In Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani (RRKPK, 2023), audiences cheered as Kanwal Lund (Dharmendra) got out of his wheelchair to sing ‘Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar’ professing his undying love for Jamini Chatterjee (Shabana Azmi) and reinforcing our belief that love can indeed perform miracles (in the world of the movies, anyway). In the film, Karan Johar and his team of writers (Ishita Moitra, Sumit Roy, and Shashank Khaitan) celebrated the timeless nature of love and desire. It allowed Kawal and Jamini’s story to flourish alongside Rocky and Rani’s – because romance isn’t reserved for young people.
This inspired us to look at how older couples in Indian cinema are imagined; some films deploy typical rom-com tropes, whereas others imbue the relationship with a subdued and restful energy, even if passion burns within. After all, age is just a number when it comes to matters of the heart.
Here are our top picks:
R. Balki tells us the story of an unlikely couple, Buddhadev Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), a 64-year-old egoistic, grumpy, chef who refuses to believe that his restaurant (which he repeatedly reminds us is London’s finest Indian restaurant) could mess up something as routine as zafrani pulao. The customer who sends the pulao back is Nina Verma (played with calm defiance by Tabu), who doesn’t say anything when she’s confronted by Buddha but returns with a scrumptious zafrani pulao – a legendary clap back, wouldn’t you agree? What follows is a slow-burning romance, of stolen glances, borrowed umbrellas and witty comebacks. Bachchan’s chemistry with Tabu is palpable, but it isn’t what we are used to seeing between a leading couple. The sparks don’t fly, instead, the fire burns quietly and the warmth lingers.
One of the many interesting storylines in Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. revolves around Oscar (Boman Irani) and Naheed (Shabana Azmi), an older couple on their honeymoon. They embark on a four-day journey to Goa, hoping to celebrate their bond and find some solace after everything they have endured. They have baggage and past tragedies, which aren’t always overtly discussed, but simmer in the background of every scene. Oscar and Naheed's relationship, however, is sweet and endearing. Together they are able to navigate the ups and downs of their lives and find the strength to deal with their pain and loss. For Oscar and Naheed, their love (however taboo) brings joy and support. Their relationship ensures us that second chances are worth taking because love might give you the strength needed to heal.
40 years ago, Amol (Dharmendra) decided to leave Shivani (Nafisa Ali) to move to the US and pursue his dreams. As his old age registers with Amol, he realises that all he really wants to do is be with Shivani. Their story is full of tender exchanges and small gestures of love – in stark contrast to the young buzzing romances in the film, theirs is the love of a lifetime. Few storytellers are able to appreciate the nuances of romance at a later stage in life. Once you cross a certain age, it’s almost as if your desires are supposed to dissipate. Reema Kagti gives Amol and Shivani their time in the sun. Although there is an undercurrent of regret (for all the time that was lost in the pursuit of things that were supposed to matter), their love has matured like a vintage wine – aged to perfection, becoming richer and more complex, leaving a lasting warmth and sweetness.
Finding Fanny portrays a love story that defies age and societal norms. Five unlikely friends embark on a road trip in search of a long-lost love. Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) has been longing for his lost love for several decades. He receives a letter from Fanny, his former lover, and feels the urgent need to find her – he cannot wait for love, he must actively seek it. Spoiler alert: Fanny is dead. But the story takes a pleasant turn, Ferdie and Rosie (Dimple Kapadia) find their love for each other on this bizarre trip. They’re quirky, unconventional, and sometimes downright weird, but it works out for them. The idea is to never give up on love, because it can happen when we least expect it.
Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) and Bhavani’s (Leela Samson) story is less frequently spoken about but very is likely witnessed in several households. Love takes the form of care and patience – being the caretaker of your partner isn’t easy, and frequently, it is very exhausting. In OK Kanmani, Ganapathy’s affectionate caregiving becomes the turning point for Aditya (Dulquer Salmaan) and Tara’s (Nithya Menen) story. As Adi and Tara's relationship blossoms, they find inspiration in Ganapathy and Bhavani's enduring affection for each other. The way Ganapathy looks after Bhavani, who is an Alzheimer's patient, is adorable – it conveys the comfort, warmth, and familiarity that come with spending a lifetime together.