BOBBY (1973): The Game Changer of Teenage Romance.

Why is the movie considered as Hindi Cinema’s first teenage love story?

1970s ‘India’ witnessed lots of socio-economic happenings like unemployment, poverty and corruption and so were the plots of most of the movies of that era based on classism, social injustice, divide between rich and poor and so on. Although the genre “love story” was mostly ignored, the film “Bobby” in 1973 came out as an exception. Directed by Raj Kapoor and produced and distributed by R.K. Films with Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in lead roles, the film is altogether a masterpiece. Not only is it considered as a benchmark of Hindi Romantic Cinema but it also completely redefined the genre, thus breaking the earlier notions of typical family drama love stories.

Film Poster of Bobby (1973).

The movie begins with six year old Raj, son of a rich business person who is sent to boarding school leaving behind his governess, Mrs Braganza in grief. After completing his studies in boarding school, Raj (played by Rishi Kapoor) returns for his 18th Birthday party where his eyes are stunned seeing a girl in a white gown, who’s apparently his governess’ granddaughter, Bobby Braganza (played by Dimple Kapadia). The next day, Raj visits Mrs.Braganza’s home, who’s in a better economic condition than before and gets to meet Bobby. The two subsequently develop a friendship and liking towards each other. Not very long before they had their first break up following a misunderstanding at Raj’s friend’s party which they sort out later during Bobby’s Kashmir school trip.

Slowly, both of their parents come to know about their affair and Braganzas are invited to Raj’s home for a dinner party by his father. However seeing the social condition of Braganzas, Raj’s father brutally mocks them leading Braganzas shattered. He doesn’t stop at that and visits Braganza’s residence to again insult them by providing them money to get rid of the Raj and Bobby’s relationship. He then fixes Raj’s marriage with another rich businessperson’s disabled daughter without telling Raj. Raj, however, runs away and this time Raj’s family along with police accuse Bobby’s father with ‘kidnapping’. Both Raj and Bobby’s family chase the couple and with no option left Raj and Bobby decide to jump in the river but are rescued by each other’s dad. The film has a “happy ending” with unification of two families.

How this film brought a change in the genre and why it remains a trendsetter?

It is probably Bobby, which introduced teenage romance in Hindi Cinema. Before this film, love story in the context of Hindi Cinema was only restricted to a grown up adult man and woman mostly in their late 20s who fall in love and marry or how typical Indian families indulge in arrange marriage and how the couple start loving each other after marriage. Bobby was one of the first Hindi films which showed teenage romance in a very entertaining and engaging way. There is an entire song in the movie titled “Hum tum ek kamre me band” (English: We both are locked in a room) where it is shown how the young couple (Bobby and Raj) accidentally get locked in a room, which proves that the movie was way ahead of its time. The film is also known for its exquisite closets varying from fairy tale gowns to dreamy jackets. Shot in spectacular locations of Goa, Mumbai and Kashmir, it was all soothing and added more to its glory.

The film was specifically made for the youth and Bobby being the debut film of both Dimple Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor added more to its freshness. The film had so much of impact on youth that during that time 14-15 year olds used to rebel against their parents to find true love and eventually the film became “template” for teen romances in India. The audience and Indian public were so fascinated with the movie’s character Bobby that many girls born in India during that time were named “Bobby”. Interestingly, this movie’s plot was replicated consequently in several other romantic Hindi films for over three decades.

The typical “happy ending” stories as mentioned earlier also became a trend ever since. Almost every popular love story in Hindi Cinema had a similar plot thereafter and that too in a proper sequence- first romance of a teen couple from different economic classes, followed by severe family restrictions and finally the climax- either happy or mournful. These narrative elements like family restrictions and classism became genre conventions ever since the release of Bobby.