I know, I know. I’m usually the first to roll my eyes at a Valentine’s Day article. It’s 2020 after all, and I don’t imagine boys wishing girls “Haaappy Valentine’s” in a lilting SRK-in-Dil-Toh-Pagal-Hai tone anymore. But this brief is a little different: The best “declarations of love” in Hindi cinema (since 2000).
Think about it. What exactly is a declaration of love in the context of a film? It’s not just a dry-cut ‘proposal’ scene or grand romantic gesture. It’s not even just a playback melody that musically promises a ‘happily ever after’. It’s somewhat intangible and unfilmable – an ambiguous moment, perhaps, in which something clicks, in which something about not just the characters’ feelings but also our own audiovisual perception of feeling shifts. It’s deeper than chemistry and cloud nines. It could be a silent epiphany – bittersweet, sad, strong, tragic – or even a subtle twitch of the brow. It could be the locking of gazes way before the story begins.
The most appropriate example I can think of is Raj reacting to Simran at the station in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, seconds after she half-heartedly invites him to her wedding. The trip has ended, and the goodbye is awkward. But his eyes, and that sardonic smile, confess everything by brutally dismissing her: “Nahi…main nahi aaunga.” And it all makes sense. She stands there, stunned, as if he has proposed marriage while walking away, before the first strands of Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko fade in. The declaration is never actually made; it is unmade.
On that note, here are ten such Hindi film moments in the last twenty years:
Akash And Shalini Getting Separated On The Subway In Dil Chahta Hai
The “moti Opera Singer” scene is the more obvious choice. But a hauntingly shot scene preceding it is the one that truly channels the essence of two loners meeting – and feeling – in a foreign land. It’s almost wordless, and it involves an empty (echoey) Sydney subway station and a disobedient train. Akash and Shalini skip into the station after a fun day only to be separated by the automated train door. A brief gaze – of haplessness, panic, but also a tinge of longing – is exchanged between the two as Akash is escorted away by the locomotive, leaving Shalini stranded on a platform occupied by a drunk homeless man. The moment is enough to make her realize that she needs him – in more ways than one.
The Train Station Scene In Veer-Zaara
In the old-school YRF universe, separation is the ultimate trigger of unrealized love. Not unlike DDLJ, an accidental journey is followed by a farewell at a railway station – the goodbye, again, plays out as a lyrical song. Do Pal, though, in stark contrast to the youngness of Ho Gaya Hai Tujhko, is a ballad of prophetic doom. Veer Pratap Singh walks away in one direction to Sonu Nigam’s voice, while Zaara Haayat Khan walks away in another to Lata Mangeshkar’s voice. He finds her silver anklet in his jacket, and imagines them uniting at a grand fort (the poster image) – but even in his dreams, she has to leave. The prospect of being without one another reminds them of their desire to be with one another.
The ‘Permission’ Scene In Gangs Of Wasseypur 2
There’s nothing like a dash of romance in a cauldron of violence. That it involves a shy woman gently disciplining a future gangster by educating him about the importance of consent in small-town Bihar is a masterstroke of modern-day storytelling. The “Permission” scene between Huma Qureshi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui is charmingly acted, choreographed and timed, not least because it ends with the man in boyish tears. But the genius of the moment lies in the sight of an oblivious goat chewing on some tasty plants behind the conscious couple.
The Golden Temple Scene In Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
It’s a long shot, but the conviction with which Aditya Chopra constructs a moment that features a brush with divinity as well as an internal epiphany defines his film’s leap-of-faith narrative. A young wife, on the verge of leaving her older husband, suddenly – in the house of God, at the Golden Temple – realizes that respect (worship) is the highest form of love. A slower, female version of the title track plays as she looks at him – nay, admires him – with a newfound tenderness. You can sense that she is berating herself for not realizing this sooner. This abrupt click challenges not only the Surinder-Taani tale but also the entire Yash Raj legacy of escapist, extroverted lovers.
