By Tara Bhatnagar Dec. 20, 2018
Hindi cinema made us believe that friends are forever and that dosti comes without an expiry date. But life’s not all Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Dil Chahta Hai. Friendship requires work and filmy fundas such as “Pyaar dosti hai” and “No sorry, no thank you” are flawed.
Picture this: It’s the first day of college. You’ve just bought a snazzy, new outfit that is totally out of your comfort zone. You wake up early, shower, doll up, and leave for college. You enter the college premises bursting with excitement and head straight to meet your best friend Rahul; you want to flaunt your new look. You expect him to take notice and appreciate you, but you become the laughing stock of the college – and your bestie is leading the lot. Of course, you’re not allowed to be mad at Rahul for being a douchebag. Because, “He’s your best friend, ya!”
This is a famous scene out of a film that prides itself in making us believe, “Pyaar dosti hai… Love is friendship.” In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Rahul Khanna, the college stud who walks around in flashy tees and a “COOL” necklace, is best friends with Anjali Sharma, a tomboy and ace basketball player. This “Best Friend” status somehow gives Rahul the power to treat Anjali like absolute shit. But Rahul isn’t the only lousy BFF in Bollywood. There’s Aakash, the brat from Dil Chahta Hai, who takes his “gehri dosti” with Sid for granted by belittling his feelings for an older woman. And who can forget yet another Sid for holding a grudge against Rishi for not failing with him in the college exams in Wake Up Sid?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not how real-life dostis unfold.
Over the years, Bollywood has fed us a template for all human relationships. And the emphasis has always been on “dil” and “dosti”, with everything else fading into an “etc”. Hindi movies convinced us that drifting apart from parents and lovers was inevitable, but friends were forever. Because if you believe the script, friendship comes without an expiry date. Your best friend – the Jai to your Veeru, the Rahul to your Anjali, and the Aman to your Rohit – is obliged to look past all your flaws and embrace you forever.
I grew up on Bollywood, and as a teenager, based a lot of my life’s decisions on that of my friends. I chose science over humanities so that I didn’t have to change schools and make new friends. Back then, I failed semester after semester, much to the chagrin of my parents but continued to trudge down the academic path I had no interest in, only because I got to see my best friends – my supposedly “permanent” source of joy – every day.
Hindi movies convinced us that drifting apart from parents and lovers was inevitable, but friends were forever.
Part of the problem was that I never made friends easily. My dad’s stint in the army meant I flitted between numerous school and was always the “new girl in class” for the first 12 years of my life. I was never popular, so I did not get much attention either. So when I met the two people who accepted me for who I was in the ninth grade, I clung on to them like a magnet. I also naively believed that we’d never drift apart. I remember breaking down multiple times when I suspected that our friendship could be falling apart. And it ultimately did.
When I went to college a few years later, I thought it would not be very different from Jaane Tu.. Ya Jaane Na, where I’d instantly have a group of friends who’d stick by me through thick and thin. Except, forging friendships is not easy, leave alone friends singing “Kabhi kabhi Aditi” for me, I found it difficult to even fit in. And by the end of college, I was far from nostalgically exclaiming, “Where did those three years go?”
By the time I opted for a post-graduation, I became adept at playing the female version of Edward Cullen – cold and distant, trying not to seek any romanticised versions of friendship. And it was then that I stumbled upon two of my closest friends. And despite my insecurities, I dove into these friendships with everything I had. Our friendship was far from perfect – we loved each other, yes, but we also had our differences. There were times we were there for each other and there were days when we were too preoccupied with our own lives. Our friendship wasn’t without the flaws, it wasn’t all-weather… it did get fractured.
And that’s the side of friendship Bollywood forgot to show me. Hindi movies couldn’t tell me that friendship – just like any other relationship – requires work. It is after all, a two-way street. I cannot expect my friends to be my backbone if I don’t care to pause and think about their needs. And I definitely cannot expect my friends to be all forgiving, if I’ve been an asshole to them. Here’s a friendship lesson that Bollywood should have given me: My friends didn’t owe me their friendship. I had to earn it.
Our friendship wasn’t without the flaws, it wasn’t all-weather… it did get fractured.
One of my best friends stopped talking to me for years because I was too critical of all her life choices. Another drifted apart because I’d use our difference in opinions and political views as an excuse to launch into a triade. We went from completing each other’s sentences to exchanging sporadic texts that reeked of formality. Unfortunately, no film tells you how to make up to your friends and that there is little hope of reconciliation.
The dissolution of some of my friendships gnaws at me incessantly, but I’m only now, slowly learning to make peace with it. It comes with recognising the fact that every friend I make isn’t defined by the bond they share with me. At the end of the day, our friendships really depend on the amount of effort we put in. Even Sid, Rishi, and Anjali had a limit to the crap that they could take from their besties.
Tara is an aspiring filmmaker and closet writer. When she’s not on set, she’s usually under a pile of books, checking off her ‘to read’ list. Someday, she hopes to fulfill her dream of being a background dancer in a multi-starrer song sequence directed by herself.