Ever since Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan released, social media has been abuzz with debates over portrayal of adultery or extra-marital in the film, that many thought was ‘glamourized’. Some viewers are of the opinion that it’s a new trend that Bollywood recently caught up with. 

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But for as long back as cinema goes, adultery has been a theme explored in innumerable distinctive ways.


However, over the years, our films took a regressive turn rather than progressing with a realistic lens towards the subject. Infidelity got a comical veil in films like Pati, Patni Aur Woh, Masti, Thank You, and No Entry. 


So we dug out a few films, that released decades ago, but treated the subject with maturity and sensitivity that it needs. 

1. Silsila

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, the film primarily centers around adultery and complexities of relationships. The subject was treated with thorough maturity and the storyline was backed by astounding performances. A controversial film back then, has now aged into a classic. 


 2. Ijaazat

Gulzar’s Ijaazat, adapted from Subodh Ghosh’s Bengali short story Jatugriha, unfolds through flashbacks tracing what could have gone wrong in the protagonists’ marriage. A complex love triangle, at the core, is tackled with utmost warmth and compassion. Besides that, the film has one of the most beautiful breakup songs ever to be made- Mera Kuch Saamaan. 

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3. Arth 

Arth is one of the cinematic attempts made by director Mahesh Bhatt at chronicling his own extramarital relationship with actor Parveen Babi. The film could be semi-autobiographical on the the surface, but the film stands out for its layered characters portrayed by powerhouse performers such as Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi.  


4. Astitva 

Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, the film explores the patriarchal norm that pardons a man for infidelity but punishes the woman. Starring Tabu as the lead, more than extra-marital affair, the film is about a woman’s own identity. Astitva is a film that was way ahead of its time. 


5. Libaas 

The adultery-themed film revolves around theater director Sudhir (Shah) and his actor wife Seema (Azmi). From far away, the couple’s life appears to be perfect. Their marriage goes through turmoil when another man enters the picture. The 1988 film, based on Gulzar’s own short story Seema, didn’t hit the theaters due to a disagreement between the makers. Later, in 2017, the release of the film was announced.  


6. Masoom  

Shekhar Kapur’s directorial debut Masoom, a brilliantly executed film, is a timeless classic of Hindi cinema. Starring Naseeruddin Shah & Shabana Azmi, the film was adapted from American writer Erich Segal’s novel Man, Woman and Child. The story revolves around a family and their rather normal life which gets disrupted by the patriarch’s discovery of an illegitimate child from an old extramarital affair. 


7. Fire

Deepa Mehta’s Fire, often counted among the most controversial films, delves into a subject which few films dealt with at the time, even films that dared to take a look at social issues. Usually cited as the first Indian film to explore queer romance, Fire challenged many aspects at one time- conservative society, patriarchal norms, and under-representation of homosexual love stories. 

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8. Griha Pravesh

Much like some of Basu Bhattacharya’s other films, Griha Pravesh also dealt with marital discord. Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, and Sarika, the film explores the marital world of an urban couple as they strain to build a home for themselves.


9. Aakhir Kyon?

The 1985 film, similar to Astitva, is a poignant story of a woman’s search for her own identity, apart from being someone’s wife. The protagonist, Nisha, after discovering that her husband is cheating on her, leaves her house. The separation gives her a new lease of life and an opportunity to carve an identity of her own.


In contemporary cinema, the approach has changed with a handful of films such as Bombay Talkies, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, and The Lunchbox, showcasing the subject with more thoughtfulness. However, these films are proof that infidelity is neither a ‘modern’ problem, nor is there one set way to deal with it.