Afsana Pyar Ka (1991)

*Starring Neelam’s Hair!*

When I began watching Hindi films in 2002 or so, many of the first ones I saw were from the 1990s. And yet still—I persisted! I was charmed! I guess it was all so shiny and new that I didn’t know or care how hackneyed or obnoxious the plots were and the OTT use of wind machines and light filters merely fascinated me. “Look! her hair is blowing wildly inside her house!” “Oooh! A thousand points of light!” etc. Plus the people (Aamir, Shahrukh, Kajol, Rani) were so very good-looking and the girls had such glossy, glossy long hair. But none of them were a patch on Neelam in that department.

Almost every frame that she is in (which is a lot of them) is filled with her long, shiny locks. They whip in the wind, they become tangled in Aamir’s fingers, they bounce and swing as she dances, they blow gently across her tear-filled eyes. This film is an Ode to Neelam’s Hair. I am pretty sure that it even has its own spotlight and probably its very own assistant too. But as silky and beautiful as it is, it cannot save this movie and neither can Aamir’s considerable charm, sidelined as it may be.

The story is the same old star-crossed lovers in college plot; they are tormented first by misunderstanding and evil classmates, and then by long-ago poor decisions and current-day bad parenting on the part of the so-called adults in their lives.

Raj (Aamir Khan) is the son of wealthy Mahindra Behl (Kiran Kumar). He is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy with three close friends at school (Deepak Tijori, Rakesh Bedi and Raju Shrestha—my little Master Raju, all grown up!).

The mullet-sporting school Romeo is named Vikram (Jeet Upendra); he and Raj have a fierce rivalry that plays itself out in the boxing ring as well as on school grounds. It flares up when a new and very pretty girl named Nikita (Neelam) arrives at school one day and both are smitten on sight. They make a bet as to who will kiss her first.

Nikita lives with her Mamaji Anand Verma (Saeed Jaffrey), a bachelor who has brought her up after her parents both died when she was small.

We now discover too that although Mahindra Behl has told Raj that his mother died at his birth, the truth of the matter is that twenty years back Mahindra abandoned his wife Bina (Beena Banerjee) and infant son to marry a rich woman with terminal “blood cancer” for her money. When his second wife dies and leaves him her fortune as planned, he comes back to get Bina and his son; Bina not unreasonably repudiates him. When she also balks at giving him their son, Mahindra reminds her that society will give a single mother like her a bad name, which will also rub off on Raj.

I would say: “His name is Mahindra Behl and he is a bigamist and a selfish, greedy man”!

But Bina caves instantly and I roll my eyes as she hands the tiny baby over: such sacrifice! such lofty principles! such a BAD mother! Her landlord—who we recognize as Anand Verma, Nikita’s uncle—protests, but she is adamant. She will not go with her husband, and she will not tarnish her son’s name.

Twenty-odd years have passed and hey—guess what? Bina has just been hired as the new principal at Raj’s college, and the first student she meets on campus is her son, although of course neither knows it yet.

She asks if he doesn’t find solace for studying at home, and he tells her it “stinks of wealth” which leads them into a philosophical discussion on principles versus money so that we understand Raj is definitely his mother’s son…even if neither knows it yet.

And now the romance-separation-reunion portion of the story commences, and it goes on and on for more than an hour.

Raj of course falls in love with Nikita as she is falling in love with him, but she discovers the bet he’d made with Vikram and it takes a long long time, with much pouting and hair-flinging on her part and lots of angst and moping on his, to make up. We are flogged in the interim with really bad songs (Bappida) and shenanigans like this:

and this:

with more showcasing of The Hair (which also randomly changes its tint and sometimes has a fringe).

Seriously if Gemma hadn’t vomited all over the carpet at that moment, I would have. The sugary despair is occasionally interrupted by hormone-fuelled confrontations between Vikram and Raj:

but it doesn’t help.

When a Goan monsoon rain finally brings Raj and Nikita back together:

it’s not for long, because Mamaji has gone to meet Raj’s father and recognized him as that scoundrel who abandoned his wife all those years ago. There is NO WAY he is going to let his precious niece marry a man who might do the same thing to her that Mahindra did to Bina. This turns him from a loving and supportive paternal figure into a monster who manhandles her roughly, locks her up in her room, and refuses to listen to her (although her hair remains strong and shiny).

