As A Punjaban, Yash Raj Films Shaped My Childhood… Before Losing Their Charm Altogether!

Perhaps, as Partition inheritors, both my parents realise the importance of happy endings, which is what caused them to introduce me to YRF the moment I started breathing. 

As a Bollywood (no, I don’t hate the term!) buff, I hate to admit that The Romantics (2023) had not been on my watchlist throughout February and March. After the entire nepotism debate with K Jo and the Bollywood wives becoming the face of the Hindi film industry, I, like many others, had decided to avoid anything and everything that would even remotely be linked to Dharma Productions or Yash Raj Films.

My reasoning was very simple: I did not want to watch talentless actors like Arjun Kapoor and Ananya Pandey unless I was being paid to review their works. However, after being pushed by parents and peers, I finally sat down to watch The Romantics and was left in tears at the end of the very first episode.

A time of nostalgia

Like many people my age, I grew up with YRF to the point where the films shaped my childhood much more than Disney did. I wasn’t even one when Mohabbatein (2000) hit the theatres, but I still can’t remember a time when I did not know how to sing Aankhein Khuli. Then came Jaage Jaage from Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002), a song I have loved for over two decades now. Even today, I listen to it over and over again and continue to post it on my Instagram stories.

People often ask me where I get my ‘Bollywood-ness’ from and I tell them how my parents are the biggest Bollywood nerds one can ever come across. Just a few weeks back, my father lectured me on our family WhatsApp group for referring to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) as a misogynistic narrative. He mentioned how his side of the family might not be full of practical individuals, but they’re all still hopeful and films like DDLJ help them maintain that hope. Perhaps, as Partition inheritors, both my parents realise the importance of happy endings, which is what caused them to introduce me to YRF the moment I started breathing.

My family’s obsession with Bollywood might explain why I’d watch each and every film directed or produced by Aditya Chopra as a kid. I was so crazy even about Neal ‘n’ Nikki (2005) — one of Chopra’s least popular films — that I’d sing “Nikki Bakshi, sweet and sexy, full on rocking, hot and happening!” for months after watching it.

Other significant childhood memories of how much YRF meant to me include me fighting with my parents as a four year old because we, as Punjabis, did not celebrate Lohri which was portrayed as a huge festival in Veer-Zaara (2004) or of hearing Hum Tum’s (2004) U-n-I tune all the time because it would be set as every other person’s ringtone. Furthermore, it was after watching Bunty Aur Babli (2005) that my cousin and I pestered our parents to buy us Vimmi’s (well, Babli’s)  jhola bags which we would go on to sling around ourselves while dancing on Dhadak Dhadak. Another cousin of mine would write letters to my mother asking whether replicas of the mini skirts Preity Zinta wore in Salaam Namaste (2005) could be found in Lajpat and Sarojini Nagar.

By the time I was seven, my subconscious and completely unintentional craze for Yash Raj Films had definitely surpassed that of my parents’. That’s what led me to force my mother to book tickets for Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007) in spite of hearing the criticisms that our family friends had made for it. A part of me somehow knew that my life would be incomplete until I watched Lara Dutta and Preity Zinta dance together on the big screen. While my mother scolded me afterwards for making her sit through two hours of senseless storytelling, I knew that JBJ was my new favourite. In fact, as a seven year old, I was so deeply invested in the lives of the four main characters in the movie that they all became my imaginary friends, much like Princess and Champ from Ta Ra Rum Pum (2007).

There were multiple other things that YRF did for those of us who were school kids in 2006 and 2007. Most importantly, it made the otherwise boring Independence day school assembly a little more bearable because we were aware that the girls of our grade would eventually dance on Des Rangila and Chak De India. Of course, my mother never let me watch Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007), but that didn’t stop my best friend and I from singing and dancing on Kachchi Kaliyaan throughout the Diwali season in 2007.

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As I look back to the years that followed, I realise that almost every significant moment during my childhood was marked by YRF in some way or the other. I remember how the first half of my summer in 2008 had been spent with us having to listen to songs from Tashan (2008) on every other radio channel, even when we’d visited Munnar in Kerala. The summer break had ended with the release of Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic (2008), a film that lessened my disappointment about having to wake up for school every morning, once again.

Since I had turned into a proper Bollywood addict by 2008, my parents would have to take me to watch films like Roadside Romeo (2008) even on days when I’d come home with long notes in my diary from teachers regarding my shenanigans in school. I still tell my friends that had my pet dog been alive, he’d be as old as Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) because the song Dance Pe Chance would be played on loop in all Christmas and New Year 2009 parties that we’d attend during our first ever family vacation with him.

And then, things changed

After 2008, YRF, in a way, changed — the women characters were no longer the bubbly girls I’d grown up with and were suddenly westernised “cool girls” I couldn’t really relate with. There were, of course, phases in my life when I couldn’t stop listening to the songs from Bang Baaja Baaraat (2010) and then, Ishaqzaade (2012). But, otherwise, my teenage years were, as a whole, untouched and unimpacted by YRF.

As a 23-year old, when I watch and rewatch old Yash Raj films that were once a huge part of my childhood personality (as a child, I only had strawberry ice cream because that’s what Anju from Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai was shown to do), I wonder why Bollywood has lost its magic. Where are characters like Pooja from Mujhse Dosti Karoge! (2002) Rhea from Hum Tum whom so many of us continue to find ourselves in? Where are Vimmi Saluja and Zara Hayat Khan’s vibrant traditional costumes that made our childhoods colourful? Most importantly, where are all the magical songs like Chand Sifarish and Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai?

Among the various things that we have lost to westernisation is the charm of Hindi cinema. Certainly, Bollywood, over the years, has become an inferior replica of Hollywood.

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About the Author

Upasana Dandona

A dysgraphic writer who spends most of her time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...

45 Posts | 232,186 Views

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