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10 reasons why you should watch 1942: A Love Story again

The film, directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, was released exactly a quarter century ago.

Sonal Pandya

Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942: A Love Story did not break the bank when it was released on 15 July 1994. A certain family film, Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, was released a fortnight later and became Hindi cinema's biggest moneyspinner till that time.

But the romantic period drama, starring Anil Kapoor, Manisha Koirala and Jackie Shroff, has stayed with us for a number of reasons. Its timeless, melodious music, production values and star cast made the Vidhu Vinod Chopra film one to remember.

On the film's 25th anniversary today, we list 10 reasons why you should watch it again. Read on.

1. RD Burman’s swansong was the perfect touch to his long and storied career

The 1990s did not bring much success to legendary music composer Rahul Dev Burman. Son of another legend, Sachin Dev Burman, RD aka Puncham found success early in his career with Teesri Manzil (1966) and Padosan (1968). He ruled the 1970s with films like Kati Patang (1971), Jawani Diwani (1972), Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), Sholay (1975), Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977), and Gol Maal (1979).

While his popularity dipped in the 1980s with the onset of the disco era and Bappi Lahiri, the trough was nothing like the bleak 1990s for Burman. Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942: A Love Story was to have revived his career, but Burman died before the film was released and it ended up being his last big hurrah. RD Burman won the Filmfare award for Best Music Director posthumously.

2. Javed Akhtar's lyrics matched RD Burman’s brilliance

Javed Akhtar, writing lyrics on a deadline, delivered. He suggested, after hearing the script, that the film required a song about the hero seeing the heroine for the first time. On the day he had to submit the song, however, he had nothing.

When RD Burman asked about the song, Akhtar gave the title and said the song would be all similes. "RD asked me to write one stanza and read it, so I sat in a corner and created the first stanza. As soon as I wrote the lyrics, he created the tune in his mind. I wrote two more stanzas over the next five days," he recalled in a conversation on the film in 2012.

3. The songs were enhanced by the picturization, thanks to Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Farah Khan

The dreamy, ethereal quality of the songs was due to the team work of choreographers Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Farah Khan. The Padmaavat (2018) filmmaker, an associate director on the Chopra film, was in charge of the songs. Farah Khan, after the success of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992), was a sought after choreographer. Both delivered with song picturizations that are just as fresh 25 years later.

4. The story and dialogues by Kamna Chandra focused on the Quit India movement

Kamna Chandra took the love story of Naren (Anil Kapoor) and Rajjo (Manisha Koirala) and set it against the backdrop of the freedom movement. Initially, they are cocooned in their little world of love, but soon their eyes are forced open when tragedy strikes right at their feet. The period film, set up by production designer Nitin Chandrakant Desai, was originally to be set in contemporary times, but Chopra wished to set it in the past.

When Hindi cinema celebrated the Quit India movement

5. Jackie Shroff won an award for a role that he had initially rejected

The entire unit of 1942: A Love Story was waiting for Jackie Shroff in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh, and the actor eventually turned up to film his portions. But Shroff had not been keen to take up the role, even with long-time co-star Anil Kapoor in the film, and he had refused the part of the revolutionary Shubhankar. Only after much persuasion did he agree.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra also revealed that Shroff helped him to pay for the extra houses on the Dalhousie set and for a New Year’s Eve music party where RD Burman’s music was first introduced to the public. Of course, like his roles in Chopra's own Parinda (1989) and Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela (1995), Shroff, often lampooned by critics as a wooden actor, turned in a solid performance as a freedom fighter willing to risk his life for the nation, a performance that won him the Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actor. Curiously, he was the only one of the film's cast to win an award.

6. Nitin Desai's production design brought alive the era of the 1940s in Dalhousie

The cast and crew shot both in Himachal Pradesh and the recreated Dalhousie back in Mumbai. Nitin Chandrakant Desai and his team recreated the town in Film City, with an additional lake, to burn it all for a crucial scene in the film. The set cost Rs80 lakh then. Additionally, Desai faithfully transformed the interiors into vestiges of the British Raj. A library, a theatre, the gallows; they were all made for the feature film. 

From 1942: A Love Story to Devdas: The designs of Nitin Desai

7. The beautiful costumes by Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya and Shaahid Amir set the tone

Manisha Koirala's delicate kurtas and dupattas, Anil Kapoor's red pyjamas — the costumes of 1942: A Love Story remain ingrained in our minds. While fashion designer Shaahid Amir created Koirala's look, Oscar winner and Indian costume design veteran Bhanu Athaiya was given the task of outfitting the cast in the clothes of the 1940s. It was a mixture of British and traditional desi looks for the characters of Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Anupam Kher and many others.

8. Manisha Koirala, looking her luminous best, delivered one of her best performances

Manisha Koirala won the role of a lifetime despite a horrendous screen test where director Vinod Chopra called her a “terrible actress”. She revealed in her memoir, Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life, that she took the put-down as a challenge. “I requested him to give me 24 hours to come back for a second chance. Back home, I practised my lines passionately, over and over again, until my mother became distressed at my state,” she wrote.

9. So did Anil Kapoor as the lovelorn Naren who is ready to sacrifice his life for his country

Anil Kapoor was initially convinced that he couldn’t take up the romantic part and even suggested the names of actors Bobby Deol and Aamir Khan to Chopra. But then he heard the songs 'Kuch Na Kaho' and 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga' and was won over. "I couldn't let anybody else sing those beautiful songs! I told them, 'Yeh picture main karunga', convinced that when I am dead and gone, I will definitely be remembered through these songs if not my work," the actor said in interview with the tabloid Mumbai Mirror.

This year, Anil Kapoor played father to his own daughter, Sonam K Ahuja, in the film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, directed by Chopra's sister, Shelly.

10. The whole picture came together due to the steadfast vision of director Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Putting together a solid script and hiring the right cast and crew, Chopra had a rousing period film in mind. He had complete faith in his artistes and expected nothing less than perfection from them. He took risks, banking on RD Burman when most had given up on the veteran composer, and braved protests from a filmmakers’ union to shoot his climax. The result was a beautiful love story that still makes us swoon and a solid though fictional recreation of a key part of the nation’s history.