Yes, I blame Shahrukh Khan personally and Bollywood widely — for my expectations of romance, passion, and love. My idealistic anticipations of what it would feel like to fall in love, how a man would pursue, romance, and marry me, were all developed as a result of Shahrukh Khan and Bollywood.
I grew up on a huge diet of Bollywood movies. My grandmother was the biggest movie buff I have ever known. She had a collection of hundreds, if not thousands, of video tapes (VTRs). Yes, I am that old. She had chronicled all the best and some of the worst movies from the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s. With the introduction of DVDs, her addiction waned but never ceased.
All my earliest memories from childhood include Bollywood movies. They were unremittingly playing in the backdrop of every family function, domestic row, Eid, and Christmas – basically, they were permanently on.
Bollywood is wonderful; it is one of the main topics my siblings and I bond over. We often reminisce about the cheesy songs, bizarre comedy, and the evil villains in these movies, some of which have scared us for life! Yes, I am still very, very afraid of Reecha from Katilon Ke Kaatil (A Murderer’s Murderer).
Having said all that, it always was, and still is, the love in the movies that we admired.
Love is by far the principal theme of most of Bollywood’s movies; it is depicted in every way imaginable and omnipresent in some form or another in almost every single movie. As a child, I would endlessly watch my heroes and heroines Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Maduri Dixit, and many more. They would fall in and out of love and dance around trees entertaining me. I watched them distantly; they were a foreign concept, people who had issues and realities far removed from my own.
Then everything changed.
As I was coming of age (hitting puberty), my life and the lives of a whole generation and many generations to come completely changed. We were bestowed with the genius and the phenomenon that is Dil wale Duhilaiy le jah gay (The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride).
Shahrukh Khan and Kajol mesmerized me and everyone I knew. They were performing our lives on screen and talking about our issues. Issues of cultural and religious restrictions, arranged marriages, familial constraints, women’s rights and so much more.
Depicting an accurate paradox; this movie talked directly to a generation of people who lived in western societies, yet were holding onto the traditional values of their motherland. It spoke to every young girl and boy hoping to travel, get into adventures, and most importantly fall in love. It spoke directly to me.
I experienced love for the first time while watching this movie. Yes, it was vicariously through fictitious characters, but it was love nonetheless. I was introduced to a world of possibilities, and more importantly, I was taught what love should feel like.
With the arrival of Dil to Pagal Hay (The Heart Is Crazy), my convictions were cemented in the power of Shahrukh Khan’s message of love. I watched this movie every single day after school for months. Shahrukh Khan would say and do exactly what every girl wanted to hear and feel. He conveyed a magical message while making it relatable.
I truly believed my Shahrukh Khan would bump into me unexpectedly, in a library, at a train station, at a party, or while I unassumingly sipped my coffee in a café. We would fall in love at first sight and he would sweep me off my feet. There was never a question in my mind that I wouldn’t find the love I have created in my mind.
It never happened.
What I got instead were awkward family introductions, bizarre romantic gestures, capricious behavior, stalkers, online weirdness, and too many other things to name.
I did eventually fall in love and all I can say is, I promise you, love is nothing it promises to be. When love is emotionally painful, it’s endurable; when it’s physically destructive, it’s dangerous.
Heartbreak helped me snap out of my imaginary world of meeting my very own Shahrukh Khan. I attempted to become “practical,” as life, culture, and especially my mother demanded it of me.
“Practicality” involves marrying a suitable doctor, lawyer, or accountant, who is the correct color, creed, race, religion, and geographically down the road from my mother. Needless to say, that won’t happen. Therefore, I am still in the pursuit of practicality, which may evade me forevermore.
The truth is I am just one of many who have somehow lost our way with love.
I no longer watch Bollywood movies. Yet, the messages of Shahrukh Khan in all the movies of my teenage-hood are etched in my psyche. They are a part of me no matter how hard I try and wash them away with the soap of my heartbreak.
I have left behind the vivacious, inexperienced notions of romance, passion, and love, yet, I am resentful of the magic they took with them. We live in a time in which many of us are actually incapable of romance in its traditional or historical form. We find it awkward, corny, and outdated.
We live in a culture that breeds hook-ups, where labeling a relationship too soon is blasphemy. With three-minute speed dating to swiping left or right, blind dates to insipid family introductions, a generation of people that are too pessimistic to believe in concepts of soul mates and infinite options for our every desire, why would we? We are truly spoiled with choice. The plethora of choice only adds to our confusion. One of the repercussions of this endless choice is infidelity; people don’t even have to leave their houses to cheat anymore. Many of us know what it takes to build relationships and how little it takes to break them, too.
In search of a little bit of everything: stability, practicality and affability, yet, we are still yearning for the magical. We are stuck in the peculiar place were Bollywood, Hollywood, and Disney are still our ideals, and yet, our realities produce mundane arrangements, familial or otherwise.
I ask myself often, do I even know what love is anymore, or perhaps I never did, or maybe I always did and it’s just manifested differently in this generation.
Romantic love is as old as time. It’s spoken, depicted, and written about from the beginning of time. It is described and declared everywhere and always.
Shahrukh Khan defined it for many men and women just like me. I feel it’s now time to redefine it.
To reclaim love and appreciate it in its current practices, inclusive of swiping left or right. We should proudly declare that we are a generation with more choice and aspirations for love, accept that we do care about intellectual compatibility and moral fiber, and we want an ambitious partner who we can goof around with. We do want it all; we want the magical with the practical and we won’t settle for anything less.
Yes, I blame Shahrukh Khan personally and Bollywood widely for setting my standards for love, for shaping my notions of love; it’s up to me to add to this: and live up to love.