hero’s father. Three decades later, there isn’t a single film that has been able to harness his talent, the way QSQT managed to. Isn’t that a sad commentary on our film industry?
Yes, the starlets of QSQT went on to make great names for themselves in the coming years. Not just Aamir Khan, but also Juhi Chawla, the playback singers Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik, even the child artist Imran Khan
“Papa KehteHain” was a blockbuster of a song and remarkably prescient on the part of Majrooh! To say that Aamir Khan would make a name for himself in the coming years and decades would be an understatement. A name so huge that it has dwarfed his versatile, prolific uncle and rather talented cousin. A filmmaker who accomplishes the near-impossible task of pleasing both the film critic and the front-bencher. An actor par-excellence and a movie maker whose films rival the best in Hollywood.
Yes, the starlets of QSQT went on to make great names for themselves in the coming years. Not just Aamir Khan, but also Juhi Chawla, the playback singers Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik, even the child artist Imran Khan in a blink-and-you-will-miss-me role, playing the younger version of Aamir Khan at the beginning of thefilm.
Much before he was a “Secret Superstar”, Aamir Khan had a “secret wife”. This is the only movie to feature Aamir Khan, as well as his then secret wife Reena Dutta (along with his cousin and actor Imran Khan’s mother Nuzhat Khan) in a single frame of a movie. Remember the girl in the red dress, whose cheeks Aamir Khan caresses in “Papa Kehte Hain”? Yes, that vivacious girl was Reena Dutta, and her “flirtatious” friend making an unsuccessful attempt to kiss the hero – that was Nuzhat Khan!
Another bit of trivia. 1988’s QSQT was followed by 1989’s Salman-Bhagyashree starrer – Maine PyarKiya and 1990’s Aashiqui. A veritable trilogy of romantic superhits. The late Reema Lagoo is the only actor to have featured in all three of these movies. As the mother of the heroine in QSQT and that of the hero in the next two.
Though 30 years have gone by, you can watch QSQT any number of times and still feel enamoured by it. Every scene and every frame has a memory attached to it. Do watch it again on a languid Sunday afternoon, perhaps with someone you love and deeply cherish.