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4 Lessons on Interclass Love from Bollywood
While love reigns supreme against all odds, what happens when the nuances of class come into play?
It’s a story for the ages: A less privileged man aspires or rather dares, to fall in love with a woman who hails from a family with riches. In India, Bollywood has probed this idea in endless films. On the face of it, some of these love stories might be superficial. Others have thundering dialogues from the father character who famously gives the lover an empty bag, asking him to get rich and fill the bag with money, if he intends to marry his daughter.
In the real world, though, interclass love has many dimensions. In Asian societies, particularly, “marrying up” or “marrying down” can take many forms. On one hand, it’s proof enough that love cannot be contained by social boundaries. On the other hand, you also risk making permanent enemies out of your immediate family. But what happens within the relationships? In what ways does a couple navigate the class differences, if and when they surface during the course of the relationship?
And yet the perceived opposition against interclass love is not always correct. There are major sections of people willing to love beyond class barriers. A 2017 survey in England found that 82 percent of the middle-class people surveyed were willing to marry or enter a relationship with a different social class.
These five films taught us that interclass love, much like any other form of relationship, has its own learnings, shades and challenges. Often, they might not have happy endings. But again, does any love guarantee a happy ending? What perhaps matters is that the love was earnest, made these couples look at the worlds beyond the four corners of their living and made them live life in a fuller, wholesome way.
1. Bobby (1973)
A masterpiece of Indian cinema, this film became an international sensation and one of the highest-grossing films ever in the now-defunct Soviet Union. On the face of it, the story is rather simple: The son of a rich businessman, Raj played by Rishi Kapoor, falls in love with the daughter of a less privileged fisherman, the titular Bobby, played by Dimple Kapadia. But what happens when their respective families consider this bond unholy, a stain on their legacy?
In the Indian context, the primary bone of contention in any unconventional romantic set-up remains this – the near-violent opposition of parents. But the couple, Bobby and Raj, are not one to take it lying down. They come to the conclusion that such stark opposition must be met with an equally powerful response, abandoning their own family and being on the run. However, as we learn, this almost ends up threatening their lives.
Bobby is a classic example of the extent to which a couple can go to fight for their love, almost ending in tragedy. It teaches us that the waters of families in opposition must also be tread lightly, not acting on impulse, and always having a backup plan ready in case things go south.
2. Raja Hindustani (Raja, The Indian, 1996)
What happens when an innocent cabbie, the titular Raja Hindustani, played by Aamir Khan, falls in love with a rich woman, Aarti Sehgal, played by Karisma Kapoor, who’s visiting his small town as a tourist? Particularly when the rich woman has an “evil” stepmother who is out to wreck her by taking all her property. Against all odds, the two hopelessly fall in love with each other. There is a crushing sense of guilt, too, after they accidentally end up kissing and discovering just how deep their feelings run for each other.
Beyond that kiss, which made national headlines in India during the time of the film’s release, Raja Hindustani showed us the importance of one of the central tenets of any romantic relationship – communication. For the better part of the movie, their love is hijacked by characters who plant the seeds of mistrust and doubt in their minds. We understand that for an unconventional relationship, the scope of misunderstanding is multifaceted.
3. Barfi! (2012)
India’s official entry to the 2013 Oscars, the film is set on an epic scale. The story of the titular Barfi, played by Ranbir Kapoor, is about a deaf-mute boy who is the local prankster in a hilly, mist-covered town. When he falls for an educated woman, Shruti Ghosh, played by Ilena D’Cruz, from a privileged class, his life takes a complete turn. Unfortunately, she does not continue their relationship because her parents convince her otherwise – pointing to the difference in their social status.
But Barfi’s love for Shruti, and its subsequent loss, allows him to discover the many wonders of life. After some back and forth, they both discover that they were perhaps never meant to be and that some decisions had to be made. This film is a stunning example of how love is not the end of the road, how sometimes memories are all we have and how lost love can evolve and lead us to better partners.
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