1. Amar Prem (1971): The underrated director Shakti Samanta created two timeless odes to love Aradhana and Amar Prem both featuring the charismatic couple Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. My Valentinian pick is Amar Prem. There is not even an embrace between the lead pair. He, a married man seeking comfort in his loneliness.She, a prostitute mothering him, nurturing his heart as though he were her child. Never seen love so sublime in any film.Never felt more happy to know love lives.
2. Bobby (1973): Every generation has its favourite love story. I pity those who think Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge are the acmes of amour. Excuse me, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Raj Kapoor’s rugged, sexy muscular and melodious adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet were every bit the antidote to cynicism that was creeping up on us from Amitabh Bachchan’s ireful domain as the 1970s gathered momentum and lost the feeling of romance that Rajesh Khanna’s cinema created. There were scenes here in Bobby where Raj Saab borrowed moments from his own relationship with Nargis.Awara hue.
3. Pakeezah (1972): Call me a diehard nostalgist or an incorrigible romanticist. But to me no one does the pangs of separation better than Kamal Amrohi. Casting his wife the sublimely tragic Meena Kumari as the lovelorn poetess tawaif Sahib Jaan who accidentally meets the love of her life on a train gave Amrohi occasion to unleash a torrent of melodies steeped in poetry. The ethos of aristocracy barely concealed an unabashed celebration of love across the class barrier.Yes, this is the film that will one day revive the era of romance in the cynics who believe love is about hormones.
4. Hum…Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999): The eternal dilemma faced by a beauteous woman who has to choose between reckless passion and stability, here represented by Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan. Aishwarya Rai in her most beautiful avatar finally picks stability. But her scenes with Salman are among the most endearing manifestations of romance ever seen in Hindi cinema.
5. Kabhi Kabhie (1975): Yash Chopra was a diehard romanticist. To pick one from his odes to romance is to select one rose from a beautiful bouquet. But yes Kabhi Kabhie had incredible chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Raakhee Gulzar who never looked more beautiful. I’ve never seen Mr B share the same intensity of emotions with any actress, certainly not Rekha in the utterly artificial Silsila where every romantic line is mumbled for effect.Could Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry and Khayyam’s music have something to do with undying ardour of Kabhi Kabhie? I don’t know. After numerous viewings I am still trying to figure out.
6. Sadma (1983): Kamal Haasan and Sridevi sharing what outwardly seems like a borderline paedophiliac relationship. But then you look at the soul of tenderness that pours out of the man into the object of his affection and you know this chemistry is unparalleled in the history of celluloid romance. He is the father-figure. She is child-woman. When he combs her hair, and sings a lullaby for her you know in that vivid glorious rush of intensity what true love means.
7. Mughal-e-Azam (1960): That one sequence where Dilip Kumar’s Prince Salim makes love to Madhubala’s Anarkali caressing her face with a feather as Hindustani classical vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sings Prem Jogan…This ranks as one of Indian cinema’s highest peaks of romanticism. It helped that Madhubala was desperately in love with Dilip Kumar, though by the time the film was completed he had deserted her. Hence when Lata Mangeshkar’s imperishable vocals pierce the air with Mohabbat ki Jhoothi Kahani Pe Roye, it’s not a broken heart we are looking at. It’s a lament to love for all ages, for all seasons.
8. Prem Patra (1962): A gorgeous Sadhana wooing a blind Shashi Kapoor, his eyelashes brushing against her lips. The chemistry was so palpable it makes our hearts beat with pulsating precocity even today. Catch this Bimal Roy’s most romantic film ever for the lead pair’s urbane charm that lights up every frame of this black and white masterpiece shot by Dilip Gupta who also shot Roy’s other romantic gem Madhumati. And yes the composer-singer duo of Salil Chowdhary-Lata Mangeshkar eked out the most exquisite songs of love and heartbreak obtainable to mankind.
9. Ankhiyon Ke Jharonkhon Se (1978): A tender charming adaptation of Erich Segal’s Love Story with Sachin and Ranjeeta playing out the Prince and the Showgirl theme with heartbreaking sincerity. Elegantly directed by the neglected Lekh Tandon and with a pleasing score by Ravindra Jain this romance stays with you long after its tragic finale.
10. Tere Mere Sapne (1971): Okay, most would opt for Vijay Anand’s Guide. But let’s get romantically reckless this time and opt for the neglected Vijay Anand gem where Dev Anand starred as a doctor who turns corrupt right in front of his starry-eyed wife Mumtaz’es misted eyes. She who thought she had married an idealist. As her idyllic world comes crashing down we can almost hear the sound of her breaking heart.Pyar Tera doona ram Jaane Phir Bhi Kyon hai Jeevan Soona Soona. Finally, romance is felt most tangible when it is gone.
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)