Once upon a time, Bollywood was replete with films and songs celebrating the brother-sister bond. The references now are few and subtle.
Yes, there was a winner in the heart-melting brother-sister camaraderie between Farhan Akhtar and Divya Dutta in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag; the playful yet protective bond between Sushant Singh Rajput and Amrita Puri in Kai Po Che!; the portrayal of the over-protective brothers in Housefull and Bol Bachchan; and the love-hate bond between Genelia D’Souza and Prateik in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na.
But as film historian S.M.M. Ausaja put it: “It’s understated in the plots, unlike in the pretty 1990s.”
“Comparatively, one sees less of the sister in contemporary cinema as the brother-sister bond is considered a box office liability at a time when commercialism has overruled social responsibility from current scripts,” Ausaja said.
“Risque sells more than the noble,” he said, adding how, from Mehboob Khan’s Bahen (1941) to Dev Anand’s iconic Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), the sister was an integral part of most family dramas.
“Even in the 1970s, you had Amitabh Bachchan protecting her in films like Majboor, Adalat and Agneepath. Songs like Phoolon ka taaron ka are rated among the best ever of their time,” he said.
There were also numbers such as Meri pyaari behaniyaa banegi dulhania, Bhaiyya mere, rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana, Rang birangi rakhi lekar aayi behna, and the list can go on.
It’s sad but true that despite a string of family dramas across the board, sibling chemistry has gone out of focus in Hindi cinema — and that’s in a country where the bond is celebrated with a festival, Rakshabandhan.
Young, talented actor Rajput, who played the protective Ishaan in Kai Po Che!, believes that like his debut project, “there is scope for showcasing an aspect of a brother-sister relationship in films these days, but not the entire film”.
“This relationship is very sacred and a lot can be explored around this,” Rajput, who has four elder sisters in real life, said.
But where are the funders, asks actor and filmmaker Sanjay Suri, who played a man with HIV in My Brother...Nikhil, supported by Juhi Chawla who played his sister — the movie remains a turning point in his career.
“Yes, I haven’t seen any recent film that captures this beautiful bond. I am sure many filmmakers may have good concepts, with such themes,” Suri said.
Even Divya Dutta, who has received accolades galore for playing the strong, selfless elder sister in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, couldn’t recollect watching a movie that highlighted a sibling bond other than the Aishwarya Rai-Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Josh, which was released 13 years ago.
Rajput said: “Trust, mutual respect and friendship are the most important aspects of a brother-sister relationship.”
That, many would agree, has been captured in some films of the past 15 years — Hum Saath Saath Hain, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Josh, Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, Fiza, My Brother...Nikhil and Garv. But surely more can be done.
As Rajput says, choosing a film to watch does not depend on which relationship it explores.
“If the story is good, then I [as a viewer] would definitely like to watch it.”
Perhaps, it’s the same for most contemporary audiences.