In the glitzy, glamorous world of movies, reel-love has often served as a perfect stepping stone to real love. After playing lovers to perfection on silver screen, many hero- heroine pairs have gone on to become life partners in true sense. If Premnath wedded Bina Rai and Dev Anand married Kalpana Karthik in the 1950s, then in the 1960s Kishore Kumar walked up the aisle with Madhubala, Sunil Dutt tied the knot with Nargis and Dilip Kumar exchanged vows with Saira Banu. 1970s and 80s then saw marriages like Rajesh Khanna- Dimple, Amitabh Bachchan- Jaya Bhaduri, Rishi Kapoor- Neetu Singh and Dharmendra- Hema Malini. Later, too the tradition just continued further with couples like Raj Babbar- Smita Patil, Saif Ali Khan- Amrita Singh and Ajay Devgan- Kajol. Not that all these marital unions enjoyed long and blissful coexistence but at least these pairs made it to the wedding altar in the traditional sense.
But then there were those unfortunate affairs of heart that just managed to make to the gossip columns and sometimes even front-page headlines but unlike the typical Bollywood filmi romances, the pairs could never come together. They never got their ‘And they lived happily ever after’ ending to their love-stories. But perhaps this very unfulfilled nature of these love affairs resulted in creating the classic love- legends of Bollywood. In that sense, these were the real Romeo-Juliet, Laila- Majnu and Shirin-Farhad romances of Bollywood.
Golden Era Love Legends:
Fifties must rank as the golden era of such tragic love-stories, all of which promised much and stirred plenty of public fancy but finally they ended empty-handed. The headiest romance of that was between Gregory Peck-look-alike Dev Anand (who was just a newcomer then) and the already established superstar diva Suraiya. Religious differences and family opposition put paid to this pair’s romantic aspirations. While Dev Anand went on to marry on rebound, Suraiya famously stayed single all her life.
Young Dilip Kumar’s alleged affair with already married Kamini Kaushal (who co-starred with him in his early films like Nadiya Ke Paar and Shaheed) raised quite a few eye-brows and provided the basis for 1963-film Gumrah. Failure of that affair didn’t deter Dilip Kumar from falling in love again- this time with the Venus of Hindi cinema- Madhubala. Again, the tragedy king had to face failure- thanks to his lady’s obstinate father. But Kumar showed enough courage and a flair for drama when he declared on oath his eternal love for Madhubala in a court-case, on a witness stand!
Raj Kapoor and Nargis made such a great pair on and off-screen in the 1950s and 60s.She was his muse, his heroine and his lady luck. Their chemistry was so apparent in classics like Awara, Chori Chori and Shree 420. The hitch was simple- Raj was already married and Nargis wanted a proper marriage. Finally this long-standing affair ended when the lady found the ultimate man of her dreams in Sunil Dutt as he dashed off in fire to save her from a blazing death on the sets of Mother India.
Perhaps the most tragic love-story of all remains that of Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman. 1959- autobiographical film Kaagaz Ke Phool is a poignant reminder of the doomed affair of Guru Dutt- a genius director trapped in an unsuccessful marriage (with singer Geeta Roy- Dutt) and Rehman- his talented new find. Unable to cope up with the stresses and strains of his complicated life, Dutt bid adieu to this cruel world through a suspected suicide.
Latter day legends
1970s began with a whirlwind romance between Rishi Kapoor and Dimple- both callow teenagers who had set the screen ablaze in their romantic hit Bobby. But strangely papa Raj Kapoor didn’t allow the lovers to marry, even though he had earlier accepted a filmi Bahu Babita for his elder son Randhir. The rumor mongers had a field day trying to find the never-mentioned reason behind RK’s refusal which dashed the young couple’s marriage hopes.
The next and perhaps the most discussed doomed affair of the seventies was Amitabh – Rekha. You can term it as Bollywood’s Last Love Legend. Big B (already married to Jaya Bhaduri) was in the prime of his career then and his alleged romance with Rekha with whom he had done number of films like Aalap, Khoon Pasina, Mr.Natwarlal and Muqaddar Ka Sikander soon became a raging topic in the tabloids and film magazines. Bachchan was even given credit for Rekha’s stunning transformation from an overweight, oily-haired fringe actress into a ravishing stylish screen icon. Film-maker Yash Chopra tried to even cash on this Amitabh- Jaya - Rekha triangle by featuring the trio in a similar script in his 1980- film Silsila. The controversial affair came to an end after Bachchan’s near-fatal accident on the sets of Coolie. Apparently the near brush with death brought a new perspective of life and realization of his family responsibilities for Bachchan and soon Rekha became a forgotten chapter in his life.
With affairs and heartbreaks becoming far more common, publicly dissected and much more easily accepted parts of life in the recent years, the magic and mystique surrounding love-lives of screen idols have practically vanished in thin air. Nowadays news- items like ‘Akshay Kumar breaking up with Raveena Tandon’, ‘Karishma Kapoor ditching Abhishek Bachchan’ or ‘Aishwarya Rai splitting up with Salman Khan or Vivek Oberoi’ don’t really stir passion of the movie-buffs. These modern day- affairs of hearts simply don’t have the class or the lasting value to be classified as legends. They will just remain as brief, insignificant footnotes in Bollywood history.