What, you mean Bollywood didn't always have the dynamic Aamir Khan and the lovely Juhi Chawla?
Nowadays, its hard to imagine Aamir Khan being in amateur--and even in his first leading role he is hardly that. Arguably one of the most gifted and powerful actors Indian cinema has ever seen, Aamir's success can be traced through more than two decades, from classics like Lagaan and Rang De Basanti to recent triumphs such as Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini. Yet it had to begin somewhere, and that somewhere was Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak--a story about first love caught up in a web of fueding families.
This film was recommended to me by The Bollywood Fan, and after realizing we both had yet to write about it, we decided to collaborate and compile a joint review; I knew I was in for a real treat--Writing with the big Aamir fan would add an entertaining yet informative spin to the review, as well as my viewing experience (not only that, but I'd get to hear him say "Haye Allah--Juhi Chawla!"). We talked about all of my questions (and then some)--What was this film's reception by its target audience when in came out back in 1988? What was the general response to Aamir and Juhi? Which songs were embraced? The Bollywood Fan has written his part to this review here.
On first glance, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak seemed to be yet another young love story to emerge from the whole "DDLJ and HAHK Era", despite being released prior to those two films. However, after watching this I realized I was wrong--very, very wrong. QSQT is anything but "typical", espically for a Bollywood film. But then again, has Aamir Khan done anything typical, ever? This is one of those films that must be watched in its entiriety before you even begin to judge it. In other words, stick with it--You may think you've been down this road before in Bollywood, but rest assured, by the end you will see what separates QSQT from its counterparts.
Again, the story--on the surface, at least--is basic. Raj and Rashmi meet and unexpectedly fall in love, yet their families have been enemies for years. Raj's father, Dhanraj, even spent years in prison as a result of a tragic event related to this feud. And, yes,(following the stereotypical mold) Rashmi is already engaged to somebody else. Yet the film does such a good job of telling us this story that we don't seem to mind if we can guess how it will all turn out in the end (or will it?).
Unlike most films from this era (at least the ones I've seen anyways, Ahem, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun), QSQT does not drag in the beginning. Quite the contrary, the beginning was so strong and made such an impact that I instantly trusted its ability to entertain me for the next 2.5 hours. Those of you who have sat through an hour plus of boring dialouges and shoddy character development just to get to the good stuff in other Hindi films will truly appreciate this; QSQT gives the backstory to the feuding families in a way that gets to the point and yet is believable-- By the time the opening credits roll, we know why these guys don't like each other, and can even sympathize with both sides.
Aamir Khan (as "Raj") makes his entrance to the film shortly after the backstory is told, in the vibrant song "Papa Kehte Hain"(Ironically enough, baby Imran Khan is seen first in the film as the young Raj). Babyfaced and charming, I saw Aamir in a whole new light here--I'd always found him attractive, sure, but in a sort of intelligent, smarty pants way. Here he's just a total heartthrob, plain and simple!
But don't let Aamir's daisy dukes fool you--he was just as talented then as he is now. A natural screen presence, his Raj was the "perfect" hero; Sweet and senstive yet strong and protective. And although Aamir's talent was obvious to the viewer, it seemed somewhat unapparent to Aamir himself; A glimpse of a more naive version of the actor, perhaps, before he unevitably realized just how good he was (I'm not saying anything negative about the man--I'm just saying he didn't seem to have any idea how big he would become, and it was endearing to see him when he was somewhat "untouched" by fame).
So I'd never considered myself a Juhi Chawla fan, and still don't, exactly, but...well, I can see why men all over were smitten with this actress after QSQT. Though her character annoyed me at first, there was something different and special about Rashmi which grew on me as the film went on. For one, she was kind of flighty, but as I got to know her, I realized this was genuine to her character and not just a ploy to look cute. Further, her love and devotion to Raj was adorable-As the Bollywood Fan pointed out, she won the hearts of many with her debut as a heroine.
Secondly, Rashmi's character seemed to break the conventional heroine mold I'd become accustomed to in Bollywood. You know, the one where the actress looks cute, flips her hair and lets her saree blow in the wind while the hero stalks her from behind the trees and pursues her with a song. In Bollywood (as I've known it to be so far, anyways) the hero practically worships the heroine, while she, in many cases, can't even stand the mere sight of him until he sings a song or two (See Kajol in DDLJ, Rani in Hum Tum, and Nargis in Shree 420 to name a few). Rashmi is sooo different. Although its Raj who notices her first, that's only because she's not paying attention. Once Rashmi lays eyes on Raj, its she who does the pursuing (and even follows him in the forest, signing a song that isn't subtitled, urgh!). There's a scene that makes me laugh out loud where Rashmi and Raj spend the night by the campfire--Rashmi makes it clear she would like Raj to sleep next to her, and is quite forward about it. After refusing, Raj literally turns his back on her and goes to sleep!
Once Raj stops putting up a wall and admits his true feelings for Rashmi, sparks fly. There's a lot of chemistry between these two, though in a pretty subtle way (think HAHK and DDLJ again). But that's what makes it so sweet--Every time Raj would blow a kiss or flash a dazzling smile at his love, my heart would flutter. I'd love to see these two paired up now, as they're both older and it would be interesting to see how they'd match up today.
The music was another strength of the film. Though the picturizations were kept fairly simple, they were also woven into the story so well that I can remember each one vividly. Aamir's song entrance was a favorite (and as noted in part one of this review, his real-life wife at the time even makes in appearance), and both of the love songs between Aamir and Juhi were touching (I especially liked the one at the end). The only one I didn't really care for was the song where Rashmi follows Raj through the forest--her facial expressions bothered me.
!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!
Like the beginning, the ending to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak leaves an unshakable impact. I was completely and totally shocked by the turn of events, and sat like a statue staring at the screen long after the last credits rolled. The Bollywood Fan and I discussed how an audience that immersed itself in rainbow and sunshine endings could have possibly reacted to such a tragic climax, and agreed that its uncommon ending is what made it memorable. So, while I wished things would have turned out differently for Raj and Rashimi, I understood and appreciated the filmmaker's choice. Had it turned out any other way, I may have been less moved by the film as a whole.
A fitting film for the starring debut of a legend, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak must not be missed by any Hindi film fan. Thank you to Bollywood Fan for recommending and sharing this experience with me!
From ‘Brazil’ by Michael Palin
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