Cinema I Love You

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

Cinema has condensed how people express love for each other into three little words, which is unfortunate because saying I love you, is as varied and beautiful as the colours God used to paint people. Because of those three little words, I’m still trying to decipher what “I love you” means in Hindi. Mumbai producers give me the impression that there is no other way of saying that except to say it in English. Maybe the Hindi version of those words is said all the time but I don’t hear them because I’m a visitor to the language.

Culture and how to say I love you
Ngugi wa Thiongo, the famous Kenyan writer who now lives in exile in the United States once said it is class that determines how people profess love for each other. That class is in a certain cultural context and country. The film Red Firecracker Green Firecracker is set in a particular region in China that manufacturers some of the firecrackers we use here in South Africa for New Year’s Eve.

Firecrackers in that film are a way of life. Everything revolves around them even love, that is why the artist in the film staged a beautiful but dangerous dance with firecrackers to impress the local princess. She gets the message and returns his love. When her family refuses to let them get married, he blows himself up with firecrackers, not knowing that she is pregnant.

Maya is the object of affection in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Dev Anand, played by Shah Rukh Khan shouts: “I love you Maya” at the train station. Karan Johar the director does a brilliant job in earlier scenes, to show us that Dev and Maya love each other in a deep and painful way. Those three little words are therefore redundant and there must be a profound way of saying that in Hindi.

Kyon Ki, directed by Priyadarshan is another I love you film. Tavni Khurana, (Kareena Kapoor) is a doctor in a mental institution who falls in love with Anand (Salman Khan), her patient who accidentally killed his girlfriend Maya. Anand wrote I love you everywhere when he was making his moves on Maya. He wrote in on his car window, on the street and even pretended to be an electrician and entered her room at the convent, where she was studying to be a nun. He wrote I love you on the walls.

In Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein, Megha (Aishwarya Rai) pleads with her father Narayan Shankar, principal of the college Gurukul (Amitabh Bachchan), that he should not be angry that she loves a student, Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan). “I love him father, I love him,” she screams. Sheila (Aishwarya Rai) makes the same plea about Rahul (Chandrachur Singh), to her brother Max (Shah Rukh Khan) in the film Josh, directed by Mansoor Khan.

Unique expressions of I love you
Ashutosh Gowariker took the laid back approach in Jodhaa Akbar. He had an endearing scene where the emperor Jalalhudin (Hrithik Roshan) took the bull by the horn and stood under Jodhaa’s window (Aishwarya Rai), showing off his prowess with the sword and also flexing his well-toned body. Talk about a peacock preening itself! Jalalhudin became quite besotted and followed Jodhaa around the palace, even visiting her when she was praying. No three little words there, just plain love and admiration.

The person in the cinema screening the movie does not know at which point the I Love You found its way to the script. In Hollywood, it might have been added by the producer, because it is a town where original material is not allowed, ask frustrated Hollywood writers. Filmmakers like Tyler Perry who produce and direct their work have more freedom with screenplays.

One of the memorable lines in his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, directed by Darren Grant, is when Orlando (Sherma Moore) tells Helen (Kimberly Elise) that he is falling in love with her. She doesn’t buy it and wants more clarification. “Helen, if I’m away from you for more than an hour, I cannot stop thinking about you. I carry you in my spirit. I pray for you more than I pray for myself. “

In Dil Ka Rishta directed by Naresh Malhorta, Tia (Aishwarya Rai) asks Raj if he loves her. “The first time I met you I felt a sense of belonging,” Raj replies. “Yours is the face that lingers before my eyes all day and night. You are the one I will live and die for. Is that love?”

Abuse of I love you
There is resistance to those words outside the cinema because they come with certain financial obligations. Some men do not want Valentine’s Day. They argue that they love their wives or girlfriends 24/7 and should not be expected to buy roses, chocolates and an expensive dinner on the 14th of February to prove it.

The pressure can be so much that some women buy themselves flowers and ask them to the delivered at the office to prove that, “He loves me.”  Men and women hurt each other with no qualms.  They just fall back on “I love you.”

A woman who was supported by braces and a special wheelchair told Oprah Winfrey that she stayed with her husband because he said he loved her. He beat her all the time and applied those three little words as an ointment. Some years ago, an attachment called I love you, destroyed computers worldwide because we opened it, hoping to find some love I suppose.

Film songs have given me an idea what love is in Hindi. Miri jaan, must mean my love. Sanjaan is also beloved. Pyar is love right? Guess where I found it? In Maine Pyar Kiya directed by Sooraj Barjatya!

So many cultures out there!  So many ways of showing the love without those ten Twitter characters!

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.


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