Forced Happy Endings

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By Even the greatest of filmmakers have fallen back on this
  • Published 30.09.05
Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!

The ‘happily ever after’ is a much used, reused and totally abused phenomenon in Bollywood films. This is the industry where we let three brothers separated as kids reunite as young men not once, not twice but three times! And we let these sob stories of separation and reunion become huge hits all of those three times! This is the industry where a pet pigeon plays the pivotal role in solving an entangled web of a love story and a family drama of the highest intensity. This is the industry where a dog singlehandedly saves the damsel in distress from being married off to the wrong man while her beau stares on helplessly. This is really the only industry where a marriage has been stopped at the absolutely last possible moment God alone knows how many godforsaken times! Yes, dahlings, this is the industry of happy endings.

One can turn up one’s nose and get all snooty and claim that no film is worth watching if it doesn’t have a heart-wrenching tale of misery and the most depressing end to it. In no other way can it be intellectually stimulating. High- brow stuff and nonsense, this. Everyone likes nice entertaining light-hearted cinema once in a while. And we always feel better coming out of the theatre if all the characters we feel for, are settled back into their lives with whatever the conflict of the film is, behind them. There’s no denying the fact that a well tied-up end is reassuring and makes for a more satisfied viewing.

Most films take us through a joyride and when the three hours are just about up, they suddenly remember it’s time to wrap up. The cheesy villains, the smouldering vamps, the sobbing heroine, the hardworking hero and the assorted supporting characters are all to be meted out what they deserve. Who cares how the plot has been developing? Time’s up! And here steps in the most widely used genre of Bollywood climaxes. What we call the Forced Happy Ending.

The greatest of filmmakers have made use of the FHE at some point of time. In Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Amrish Puri decides in a flash that Shah Rukh Khan is the only guy who can keep his daughter happy. Sooraj R. Barjatya climaxed his film, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, into a perfect one by giving a dog some seriously superior intellectual powers. Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zaara reunites lovers in their middle age to show that love triumphs over even the legal forces of Pakistan. While these films seem to have been wrapped up abruptly, we wouldn’t like them to be any different from what they are. Because the perfect ending is one of the oldest charms of cinema. The hope and the promise that a happy ending holds cannot be denied. It is an innate part of our film culture and always will be.

But Bollywood filmmakers in their obsession to get to that almost-always-works happy climax make us ride emotionally charged rollercoasters and then bring them to a screeching halt leaving our heads spinning. The audience is not a bunch of dodos. We have to be able to digest what is happening onscreen, we have to find some sort of logic to the whole thing, no matter if it’s somewhat twisted. We’re all for happy endings, but not when they appear as if someone held the director at gunpoint during the shoot and got him to change the end.

Pooja Tolani