Will Raj find out the truth about his mother and father? Will true love find a way to overcome all obstacles? Will there be an unbelievably glib resolution for all so that repressive societal notions of what constitutes a proper family are upheld and glorified?

If you can sit through what amounts to a very long and expensive shampoo commercial to find out, watch Afsana Pyar Ke. I don’t recommend that you do, though. The plot is dumb, the characters cartoonish, and the messages confused and stupid. Aamir and Neelam have next to no chemistry at all, possibly because Neelam spends most of her time onscreen with her back or profile to the camera in order to give us an optimal view of her crowning glory.

I guess if you are going to play second fiddle anyway, it might as well be to your own hair.

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49 Comments to “Afsana Pyar Ka (1991)”

  1. I can’t believe that you actually came to Hindi films through the 90s. That is the time I actually stopped watching Hindi films, because I just couldn’t take the hair blowing and the back lights and the blue filters. But I guess they must have done something right to hook you. :)

    Neelam did have beautiful hair, though, didn’t she? Also Juhi Chawla.

    • Hey, us who grew up in the 90s came into Bollywood through the films of that time! Shahrukh Khan’s presence alone makes it fun enough — ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” + ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’.

    • Ha ha, it is really interesting to me now too, because now I can’t stand them! With a few exceptions of course :) I think when I started I was just sort of amazed and mesmerized by the aesthetic!

      Neelam’s hair is so very beautiful that it really just outperformed everybody in the film. Which was not that difficult, actually!

  2. Neelam is really beautiful actress.
    she never hot plum projects as such always paired opposite heroes who were not that handsome like maithun,chunky and govinda.

    aamir khan ,salman khan suited her as a pair oppsite her among the young heroes from 90’s.
    she gave really nice performance in the tailor made film for Rajesh Khanna as the sole hero in Ghar Ka Cjiraag in 1989 which is the second last box office hit films of Khanna and neelma looked good opposite Rajesh Khanna.

    Neelam looks good in all the films in her career …wish she had got to work with more handsome heroes cum good actors ( not just good looking but bad actor)…..

  3. afsana pyar ka was a box office flop although it was pretty good film.

    amit kumar’s voice on aamir suited him in Tip Tip Barsa song and Ashaji’s VOICE SUITED NEELAM VERY MUCH.
    watch out even for Jawani, Ek Ladka Ek Ladki, Chor Pe Mor, etc.. of neelam..neelam was good even opposite Kumar Gaurav.

    memsaab , my request is that you should write more about movies of seventes and eighties as there are many movies which deserve an online writeup but noone writes about them. review the other classics from 1967-1989 starring Rajesh Khanna , Devanand, Shashi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar etc…

    • Afsana Pyar Ka is a terrible film, Shrikant. Terrible. It deserved to be a box office flop.

      I can’t possibly write more about seventies films than I do already and I can only tolerate a few eighties films per year.

      • I CAN HELP YOU in finding the films which are worth reviewing and iam sure you will enjoy watching them(my recommended movies from 1965-1985) too.

        • Shrikant: I don’t know how many more ways I can say this but I don’t NEED your help, and I don’t WANT your help. I have plenty of movies and I will watch the ones I want to watch, not the ones YOU want me to watch. It’s my blog!

  4. Agree so much with Banno!
    But on the other hand if one has gone through the 80s, one was really grateful for the 90s.
    Thank God I was reared on 50s films on DD! ;-)

    • I’m beginning to think that the 80s were better than the 90s. I guess it’s a question of diabetes-inducing romance versus blood, gore and vengeance. Hmmm. I imagine if I’d grown up in India I would have been glued to DD as well ;-)

      • “diabetes-inducing romance versus blood, gore and vengeance”
        ROTFL!!!! well said!
        I was for at the most two years of the 90s in India and after that it was nearly out for contemporary hindi films.
        But, I remember when Aashiqui was released, everybody was so happy that one had hummable songs at last! But now when I listen to them it is like: what?! After years of film posters with full of gun totting men and women, it was a nice change to have a smooching pair!

  5. “HEAR, HEAR”-to Shrikant’s request. But Memsaab, I think there was good chemistry between the lead couple, and Aamir always is an eye-candy in college-hunk roles, this movie more so as it fits his age. Otherwise, I agree it is run-of-the-mill 90s romantic story.

