New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) "Phoolon ka taaro ka/sabka kehna hai/ek hazaaron mein meri behna hai". Once upon a time, Bollywood was replete with films and songs celebrating brother-sister bond. The references now are only a few and subtle.
Yes, there was a winner in the heart-melting brother-sister camaraderie between Farhan Akhtar and Divya Dutta in "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag"; the playful yet protective bond between Sushant Singh Rajput and Amrita Puri in "Kai Po Che!"; the portrayal of the over-protective brothers in "Housefull" and "Bol Bachchan"; and the love-hate bond between Genelia D'Souza and Prateik in "Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na".
But as film historian S.M.M. Ausaja put it: "It's understated in the plots, unlike in the pretty 1990s."
"Comparatively, one sees less of the sister in contemporary cinema as the brother-sister bond is considered a box office liability at a time when commercialism has overruled social responsibility from current scripts," Ausaja told IANS.
"Risque sells more than the noble," he said, adding how, from Mehboob Khan's 'Bahen' (1941) to Dev Anand's iconic 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' (1971), the sister was an integral part of most family dramas.
"Even in the 1970s, you had Amitabh Bachchan protecting her in films like 'Majboor', 'Adalat' and 'Agneepath'. Songs like 'Phoolon ka taaron ka' are rated among the best ever of their time," he said.
There were also numbers like "Meri pyaari behaniyaa banegi dulhania", "Bhaiyya mere, rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana", "Rang birangi rakhi lekar aayi behna", "Behna ne bhai ki kalayi pe pyaar baandha", "Mere bhaiya, mere chanda, mere anmol ratan", "Yeh rakhi bandhan hai aisa"... and the list can go on.
It's sad but true that despite a string of family dramas across the board, sibling chemistry has gone out of focus from Hindi cinema - and thatf in a country where the bond is celebrated with a festival, Rakshabandhan.
Young and talented actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who played the protective Ishaan in "Kai Po Che!", believes that like his debut project, "there is scope for showcasing an aspect of a brother-sister relationship in films these days, but not the entire film".
"This relationship is very sacred and a lot can be explored around this," Sushant, who has four elder sisters in real life, told IANS.
But where are the funders, asks actor-filmmaker Sanjay Suri, whose effortless portrayal of HIV-afflicted Nikhil in "My Brother...Nikhil", supported by Juhi Chawla as his sister, remains a turning point in his film career.
"Yes, I haven't seen any recent film that captures this beautiful bond. I am sure many filmmakers may have good concepts, with such themes," Sanjay said.
Even Divya Dutta, who has received accolades galore for playing the strong selfless elder sister in "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", couldn't recollect watching a movie highlighting a sibling bond other than the Aishwarya Rai-Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Josh", which released 13 years ago.
Sushant said "trust, mutual respect and friendship are the most important aspects of a brother-sister relationship".
That, many would agree, has been captured in some films of the past 15 years - "Hum Saath Saath Hain", "Bade Miyan Chote Miyan", "Josh", "Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya", "Fiza", "My Brother...Nikhil" and "Garv". But surely more can be done.
As Sushant says, choosing a film to watch does not however depend on which relationship its vein explores.
"If the story is good, then I (as a viewer) would definitely like to watch it."
Perhaps, it's the same for most contemporary audiences.
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)