Valentines and Valentinas: 10 Greatest Romantic Pairs in Hindi Cinema

An ageless chemistry in 2019—Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit in Total Dhamaal. Photo: Publicity Photo

Over the decades, certain star pairs have come to be the biggest on-screen love sagas in Hindi cinema. On the occasion of Valentine’s Day, here’s looking at the reel (so to speak) star-pairs that made the greatest mark in Hindi films.

Raj Kapoor-Nargis

The oldest of the famous lovers on screen, they were also linked in real life for a good while even though Raj Kapoor was married. Their first film was Aag (1948), but they emerged as a blockbuster pair with Barsaat (1949), Andaz (1949 again) and Awara (1951). Their famous romantic pose from Barsaat became the RK Studios emblem and they also got to co-star in Raj Kapoor’s Aah, Shree 420 and even in a song sequence in his Jagte Raho. Their score, for that period of nien years, was a whopping 16 films.

Outside the RK fold, they had a major hit in Chori Chori. In between came myriad other films including K.A. Abbas’ Anhonee. Their reel and real romance fizzled out at Raj’s dad Prithviraj’s behest and after Chori Chori and Jagte Raho, Nargis exited from his life and soon married Sunil Dutt, who played her bad son in Mother India but also rescued her from death on the film’s sets after a fire.

Dilip Kumar-Vyjayantimala

This was a case also of rumors of being lovebirds fuelled for long as this pair was a super performer at the box-office together and both were unmarried. Their last film together, Sunghursh (1970), suffered in part because by that time they were no longer on speaking terms. But their on-screen chemistry was very potent, and aided by great filmmakers, they did an array of movies in which they dazzled together—Naya Daur, Madhumati, Paigham  and Gunga Jumna, all within half-a-decade. Devdas, their 1955 first film, was a flop and yet appreciated for their fabulous performances, and could be thus added to their joint cinematic ‘assets’. However, Leader came a cropper in 1964.

Dev Anand-Zeenat Aman

The suave Dev Anand had successes and hits with many, but his association with Zeenat Aman, despite only one success together in Warrant (1975), remains enduring because they were so good together as a couple in both the real and the reel world. Dev and Zeenat were first cast as brother and sister in his own directorial, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, a film he offered her when she was leaving to settle with her German mother in her home country—and the rest is history.

And while Heera Panna and Ishq Ishq Ishq both dovetailed along with Dev’s home production, Prem Shastra, Kalabaaz and Darling Darling also came unstuck, with the latter not even having a proper release due to a dispute between Dev and its producer.

Tailpiece: Mysteriously, Dev and Zeenat also co-starred in The Evil Within in 1970, an international film in English with a mixed cast. This would have been actually Zeenat’s debut and the beginning of their association. Wonder if the story made popular above was actually for this thriller and ‘transported’ on to Hare Rama Hare Krishna!

Dharmendra-Hema Malini

Simply the most prolific jodi ever! Husband Dharmendra and wife Hema Malini (they wed in 1980) had unbroken success since Sharafat released in 1970, quickly followed in weeks by Tum Haseen Main Jawan. Naya Zamana, Raja Jani, Seeta Aur Geeta, Jugnu, Dost, Patthar Aur Payal, Pratiggya, Sholay and Charas, their next nine releases, were also jubilee hits, with Sholay remaining Indian cinema’s biggest hit ever.

Maa (1976), their 12th film, was their first flop, but later, they did have a hit in Chacha Bhatija and successes in Dream Girl, Dil Ka Heeraa and Alibaba Aur Chalis Chor. Not less than seven films had either one of them or both in cameos. Their last release as a lead pair remains Jaan Hatheli Pe in 1987 and their major flops include The Burning Train, Aas Paas, Razia Sultan and Raaj Tilak.

Their films included their respective home productions and technically, as of now, their last two releases are Tell Me O Kkhuda (2011), produced and directed by and starring Hema and also their daughter Esha Deol, and also Shimla Mirchi (2020) in which Dharmendra had a cameo.

Truly, this was one pair that spanned 51 years of cinema!

Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz

Rajesh Khanna’s first brush with success was with Aradhana opposite Sharmila Tagore, a love story, but his best-known and popular team was with Mumtaz after Do Raaste, his other super-hit in 1969. And this though only Prem Kahani (their last and unsuccessful film) and Aap Ki Kasam were true-blue romances.