    • He made a lot of films with this same story. No wonder he got fed up and started making only one movie a year!!!! Love Love Love was better than this one. I couldn’t really pay attention to anything but Neelam’s hair.

  6. What to do? I grew up with the 70s. :)

  7. A friend who loves music says “one will dislike 80’s only if he is blinded by disco movies”. Ghazals of 80’s are the most famous ones. Mithun did some good movies as well apart from Disco.

    • I have seen 80s films that had nothing to do with disco…but they tend to be so mindlessly violent and vengeance-driven that even the ones that have entertained me left a bad taste. Certainly there were good films made then too, that is true of any decade, but the general trend is not one I really want to watch a lot of.

  8. Neelam actually did a Goldie Hawn in the (un)official remake of ‘overboard’ – ek ladka ek ladki. Her chemistry with Salman was good but her best pairing will always be with Govinda and …. Chunky Pandey(lesser known films but there is a famous song probably about parrots).

  9. Bad songs! – I actually like the songs (despite a ‘la bamba’ copy in there).
    Amit Kumar sings with a lot of energy, is underrated even though he was the voice of Anil Kapoor and leading singer for half a decade 85-92.

  10. Unfortunately, the violence and gore in the 80’s had Dharmendra and Shatrughan at the forefront with lots of potboilers.

  11. That rain song is one of my favs! they both look so adorable, and the opening w/ Amir is amazing :) For that song, I can watch that movie- again, and again. Ona serious note, your post brings me back to one of my pet peeves- Neelam, like all female actors with little talent but lots of looks was out of Bollywood way too early. Im sure she could have served decoratively for some more years …

    • She was mostly decorative…I have not seen enough of her to judge her talent, but going by this one alone…meh.

      I didn’t like the songs…sorry! :)

  12. I’ll take a backlit shampoo commercial of the 90s over 80s blood and gore any day…

  13. I had a nice giggle over your review, what a nice start to my day :) I shan’t dream of seeing it!!
    True, I dont think much of 90’s films, In fact I think I stopped seeing Hindi films for about a decade then. Took up seeing them in the new millenium, but more as a way of connecting with India and things Indian in our rather isolated NRI lives. But surely the 80’s offered something more than the blood-and-gore..what about Rekha’s new-look launch in Khubsoorat, the South Indian super hit remake Ek Duje Ke Liye, the lost-in-time Umrao Jaan, the simply magnificent Kalyug, Sai Paranjabe’s very funny Chashme Baddoor, Is-it-life-or-goss Silsila, the muslim-social Nikkah, Gulzar’s sad Namkeen, Raj kapoor’s overdramatic Prem Rog with great music, the compelling Bazaar, the very serious Arth, the how-can-you-go-wrong-with-Shabana-and-Naseer Masoom, the shocking Ardh Satya..just to name a few. I think if I sifted through the list, I could easily name more good films. No, I dont think I can wipe off the 80’s that easily..

    • I have seen many of the films you name and some of them are good, and almost all of them are early 1980s. Plus the blossoming of “art house” cinema happened in the 1980s-many of the films you name are considered that, but I am talking about mainstream commercial cinema’s output.

      • mainstream cinema also gave quiet a few classics. JP Dutta’s four movies- Ghulami, Yateem, Hathyaar and Bantwara, Rahul Rawail’s Arjun and Dacait. Subhash Ghai’s Ram Lakhan, Vidhaata and Karz. Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr. india. Pankaj Parashar’s Jalwa and Chaalbaaz. N. chandra’s Tezaab, Ankush and Pratighaat. Yash Chopra’s Chandni. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Parinda. Mansoor khan’s QSQT. Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti and Saagar. These are all mid to late eighties films. And the last week of the eighties gave us Maine Pyar Kiya

  14. I had hair like that once :-( but hostel life really ruins it so had to chop it off! Does this film have that song “Tip tip tip tip baarish”? It’s kinda cute :)

    • It does have that song, but I didn’t enjoy it much. Perhaps in a vacuum I would have liked it better but by the time it came along I was sick of this whole thing :)

  15. Have only seen a handful of Neelam movies. She came into the industry at just the time that I was quitting it (as a current-movie-watcher, that is). ;-)

    I remember she had a hit, Love 86, with Govinda early on (I haven’t seen the movie). Of the movies I HAVE seen, the one I remember the most is “Jawaani”. That is because I saw it just a few years ago with ZERO expectations. It wasn’t too bad – and I quite liked some of the songs. Only when I watched the movie, I realised I’d heard most of the songs before – they’d been quite popular in their time).

