Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, often shortened to QSQT, turns 30 today. A mould-breaking hit, QSQT changed the idea of romance and turned the Hindi film hero from rugged Rambodom into a boy-next-door to whom blushing schoolgirls write letters in blood and adorn their bedroom walls as pinup. Though the film may not resonate as deeply today as it did to the youth of the 1980s, QSQT remains a Bollywood milestone. A story of young love, made of the young, by the young and for the young, QSQT was a surprise success at the box-office. Nobody, not even those connected to its making including director Mansoor Khan, thought much of the film. But it made the fresh-faced, one film-old Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla overnight stars and helped unleash a brand of romance that continued well into the 90s.
Aamir Khan and the trend of teenage romance
30 years later, if you still remember Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, it may be because the film gave us two of the most enduring Bollywood faces in Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla but mostly, for how it turned the fortunes in favour of youthful romances and dreamboats. After his unparalleled 1970s reign, the 1980s was a time when Amitabh Bachchan (in mid-40s) and his Angry Young Man were beginning to feel tired. Action was still the genre that the masses loved, leading to the creation of Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff and Anil Kapoor as masculine heroes. Aamir Khan and his dreamy turn in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak changed that. If not for QSQT, the 90s would have been a different story altogether. As author Gautam Chintamani commented in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak: The Film That Revived Hindi Cinema, “For over a decade and a half since Bachchan’s breakthrough role in Zanjeer (1973), there hadn’t been any real threat to the Angry Young Man model, and some of the best roles of the generation that followed Bachchan – such as Sunny Deol’s in Arjun (1985), Anil Kapoor’s in Meri Jung (1985) and Sanjay Dutt’s in Naam (1986) – were reminiscent of the Salim-Javed creation… For a brief period following Love Story (1981) … the manner in which the audience had reacted seemed to suggest that they were receptive to change. But… Kumar Gaurav fizzled out… QSQT’s all-round success suddenly provided a tangible alternative to the Bachchan-esque hero for the first time in fifteen years.”
Many would contest that claim, though. For some, the ultimate teen romance remains Raj Kapoor’s Bobby, a 1973 sleeper that launched the cherubically young Rishi Kapoor and a 16-year-old Dimple Kapadia. Though Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, with its star-crossed lovers and tragic climax was no Bobby, it’s probably closer in spirit to Ek Duuje Ke Liye, another 1980s Romeo Juliet tragedy best known as the Hindi launch-pad of Kamal Haasan opposite Rati Agnihotri. Aamir Khan may well have been the original Raj, but as cinematic history would attest, Shah Rukh Khan walked away with the title, thanks to DDLJ. But take a closer look and the two Rajs cannot be more different – one defies parental approval, the other longs for it.
For those who haven’t already guessed, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is an ill-fated love story set against the backdrop of a warring Rajput family. The misplaced Rajput pride and glory that caused so much controversy around the recent Padmaavat is thrown about more casually in the QSQT narrative. Lines like “Khoon bahana toh Rajputon ki shaan hai (It’s Rajput honour to shed blood)” are proudly peddled by the elder Rajputs whose stubborn opposition to love and a strident need to uphold their hidebound traditional institutions, in the end, are responsible for the ill-fated death of Raj (Khan) and Rashmi (Chawla).
Modernity versus traditions
And yet, director Mansoor Khan envisions rebellion and parental and social defiance in the figures of Raj and Rashmi. The director, off-screen, had himself set the tone of rebel by not letting his father, the legendary producer-director Nasir Hussain, interfere too much with his personal vision for QSQT. While Hussain was keen to have Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar play the role of Raj and Rashmi’s screen parents, Mansoor Khan put his foot down to let him direct younger actors. In walked Dalip Tahil, as Aamir Khan’s dad. “I won’t be able to direct them (Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar) as they are far too senior and I won’t be comfortable telling them what to do,” Mansoor, who was an engineer from IIT, Cornell and MIT and later quit movies to turn farmer in Coonoor, reportedly told his dad.
It was Mansoor who stuck to his guns, eventually releasing the film with the original sad ending that he had conceived despite reservations from distributors. One story goes that he wanted his name taken off the credit if his father Nasir Hussain yielded to the distributors and exhibitors’ growing demands for a happy ending. With so much riding on the climax, Nasir Hussain consulted his friend Rahi Masoom Raza. The great writer-poet is believed to have quipped, “All classic love stories have ended in tragedy – Romeo-Juliet, Sohni-Mahiwal, Shirin-Farhad – keep it as it is with the tragic ending. Don’t change it.”
The title – that made long and poetic titles fashionable (think: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! Incidentally, QSQT is perfect Barjatya casting) – was courtesy Nasir Hussain. Ever the canny wordsmith, he suggested Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, a spinoff on the Hollywood classic From Here to Eternity. Here’s another bit of trivia: the original title was the B-sounding Nafrat Ke Waaris. Actually, on second thought, Nafrat Ke Waaris wouldn’t be too out of place given the long list of cheesy titles prevalent in the 1980s.
Papa Kehte Hain: A star was born
Mansoor was equally adamant about the music. He boldly rejected Hussain’s original choice – the maverick RD Burman. Mansoor instead went with the young Anand-Milind. From the moment the waistcoat-wearing Aamir Khan popped on screen strumming guitar and singing Papa Kehte Hain, composed by Anand-Milind and sung by Udit Narayan, later to become Khan’s voice through the 90s, it was only a matter of time before QSQT was greeted by Gen X as a youth anthem. The film and especially that song, captured the zeitgeist of the youth culture. The young were breaking free and it was Aamir Khan (this Rajput-without-moustache, so chocolaty and dandy) who embodied that rebellious energy, just as Shammi Kapoor had done decades earlier in films of Nasir Hussain.
Overnight, Aamir, who was married to childhood sweetheart Reena Dutta (she’s the girl in red in Papa Kehte Hain seated next to one of Khan’s sisters), had become a teenage sensation, much like Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor and Kumar Gaurav before him.
(Shaikh Ayaz is a writer and journalist based in Mumbai)