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A tale of two love stories in Bollywood

The mid-1980s were the best of the times, they were the worst of the times for Bollywood.

Amitabh Bachchan – In and As ‘Mard’

At one end, it was going through a terrible phase Рthe era of Amitabh Bachchan was on the wane and his favorite team of producers-directors, in a desparate attempt to recapture his lost magic produced terrible movies such as Mard, Shahenshah, Giraftaar etc. To make matters worse, a bunch of Amitabh wannabees such as Govinda,  Mithun Chakraborty, Chunky Pandey were busy creating their own cacophony of movies with bad storylines, lousy music and terrible production values.

At the same time however, Bollywood saw the rise of two whiz-kid directors, both with a deep sense of destiny and a strong pedigree. Sooraj Barjatya came from the strong tradition of Rajshri Productions, while Mansoor Khan was the son of famed producer-director-writer, Nasir Hussein. The similarities did not stop there. Both the production houses had seen better days, although the financial situation of Rajshri was way more precarious. And both sought to revive the fortunes of their legacies through marquee love stories that redefined Bollywood forever. And both of them introduced two stars that still rule Bollywood, although in different ways and degrees. Yes, we are talking about Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Maine Pyaar Kiya.

Both movies were huge hits, although Maine Pyaar Kiya really took the nation by storm. At the same time, almost everyone who came of age during that period had a strong favorite. People watched both the movies, loved both of them but had a visceral following for one of the other, starting from songs, the actors, and the movie itself.

Two decades after the movies were released, I watched them again recently in quick succession and realized that my own opinion still remained the same Рthat Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was a better allround movie overall Рit was better scripted, had better production values, was better acted and as Bollywood movies go, was less over the top compared with Maine Pyaar Kiya. And those qualities have allowed Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to become a classic that can be watched multiple times even after two decades, while Maine Pyaar Kiya comes across as too loud, too card-boardish, too amateurish, and way over the top.

The trajectories of the two directors later on vindicates this judgement. Mansoor Khan carried on to make another all time classic called Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. His next two movies unfortunately were copies of Hollywood movies (Akele Hum Akele Tum based on Kramer v/s Kramer and Josh based on The West Side Story) and pretty mediocre ones at that, but no one can accuse him of having shoddy production values, or having cartoonish, over the top characters. Sooraj Barjatya however went on to make travesties such Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Saath Saath Hain, Main Prem Kee Diwani Hoon and Vivah. Several of these movies were major hits and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun is one of the biggest Bollywood hits ever but these were some of the most regressive, unrealistic movies ever made in Bollywood (which is saying a lot) with some terrible production values and acting. In some sense, they were the non-violent equivalent of the formulaic, later stage Amitabh Bachchan, or Mithun/Govinda movies – the wheel had come full circle for Sooraj Barjatya.

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