    So after reading this post, I thought I’d listen to one of these songs of Jawaani just to refresh my memory of Neelam. And when I saw it now, I couldn’t help laughing. Watch this video at 1:37 – 1:47. Looks like Afsana Pyar Ka was not the only movie where her hair ruled.

    Coming to APK, I haven’t even heard of the movie. Not surprising, considering it is from a “blackout” period for me. There are lots of movies of this period (1985-1992) that I haven’t even heard of. And from what I’ve heard from others, I don’t think I’ve missed much.

    I was in Bombay in 1985-87 and I still remember the movies I saw in film halls during this period. 1985-4 (Mera Jawab, Meri Jung, Saagar, Ram Teri Ganga Maili), 1986-0, 1987-1 (Pushpak). I did not even see superhit movies like Mr.India and Karma at that time (saw them later). I remember the whistling at Plaza cinema (Dadar) for RTGM for Mandakini’s scenes.

    Anyway, am digressing, sorry.

    Nice review, Greta. And give me 1990s diabetes-inducing romance to the gore of the 80s. At least that romance produced some sweet songs. :-)

  16. @Raja.. THANKS FOR sharing that scene.. it was HILARIOUS.. damn that is tooo much hair…

  17. I really don’t care about Hindi films or music beyond the 70s so my indifference for the 80s vs. 90s fare is equal. :-) But there is one 80s film that I do recommend – Shubh Kamana (1983, Rati Agnihotri, Rakesh Roshan). I remember it as an unpretentious, good natured film with a strong but entertainingly conveyed social message. Plus it has one of the few S.P. Balasubramanium songs that I actually like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVOUofK_p3E

    • I will see if I can find it!

    • the music by RD Burman was the reason the film initially got good publicity and as far as hindi is concerned it was RD who brought the best out of SPB

    • Shalini, thanks for sharing the SPB song from Shubh Kaamna. I’m a fan of Rajesh Roshan movies from back then (though I haven’t seen (this or) half as many as I’d have liked) for some of the reasons you mention. I really enjoy their understated picturization of romance (as opposed to all the OTTness thrust upon us in the late 80s, entire 90s). Rati in sari and those outsize glasses reminded me of Sumalatha from the south. She acted in Tamil and Malayalam movies of that era (that sadly ended up selling her out to sex siren type roles). I liked those movies with Sumalatha in starched saris and big glasses. Can’t find the particular clips I’m looking for, but here is one with her quietly romancing (or is it the other way around?) Mohanlal (whom I also can’t have enough of).

  18. Have not seen the film itself, but I do really like the song that cuts back and forth from Neelam singing alone by the sea to others dancing on the beach. I think it’s called “Yaad Teri Yaad”.

  19. I remember the song ‘Tip Tip Baarish’ from this movie being very popular. Why Aamir chose to do this movie after Dil (1990), truly beats me. Thankfully he also had ‘Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin’ (1991) in the same year which went on to become a superhit.

  20. It is one of the dumbest Aamir movie. No story no script . Poor movie. One of old time movies of Aamir when we did whatever came to him before he became clever enough to pick his movies.
    If today Aamir sees Afasana Pyar ka he will have one word “Afsoshhhhhhhh”””

  21. i like this movie afsana pyar ka

  22. memsaab, you have discussed neelam hair as starring. when hair comes in my mind, i always remember parveen bobby and her gorgeus hair style which is very unique. in almost all films she done has same open long hair style. she is only actress that she have kept her same hair style in all films. it may be seen in amar, akbar anthoney, namak halal, desh premee,khoon aur pani, suhag, ashanti,the burning train,jani dost,chor sipahi,36 ghante,rang birangi ,yeh najadikiyan,surakhya, meri awaz suno,arpan and many more.
    really, her hair style the long open hair is very beautiful.the style where two cheeks have two styles hair touched. it is a very special style. also to maintain in all films,the same style,whatever may be the character,is very special.really parveen and her hair style is still living with all of us.
    memsaab jee, please focus parveen bobby hair style in a special issue.thanks.

  23. about this movie, i would only say it had excellent direction and actors did very well. but storyline was not too good. may be that time people loved it, but it had nothing to make it a legendary movie.

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