Filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya was middle-class India’s moral compass, long before Pahlaj Nihalani or Prasoon Joshi arrived on the scene. With their own brand of sanskaars, of course. Barjatya had a lot of us convinced that a North-Indian family (the protagonist of his movies since 1989), would spend the whole year celebrating one ritual after another. All of these thick-as-thieves relatives lived in palatial homes, and their friends including the family lawyer/doctor and the domestic help formed a part of the extended family.
They were perpetually happy, until a vamp entered their lives, after which they would be surrounded by death-like sadness.
Starting with films like Maine Pyar Kiya, and further consolidated by a blockbuster like Hum Aapke Hai Koun, Barjatya established a simplistic world that only dealt in solid colours. There were no in-betweeners. You either fulfilled your role of a ‘large-hearted, sacrificing elder’ or you were the ‘evil, condescending rich person’. And in a time when we were conditioned to dissect very little of a ‘film’, we ate it all up. We embraced the broad strokes and the dozens of songs, that came with it.
In the middle of all the family drama, there were sugar-coated love stories dowsed in Rasgulla chashni. There was the ‘Babuji’ figure (played by Alok Nath), who flirted with his ex-flame/cute ‘samdhan’ (played by the late Reema Lagoo) and got away with it, as everyone’s shy laughter took over.
There were younger love stories too, where the heroine would hear her parents discuss her marriage over the phone and hide behind the kitchen curtains and blush. The human beings in a Barjatya film would always be physically incapable of violence, and thus he would have to invent his villains in the form of inanimate objects like – stairs.
In the Barjatya universe, everyone is either already nice or they become ‘nice’ by the end of the movie. Therefore you have to marvel at how the director manufactures conflicts by tripping on the stairs, being brain-washed by high-society butterflies, accidental fires and evil cousins.
As Bollywood’s most gentle director turns 54 today, we honour him with a sanskaari supercut that includes most of the scenes in which he advocates the upholding of bharatiya sanskriti. It is only because of him, that the audience knows that life is nothing, but one long sangeet function.