However, thanks to their innate charisma and sizzle, they emerged as an enduring star-pair as the bulk of their movies—Bandhan, Sachaa Jhutha, Dushmun, Apna Desh and Rajesh Khanna’s home production, Roti, scored high at the box-office: a far-higher ratio compared to his work with Sharmila.

Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh is arguably the cutest on-screen pair for all time. Photo: Publicity Photo

Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Singh

Another real-life husband-and-wife pair, probably the cutest of all, was Rishi and Neetu. Never mind buzz that Neetu was being considered at one time for Bobby, but this time had only five successful films among 11 at their peak. Of these, the biggest blockbusters were Kabhi Kabhie and Amar Akbar Anthony, both ensemble cast movies. Their own successes were Khel Khel Mein, Jhoota Kahin Ka, Rafoo Chakkar and Doosara Aadmi. As Neetu once said, “Most of the time after Bobby, we were shooting together!” Love inevitably happened, and it is interesting to realize that all four of Rishi’s immediate post-Bobby releases (in 1975) starred Neetu!

Neetu quit movies after their marriage in 1980, but emerged from the shadows of domesticity to do four more movies with her husband—Do Dooni Chaar (which won a National award) and Besharam (also with son Ranbir Kapoor as their adopted son!) as full-fledged leads and the hits Love Aaj Kal and Jab Tak Hai Jaan in a cameo and an extended special appearance respectively. To complete the record, they were cast in a cameo song in Pati Patni Aur Woh in 1978.

Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bachchan (nee Bhaduri)

The third real life-turned-reel life pair began with flops (Ek Nazar and Bansi Birju) but soon scored high. Jaya signed Zanjeer as a top star opposite the then flop- Amitabh, which proved his breakthrough in 1972. Followed their acclaimed joint home production, Abhimaan, and then within two years, a hat-trick of Chupke Chupke, Mili and Sholay. Silsila does have a shelf-life after an initial flop run, but they also had a mega-hit in the ensemble Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… in 2001 as a couple with grown-up sons.

For the record, Amitabh was cast in a cameo as himself in Jaya’s debut film, Guddi, in which they shared no frame. Jaya, in turn, was credited with the ‘Story Idea’ of her husband’s film, Shahenshah and was a narrator in their home production, Paa. They have been last seen in Ki & Ka as themselves in cameos.

Amitabh Bachchan-Rekha

And while Amitabh also had a great score of hits with Hema Malini, Raakhee, Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman, his association with Rekha was the best-known, also due to an alleged ‘relationship’ between them. Professionally, they were at their best in Do Anjaane (as the squabbling and later estranged couple), Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Silsila (also with Jaya) and Mr. Natwarlal, but they also scored hits with Suhaag, Khoon Pasina and Ganga Ki Saugandh and also made for a spicy combo in Ram Balram, which did not do too well.

For the trivia hunters again, they both had separate cameos in Golmaal (1979) and Om Shanti Om and Rekha made a one-scene appearance in the Bachchan home production, Shamitabh.

Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit

A close runner-up was Sridevi, but it was the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit team that made box-office history as well as big-time headlines for their unbeatable magic. Here was a pair that was never linked in real life, but looked so good together. Add major hits and many a great song, and we saw this team, which had an insignificant beginning with Hifazat in 1987, go on to score mega-grossers in Tezaab (1988), Ram Lakhan (1989), Kishan Kanhaiya (1990)  and Beta (1992). They did have some flops but demonstrated the same dimension of passion in Khel (1992) and, as of now, their last film, Total Dhamaal (2019), showed that their ageless chemistry had not dimmed a full 31 years later.

The chemistry begins—Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in their first film, Baazigar. Photo: Publicity Photo

Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol

This is one team that will go down as legendary, purely on the strength of their powerful synergy that permeates the globe today! Individually powerhouse actors, they can be lifesavers even now for filmmakers needing a hit badly—provided their talents and joint rapport are harnessed by a proper script that matches their calibers. Their record is impeccable—Baazigar (1993), Karan Arjun and the whopper Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) and Kabhi Khuishi Kabhie Gham… (2001). Even My Name Is Khan (2010) did well overseas if not in India, and so did Dilwale (2015).



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