Boy meets Girl on campus. Dozens of films from Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukherji) to Ekta Kapoor's Kucch To Hai (Tusshar Kapoor, Esha Deol, Anita, Rishi Kapoor) have designed their romances around this one theme.
But audiences no longer seem interested in teenage courting games. Says director Hansal Mehta (Chhal), "I have never made a teenybopper romance. And I certainly won't make one now. These romances need fresh faces. When Raj Kapoor introduced Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby, they looked convincing and charismatic. Now audiences are bored with lacklustre newcomers."
The subtle shift towards more mature romantic liaisons is apparent in the films ready for release. In Aziz Mirza's Chalte Chalte, Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji star as a married couple in conflict because of their different economic backgrounds. Like debutant Shaad Ali's Saathiya (Vivek Oberoi, Rani), a surprise success of 2002, Chalte Chalte is hoping to cash in on a more mature romantic sensibility.
In debutant Honey Irani's Armaan, the Anil Kapoor, Preity Zinta and Gracy Singh love triangle seems to have drawn inspiration from the 1960 hit, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi, starring Raaj Kumar, Meena Kumari and Nadira. Anil, who seems rather pleased with the film, grins, "There's no running around trees, thank God."
Manoj Bajpai and Urmila Matondkar share a strange chemistry in debutant Chandraprakash Diwedi's Pinjar. Caught in the turmoil of India's Partition, the two represent a curious hyphen in history. "We're certainly no teenagers in the first flush of romance," laughs Urmila.
On the surface, the two mega-romances of the year -- Sooraj Barjatya's Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon (Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan) and Rakesh Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya (Hrithik, Preity) -- look like routine romances. But their treatment is totally removed from the definitions of love in Hindi films.
MPKDH is said to be a modernized version of the 1976 Rajshri hit Chitchor, starring Amol Palekar, Zarina Wahab and Vijendra Ghatge. Even as Hrithik and Abhishek vie for Kareena's attention, there are no boys and girls in loud tee shirts and tank tops cheering them on. An even quieter interpretation of love is to be found on Rakesh Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya, where Hrithik plays a child-man who's almost mothered by Preity.
Clearly, the conventional cobwebs that smothered romance in Hindi cinema are being cleared. But even if one teenybopper campus romance -- like the forthcoming Ishq Vishk (Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao, Shenaz Treasurywala) -- or the conventional love triangle Andaaz (Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra) clicks, filmmakers will scamper back en masse to the tried-and-tested formula.
In the meanwhile, there's the changed scenario in the love equations to look forward to. And there are unusual love stories to be enjoyed.