Cinema as an art of storytelling is ruled by love stories and every new generation has its own cult love story finding an instant connection with the youth. Hindi cinema has witnessed numerous adorable films about young lovers in its hundred years of history, but the decade of '80s deserves a special mention among them all for a reason.
Widely considered a forgettable decade of Hindi cinema for various debatable elements, 1980s was actually the decade releasing trendsetting love stories exploring the cinema of the next generation. It was the period when most of the star kids were introduced, along with the unknown faces, offering exceptionally hit soundtracks in their films winning hearts all over. A few of these actors rediscovered themselves after playing small roles and some couldn’t hit the right note even after getting the big opportunity. However, many did experience phenomenal success, literally ruling the box office in the decades that followed.
Beginning with 1981, we had Ek Duuje Ke Liye introducing Kamal Haasan, Rati Agnihotri, Madhavi and Sunil Thapa, along with Sanjay Dutt’s Rocky. The year also had another mega hit, Love Story, introducing Kumar Gaurav and Vijayta Pandit, besides Kunal Kapoor coming up with his mainstream release Ahista Ahista.
The following year, an unusual debut by Salma Agha as a singer-actress won over the masses in a socially relevant love story Nikaah, raising a valid question.
In 1983, Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh announced their arrival through Betaab followed by Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Sheshadri setting the box office on fire with their Hero. Sunny also did a period love-saga Sohni Mahiwal in the following year. On the other hand, where Anil Kapoor successfully made a breakthrough in mainstream cinema with Woh 7 Din, Rajiv Kapoor-Divya Rana, Rajiv Goswami-Meenakshi and Kunal Goswami-Komal couldn’t leave the desired impact with their Ek Jaan Hain Hum, Painter Babu and Ghungroo, respectively.
The lukewarm response to new love stories and debuts continued in 1984. These included Mohnish Bahl and Ayesha Dutt’s Teri Baahon Mein, Karan Shah and Neelam’s Jawaani, Tapas Paul and Madhuri Dixit’s Abodh and Suneil Anand and Natasha Sinha’s Anand Aur Anand. In 1985, Rohan Kapoor and Farah also failed to impress in their Faasle, but a surprise hit turned the tables for both Kimi Katkar and Hemant Birje with Adventures of Tarzan.
Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili was all over the press and theaters in 1985 featuring Mandakini in a bold avatar, but Raj Tandon and Rubina couldn’t make it big with Ek Main Aur Ek Tu in 1986. The same was the result of an attempt to cash in on the young spirit with Love 86 featuring all fresh entrants as Govinda, Rohan Kapoor, Farah and Neelam. Here a deserving mention has to be made of K. Asif’s Love and God — an incomplete film that finally got released with the efforts of K. C. Bokadia, sadly witnessing a discouraging response from the audience.
In 1988, Aasif Sheikh (of Hum Log fame) and Kimi Katkar tried their best in Rama O Rama, but the year truly belonged to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak featuring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla. Both the excellence in music and execution on screen continued in 1989 with another classic Maine Pyar Kiya re-introducing Salman Khan with Bhagyashree playing the new-age couple. The same year also witnessed an unexpected musical success in the video circuit achieved by a small film Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka with Sahil Chadha and Veverly in the lead. Thankfully, a hat-trick of musical love stories got completed with Aashiqui releasing in 1990 that eventually took the Hindi Cinema into its next phase.
In comparative terms, though all the hit films mentioned above have their own importance in the history of Hindi films and music, the one name that still stands tall is Ek Duuje Ke Liye. The reason being that the film not only introduced Hindi film viewers to an exceptionally gifted artist like Kamal Haasan, but also made way for an extremely blessed and versatile singer-performer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, who later became one of the key reasons of success for many blockbuster love stories as Maine Pyar Kiya, Saajan, Roja, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and more.
Interestingly, Ek Duuje Ke Liye wasn’t actually the first Hindi film of both Kamal Haasan and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam as widely quoted. The talented singer sang for many Hindi films earlier, but they were mostly dubbed Hindi films having a limited release. But then he also sang for R. D. Burman in Mangalsutra (1981) that got censored months before Ek Duuje Ke Liye. Revealing the lesser-known cameo of Kamal Haasan, he was there in a few seconds scene in K. Balachander’s Aaina (1977) as a young assistant talking to his director while shooting a song featuring Dharmendra and Neetu Singh.
No doubt the '80s, full of debuts and love stories, wasn’t really a decade that can easily be forgotten.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)