Love & Lost Love: Rewriting rules of Women’s Heart in Hindi Cinema

By: Chetna Patnaik

I recently got a chance to watch Manmarziyaan. And despite bad reviews I loved the movie. Upon realizing that its plot is similar to Wo Saat Din and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanan, I watched these two classics too.Three movies releasing in three different eras with same basic plotlines. Before we can have my analysis, let us know the plot (for the uninitiated).

The plot has the female lead of the movie falls in love with a charming man. She finds her freedom in him. It is La vie en rose and you will love them together. Eventually, her family finds out and is dead against it. Girl tries to win her family’s approval, but with fail. She is eventually married off to our other male lead. Due to her circumstances and her reasons (different in the discussed movies) she chooses to stay with her husband because she falls for him eventually.

These movies could be dubbed women-centric, since they do depict the female lead’s trials in love. We will discuss how the basic plot changed over years and also how the women are portrayed.

Wo Saat Din (1983)

Wo Saat Din released in 1983 starring Padmini Kolhapuri as the female lead. Young Anil Kapoor played her love and Naseeruddin Shah her husband. Kolhapuri’s Maya is a young, and confident woman before marriage. Kapoor’s Prem Pratap Singh is a struggling musician, who has hardly ever enough for himself. Prem loves Maya but knows he is not good enough for her. They do plan to elope, but their plan fails.

Maya & Prem

Maya is married off to Dr Anand, played by Naseeruddin Shah. She tries to commit suicide on their first night and Anand saves her. Maya tells him her story and Anand promises to himself that he will reunite the lovers. Eventually, he does, but Maya and Prem can no more accept each other. In an extremely emotional scene, Maya realizes the strength behind their marriage and doesn’t budge. Prem leaves Dr Anand and Maya stating that this is deviance in the eyes of society.

The marriage somehow mellows the brazen Maya. Anand’s mother and daughter play a very important part in a change of her heart. Post-marriage we see Maya going through a turbulence of emotions. She doesn’t know what to do. Either she is dull or crying; and your heart simply breaks at the sight of young Kolhapuri. The end does give Maya the closure she needs.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Set almost 20 years later, this was dubbed to be a remake of Wo Saat Din. When in reality the story was adopted from Maitreyi Devi’s Bengali novel Na Hanyate.

The movie opens with young and vivacious Nandini, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Nandini is the lifeline of the family. The dynamics change upon arrival of singer/musician Sameer (played by Salman Khan). Nandini’s father Pundit Darbar is a renowned proponent of Indian classical music and Sameer wants to learn from him. Over time Sameer and Nandini fall for each other. Their love for each other is so fierce that it gets scary to watch them together (maybe because I knew how it’s going to end).

Nandini & Sameer

They are caught by the family rehearsing their imaginary wedding vows. Darbar is furious as he has already fixed Nandini’s marriage with lawyer Vanraj; played by Ajay Devgn. Darbar vows to never sing again and Sameer is thrown out. Nandini and Vanraj get married. Aishwarya portrays the heartbreak so beautifully. Her Nandini seems dead without Sameer. Vanraj finds out and vows to reunite the lovers. Devgn’s Vanraj is so strong and yet vulnerable. After a time Nandini falls for Vanraj and out of love for Sameer. The movie ends with Nandini saying “Mujhe pyaar karna tumne sikhaya, par pyaar nibhana; pyaar nibhana maine apne pati se sikha” (You taught me how to love, but my husband taught me how to stand by the loved one).

Nandini & Vanraj

Nandini doesn’t wholly lose her vivaciousness but marriage does bow her down in many ways. And she makes an independent choice of staying with her husband.


Rumi, played by Tapsee Pannu, is a brazen young woman in love with Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), a part-time DJ, DJ Sandz. These two are madly in love with each other with absolutely no care for the world. When they are caught by Rumi’s family, Rumi promises everyone that Vicky will come with his parents to ask for her hand in marriage and if he doesn’t show up, she will marry whoever her family chooses. However, nervous and immature, Vicky repeatedly gets cold feet.

Enters mature, responsible and uber calm Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan). Rumi and Robbie get married. Robbie gives her the choice to leave the marriage and go to Vicky, Rumi chooses to stay. But Rumi is not able to get over Vicky and they get back together. Robbie is heartbroken and decides to apply for annulment of their marriage. While getting the marriage annulled, Rumi realizes that in fact Robbie is more suitable for her and not Vicky.

Rumi makes a conscious choice of being with mature Robbie and not just because they are married. Her dexterity remains intact throughout the course of the movie.

Unlike Maya and Nandini, Rumi is an independent working woman. And she choses to stay in her marriage because she wants to stay in it.

It is often said that movies depict the society. While this is not entirely true, they do manage to show few shades of the society. And the growth of a female lead’s character just goes on to show how far women have come in making such a crucial choice. For a woman today, the marriage is not anymore a binding spiritual sanctum, but a relationship where her opinion is valued.

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