In 1988, when the concept of channels dedicated to trailers or YouTube was completely alien, we relied on the services of Chhayageet and Chitrahaar on Doordarshan for a weekly dose of soundtrack videos to enjoy everything new, popular or timeless.
Around then, I noticed the promotion for Mansoor Khan’s directorial debut is unusually keen. Sometimes they’d air more than one song from the about-to-release romance starring two unfamiliar faces – Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla. And right before the clip, they’d play out its multiple posters, almost like a PowerPoint presentation.
Moreover, Anand-Milind’s gleaming score against Majrooh Sultanpuri’s fanciful poetry was a smash hit from the word go. Every single song –Papa kehte hain, Ghazab ka hai din, Aye mere humsafar, Akele hain toh kya gham and Kaahe sataye sung by Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik made a lasting impression on its listeners. I heard this over my transistor from the legendary Ameen Sayani on his musical countdown, Cibaca Sangeet Mala and experienced it first hand when the frequent playing of its cassette resulted in recurring damage and buying three new tapes.
Now, summer vacations had just started and I was holidaying with my family at my aunt’s home who neither had a VCR nor a colour television. Owing to the instant hysteria it generated, tickets weren’t available easily (remember no multiple screens or show) but the video was out in the market within a week or so.
Yielding to my constant pleas, my aunt rented its VHS tape and asked her landlady in the adjacent bungalow to play the video, which was then relayed on our TV by using a splitter. (At that time, it felt like the coolest technology ever.) So this, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of effort that went in for me to catch my first viewing of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
Eventually I watched it again, in colour (cameraman Kiran Deohans creates a ravishing imagery that’s as mint as its raw but skilful newcomers), on Plasma/LCD/LED/screens, the desktop, you name it, till I knew its entire screenplay by heart.
Still a primary school student when Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak hit screens, it’s incredible how affectionate I continue to feel towards this film, which released on this day, April 29, twenty five years ago. It’s like that line, ‘Humpar aapka bahut acha impression pada hai.’
Produced by the man behind dazzling entertainers like Tumsa Nahi Dekha, Teesri Manzil, Yaadon Ki Baarat, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin — Nasir Hussain, Qayamat Se…, directed by his son Mansoor, worked as a clutter breaker during a time Bollywood reeked of action and revenge, re-launching the career of two previously unnoticed actors –nephew Aamir Khan (in Ketan Mehta’s Holi) and Juhi Chawla (Mukul S Anand’s Sultanat).
Hussain’s last couple of films had bombed badly and the success of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (which would go on to become one of the first movies –at least in my memory — to be addressed by its abbreviated title, QSQT followed by the likes of MPK, JJWS, K3G, etc) was imperative. As luck would have it, it became a huge blockbuster and turned its leading duo into overnight sensations.
Though this Romeo and Juliet-inspired confection doesn’t have an exceptional storyline, Mansoor creates an endearing equation around the shy, aloof Raj (Aamir) and spirited, jabbering Rashmi (Juhi).
Lovers facing parental opposition against the backdrop of enemy clans is not a novel premise. But what sets QSQT apart is how Mansoor prefers to focus on building the connection between a boy and a girl from warring Rajput families, making them genuine and likable as well as a steady refusal to spin them into melodramatic beings on discovering each other’s true identity.
Where Raj and Rashmi are concerned, they’re both very young and petrified of their fierce, temperamental fathers preferring to lie through their teeth instead of engaging ugly confrontations.
Sparks fly between them immediately –all through the time a trigger-happy Rashmi clicks pictures of him against a sunset or when Raj cleans her wounds with cotton swabbed in Dettol following Rashmi’s heartfelt admission of her feelings for him to right till the part where the twain elope and play house on top of a rugged hill.
Even if they had to abscond, they could have planned it a little better. Like travel to a proper city, get a real job and get married in court instead of cutting his finger with a knife and doing a literal khoon bhari maang. But literacy is a dispensable concept in our movies and whether it’s Love Story, Dil, QSQT or Maine Pyaar Kiya, mostly runaway heroes prefer to be seen with an axe instead of a degree.
Despite this incredulity and growling, regressive daddies (Shaadi ke baad patni wohi karegi jo pati chahta hai) concerned with ‘khandaan ki izzat’ and ‘dushmani,’ QSQT endlessly charms.
The soundtrack as well as the part-booming, part-dulcet background score is terrific. The direction displays confidence and taut storytelling. And after a long gap, audiences witness the return of a chocolate-faced hero whereas the heroine, while dainty, is a refreshing change from all the coy types ridden by the waiting-for-the-guy-to-make-the-first-move syndrome.
