Passing time watching old movies is great fun especially considering that quite a few of the cinematic ideas of the past are irrevocably dead and gone. Before getting down to list a few of them one must make mention of those ideas which ought to find mention but do not simply because they have a disconcerting habit of coming back from the dead.
One idea that appears immortal is that of brothers/sisters (twins or otherwise) separated in the childhood as immortalized in ‘Yaadon ki baraat’. Just as one thinks that this is as dead as the dodo, it springs back to life like a phoenix ! The other one – the love triangle - partakes of more immortal blood and lives on in one avatar or the other. I make no mention of the hunt for revenge as a theme since without it Bollywood et al would go into an irreversible tail-spin!
One hesitates to mention the cancerous hero trying to make the loving heroine hate him as a dead idea but it does seem as though it is currently out of favor. Whether it is because the times do not favor such lachrymose themes or because macho heroes prefer not to moon around draped in shawls, one does not know. Let us put it to the fact that being a widow in today’s times is not the sort of living hell that it used to be and, thus, the hero does not think that the heroine should be saved from this fate worse than death.
The other thing that one does not see is the patriarch/matriarch counting his/her last breaths but using it all up in extracting promises from the hero/heroine which makes him/her wish that they had died instead! This promise is extracted with the preface of “I will not survive..” and it is not normally a bullet in the body that causes them to say so. Having never died before I don’t know whether one does realize the imminence of death on one’s death-bed but I am sure that someone who has had a chest pain may well feel close to death and find it was a mere gastric attack! Much of my time in the past used to be spent in thinking of such a ‘dying’ declaration succeeded by a red-faced survival of a gastric attack. One wonders whether, under these circumstances, the promise would still be held valid!
My pet theme, however, is the one employed in the past to get around the ‘How does boy meet girl and fall in love’ problem. There is a party where some miscreants mix liquor into the unsuspecting girl’s coke which she drinks up fully without ever realizing the adulteration. Fully sozzled she goes on further to get thoroughly drenched in the rain. The hero, then, finds her in this pitiable condition (white saree and all and maybe after bashing up the miscreants!) and takes her home. She wakes up in his bed and, under the covers, finds that she has been undressed and is embarrassed whereupon the hero assures her that he had his eyes closed all the time. This, naturally, not only reassures her about her chastity but also about the hero’s noble nature and love is the natural result!
This theme, I think, is irrevocably dead for the following reasons:
1. If ever there existed a time when a girl could not recognize that her coke was adulterated to the extent that she polished it off this day is certainly not that time. If anything, a girl is likely to be sozzled because she ordered her liquor and not because of any miscreant adulterating her coke.
2. White sarees in this day and age!! And, heroines!! What would they have to do with so much yardage? If titillation was the need of the day, a micro-mini or a bikini can do the job, can’t it?
3. I never have managed to understand this thing of being reassured by the hero closing his eyes while undressing the heroine. If the hero were not noble, his reassurance would be worth nothing. If he were noble, I would be a lot more reassured if he could see what he was doing. This concept of a chastity that is limited to the eyes and not to do with his hands beats me and, I think, beats the film-makers of today as well!
4. I am afraid that if such an incident did happen in this sexually permissive age, the heroine would either question the hero’s virility or her own attractiveness..neither of which is conducive to the blossoming of love!
I am sure one can think of a lot more such cinematic formulae of the past that have ceased to exist. The above is not an exhaustive list and, if I do remember more, I shall put it up later.