The Holi Party In Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela
Naturally, only Sanjay Leela Bhansali was to be responsible for Hindi cinema replicating the love-at-first-sight scene between Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes from Baz Lurhmann’s punkish Romeo+Juliet. The Capulet Ball here is a Holi party at a wealthy Gujarati household, Romeo is a jacked-up Ranveer Singh, and Juliet is an enchanting Deepika Padukone brandishing a silver pistol while time – and a soft piano interlude – blurs out the noise around them. All of which makes for a transcendent slow-mo moment: Ram, a brash porn-film dealer, sees Leela here through a colourful prism that balances the lust he knows with the love he doesn’t: She blows on the smoky barrel, almost suggestively, seconds after answering his water-gun salvo with a real bullet into the skies. And a killer smirk.
Laila And Arjun’s Kiss In Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
When Katrina Kaif rides a bike to chase down a convertible, strides up to a bemused Hrithik Roshan and kisses the heck out of him, it’s less about two beautiful people locking lips and more about adventure schooling adulthood on the advantages of spontaneity. The sequence not only subverts the gender politics of the first move, it also honours an equation in which nothing but the loudest and most public expression of love is required to jolt a man out of uptight slumber.
Jhilmil Finally Reuniting With Barfi In Barfi!
Jhilmil, on being reunited with her Barfi, isn’t content with the triumph of this moment. She notices Shruti in the vicinity and – adorably, like a child protecting her most prized possession – steps in front of him to ward off Shruti’s feelings. Beyond the primal innocence of the gesture, it is one of both grudging respect and fierce individualism. “He’s mine,” she wants to say, “and not yours anymore”. More than anything, Jhilmil’s not-so-subtle expression of territoriality depicts the uncomplicated power of outliers – a deaf-and-mute man, an autistic woman – in comparison to the conventional movie heroine. Shruti can’t help but smile, for it finally, after several hits and misses, confirms the oddball magnetism between Darjeeling’s two most misunderstood oddballs.
Deepak And Shalu’s Last Day Together In Masaan
Deepak’s bitter riverside meltdown after Shalu’s death is so affecting – cinematically, emotionally – because of the last day they spent together. Director Neeraj Ghaywan constructs that outdoor day like a fond memory, the kind that lingers in the head long after ashes turn to dust. A conversation, a boat ride, a bike ride, a promise, rounded off by a little tantrum that Deepak will probably regret for the rest of his life. That his last face-to-face moment with Shalu is confrontational rather than pleasant – he questions her attitude towards his lower-caste roots – only confirms a complex future ahead for the potentially star-crossed lovers. A future that never arrives.
Ved and Tara’s ‘Proper Goodbye’ In Tamasha
Everything is going according to plan in a faraway land. Two strangers meet, wander and agree to live out a fairytale as unnamed characters. On their last morning together, however, with their time being cut short by the vagaries of fate, the spell is broken. The “no touching” rule is defied. Just as she is about to leave in a taxi, she hesitates for a millisecond – Deepika Padukone portrays quiet indecisiveness like nobody before her – and runs back upstairs for a ‘proper’ goodbye. They kiss, desperately, like a romantic film gasping for air in its final seconds, before she leaves again. No regrets, she thinks. Little does she know that she is now Tara, and he is now Ved. They are unnamed no more. Their identities – and destinies – are sealed with that stolen kiss.
Sehmat Kissing Iqbal In Raazi
Speaking of kisses, a female spy defies her years of training by succumbing to the teenager inside her. She throws her lips onto her noble husband’s – in a moment that is as sad as it is liberating. On one hand, Sehmat has committed the cardinal sin of getting emotionally invested in a family she is supposed to infiltrate. On the other hand, Alia Bhatt, by leaning in the way she does, evocatively depicts the conflict of a soldier torn between her motherland and the girl she was never allowed to become. You sense that this first kiss – in such dire circumstances – is her way of belatedly embracing her womanhood, even if it means a declaration of love validated by a signature of spilled blood.
Kal Ho Naa Ho: A terminally ill Aman indirectly reveals his feelings to Naina by pretending to read out Rohit’s (empty) diary at – you guessed it – a railway station.
Lootera: Unable to tolerate his mixed signals anymore, Pakhi confronts Varun at his construction site in broad daylight. She asks him, point-blank, if he loves her, and on receiving no answer, pleads: “Mera dil rakhne ke liye toh haan keh dijiye.”