No plots like the old plots

The basic Bollywood film must have a love story, drama, comedic bits and a happy ending (for the most part), all spiced up with songs. Beyond that, the plots tend to fall into seven categories:

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Boy meets girl, misunderstandings arise, but there is a happy ending. The Jane Austen novel has been mined over and over again.

Classic examples: There was a rash of such films in the 1960s with “Kashmir ki kali,” “Junglee” and “An Evening in Paris” and continuing over the decades.

Recent variations: 2005’s “Parineeta” and “Salaam namaste.”

LOVE TRIANGLE: The typical Indian love triangle story is novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s “Devdas,” which has been made 19 times in Hindi, Bengali (in which the original was written) and Tamil. “Devdas” is a tragedy, in which the hero gives himself up to a lifetime of drink after losing the love of his life who is married off to a man many years her senior. The other woman is a prostitute who tries unsuccessfully to get him off the bottle.

Classic examples: The last version was 1999’s $10.5 million “Devdas” starring Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit. Pic preemed at Cannes and was India’s submission for the 2000 Oscars.

Other classic triangles include “Andaz” (1949), the man lets the other two live happily ever after; “Daag” (1973); and “Sharada” (1957), the woman thinks the love of her life is dead, but he has amnesia and makes a life with someone else. In “Sangam” (1964), Raj Kapoor’s twist was to let the home audience see the world in glorious Technicolor — it the first big Bollywood film that wasn’t in B&W.

Recent variations: In 2003’s “Kal ho naa ho,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh has a heart condition and dies; “Silsila” (1981) is more famous for the offscreen affair between Amitabh Bachchan and co-star Rekha than anything else.

STAR-CROSSED LOVERS: The Bollywood twist on “Romeo and Juliet” varies in the endings — both die, one dies or one goes mad.

Classic examples: From a silent B&W version of “Laila Majnu” (1922, 1927, 1931, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1967, 1976, 1992) to “Shirin Farhad” and “Heer Ranjha,” the story of doomed lovers, based on Indian folk tales, was hugely popular with Bollywood audiences. Similarly, “Anarkali” and last year’s colorized re-release of “Mughal-e-azam” were based on Prince Salim’s love for the slave girl Anarkali: She was executed; he got to be emperor Jahangir of Mughal India.

Recent variations: The latest incarnation in 2006’s “Rang de basanti,” in which two of the male leads are killed, one when his fighter jet crashes, the other in a standoff with authorities.

VENGEANCE: “The Godfather” has been remade over the years in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Parts of the story were picked up and used as the basis of many other Bollywood films.

Classic examples: Mani Ratnam’s Tamil “Nayakan,” starring Kamal Hassan, was India’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar in 1987. India’s own criminal underworld was the basis for many such films beginning with 1978’s “Zanjeer,” starring Bachchan.

Recent variations: The most recent “Godfather” clone is Ram Gopal Varma’s in 2005, “Sarkar,” with Bachchan in the role of Don Corleone. Shah Rukh Khan is starring in the 2006 version, of”Don” from Farhan Akhtar (original was in 1978). Her father, Javed, who wrote the earlier “Don,” is collaborating with her on this one

SOCIAL INJUSTICE: When the government is unable or unwilling to help, citizens take the law into their own hands and mete out justice.

Classic examples: “The Seven Samurai” story via “The Magnificent Seven” was made as the all-time blockbuster “Sholay” in 1977. With an all-star cast including Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini and Jaya Bhaduri, and dialogues and songs that struck a chord, the film is still considered Bollywood’s best. Two wise-cracking men are able to save the village from the bandit gang. Varma is remaking under the same title, with Bachchan playing the villain and Ajay Devgan attached in Dharmendra’s role.

Recent variations: 2001’s “Lagaan”; Varma’s “Sholay” is in production.

MARTYRS: While patriotic films are a genre unto themselves in India thanks to the British rule and wars with Pakistan and China, the martyr theme is particularly favored. The story of Bhagat Singh and his compadres who avenged the massacre at Jalianwallah Bagh cannot be told enough times.

Classic examples: Beginning with “Shaheed-e-azam Bhagat Singh” in 1953, the film was remade in 1963 as “Shaheed Bhagat Singh,” starring matinee idol Shammi Kapoor, and in ’65 by Manoj Kumar.

Recent variations: A whopping five versions released within weeks of each other in 2002; and again this year in UTV hit “Rang de basanti.”

SEPARATED AT BIRTH: This could be a whole genre of Bollywood films in which villains kill off the father, the children are separated from their mother and raised in three different faiths, but they are reunited as adults.

Classic examples: From 1968’s “Do kalyaan,” based on “The Parent Trap,” starring Neetu Singh, to “Amar Akbar Anthony.” The 1977 version is being remade by David Dhawan this year. Other pics with similar plots were “Hum kisise kum nahin” (1977) and “Yaadon ki baraat” (1973), “Sachaa jhutha” (1970), “Ram aur Shyam”and “Seetha aur Geetha.” The key to finding each other has always been a song that the parents sang.

Recent variations: “Kaho naa … pyaar hai” (2001), “Amar Akbar Anthony” (2006). ENDS

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