He’s introduced strumming a guitar, she riding a horse. Aamir and Juhi convey this shift in dynamics flawlessly, intimately. Together they make a couple you’d like to see again and again. That none of their subsequent films worked until Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke is another story.
The chirpy actress, who makes tons of cute faces and delivers various flirtatious lines in her sing-song style–Dettol wali koi chhot nahi/Humari shaan mein kuch aur kehna chahein toh hum sunne ke liye taiyaar hain — says, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was like a college play. We would rehearse, laugh, play, shoot — it was wonderful.’
Aamir, on the other hand’ reveals he ‘was very nervous on the first day and sweating like a pig’ in an old issue of Movie magazine.
The superstar’s unease works to his advantage in scenes when the puny Raj turns into bashful Raj around Rashmi . Recall that embarrassment in his laughter (uh-heh-uh-heh) when Juhi presents him a set of photos she’s shot of him against the ‘doobta sooraj’ and a hilarious candid where he’s buried in a shawl in front of his friends?
His budding perfectionism is also evident in the manner he plucks the guitar strings while lip-syncing to one of his biggest chartbusters looking absolutely dapper in a white shirt, black vest and messy black tie.
Speaking of friends, Raj Zutshi as his cousin Shyam hits a sweet spot. The two previously worked on Ketan Mehta’s Holi. Then there’s a virtually unrecognizable Shehzad Khan as his hunting (oh yes, Pre-Satyamev Jayate Aamir pursues live prey even if we don’t see it happen since he’s too preoccupied with Juhi’s photograph to care) buddy Shahid who would go on to play Bhalla alongside Viju Khote’s Robert (he too appears as a drunk Thakur in a small role) in Aamir’s rip-roaring comedy, Andaz Apna Apna.
Also featuring is a really young actor/filmmaker Makrand Despande (credited as Mac Deshpanday) as the proverbial sleaze who tries to molest Rashmi. I hope you realise the other member of his vile gang in canary yellow pants is none other than Aamir’s younger brother, Faisal.
Nephew Imran Khan too makes his debut in a cute uniform to play a cuddlier version of his ‘Mamu’ in two scenes. The mild-mannered star had a massive crush on QSQT’s leading lady and even proposed to her with a ring on its sets. His mother and Mansoor’s sister, Nuzhat Khan worked in the capacity of costume designer.
The outfits, I must add (especially the ones worn by Juhi), — ranging from mirror-work lehengas, tie-and-dye duppatas and handloom-weave salwar kameezes – are simply gorgeous and create a distinct identity for Rashmi. Even the white chikan suit and red bandhni dupatta, Juhi wore in the forest scene was widely imitated by all the girls including a certain Anjali Sharma during that emotional railway station scene of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
QSQT, which is ranked among our best romances and a landmark film of the 1980s, enjoys quite a few accolades to its credit.
Besides a National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, QSQT garnered seven Filmfare awards (Film, Direction, Lux New Face, Music, Cinematography, Male Playback Singer) including Best (Male) Debut for Aamir, a recognition he would later jeer at and refuse to be a part of.
The only thing I didn’t like (even then) is the unexpected, distressing end. Okay, so maybe the grandiose twins in its title *Qayamat* Se *Qayamat* Tak make its intention quite obvious. But as a kid, I had a hard time believing it actually happened. As an adult, I deem it, like Jai’s death (in Sholay), plain unnecessary and almost always skip the last ten minutes. Such denial doesn’t hurt.
In a fascinating interview to Indian Express, the director reveals how his father ‘insisted on a happy ending’ and would have preferred to see the bullets hit Goga Kapoor (he’s irredeemably mean) instead but Khan didn’t want to compromise on his vision and stuck with the tragedy. Clearly, the risk paid off.
The QSQT mania was unavoidable. Even the surprise realisation of Aamir Khan’s marital status to (then spouse) Reena Datta (she appears in a cameo as one of the students in the song, Papa kehte hain) failed to affect his popularity.
Back then, the local grocery shop sold something known as Jolly Sweets –along the lines of Willie Wonka’s Golden Tickets concealed in a candy wrapper. Only instead of a trip to chocolate factory, the coupon would get us a free postcard of QSQT (or Shahenshah and, later, Maine Pyaar Kiya). I accumulated an entire stack of its postcards.
When I met Juhi to interview her role as producer with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and to compile a list of her pick of the best-looking actors in Hindi cinema, I lightly mentioned how her pigtails were a huge hit among schoolgirls when QSQT came out and how I hated not being part of the ‘thing’ since I had a boy cut. Her response was a giggle mixed in disbelief and delight.
She’ll probably react the same way if I tell her how even after 25 years, ‘mazaa aa raha hai, kasam se.’
This article was first published on rediff.com.