In Shiddat, a routine song sequence between the romantic leads gains an edge from lyrics that advocate self-destruction. Barbaadiyan, written by Priya Saraiya, foreshadows the literal ruin towards which the young hero is determined to rush.

Barbaadiyan, Shiddat (2021).

The blurring of the line between love and death is a recurring feature in the Hindi film love song. After all, is it true passion if you survive the experience? Two recent examples include Aabad Barbaad (Ludo, 2020) and Jaan Nisaar (Kedarnath, 2018).

Jaan Nisaar, Kedarnath (2018).

Some songs bemoan this damaging state of love-via-death, such as Hum Ishq Mein Barbaad Hai, Barbaad Rahenge (Aankhen, 1950) and Hue Hum Jinke Liye Barbaad (Deedar, 1951). More recent tunes glorify the idea of annihilation via ardour.

Take the peppy title track of Love Love Love, the second pairing of Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla after the tragic romance Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988).

In a hat-tip to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, lyricist Anjaan writes, “Jeena hai pyaar mein jeena, marna hai pyaar mein marna / Marne se darne wale pyaar kya karein?” (Live and die in love / Why love if you are afraid to die?). It’s “love, love, love” only when “faansi pe chadh jaunga” (die by hanging) or “dil par goli khaunga” (take a bullet in the chest).

Jeena Hai Pyaar Mein, Love Love Love (1989).

Is there any better word than “qayamat”, meaning the end of days, to express heartbreak? Exhibit A: Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi (Mr X in Bombay, 1964), written by Anand Bakshi.

More than three decades after putting “qayamat” to brilliant use, Bakshi deploys “barbaadiyaan” (ruin) in the sultry Mushkil Bada Yeh Pyaar Hai (Gupt, 1997). “Barbaadiyan” is the final destination after other possibilities (“oonchaiyaan” or peaks, and “gehraiyaan” or depths) have been exhausted.

Mushkil Bada Yeh Pyaar Hai, Gupt, 1997.

If “qayamat” is a mouthful, perhaps “fanaa” says it better? The Urdu word for the obliteration of the self suits the sentiment expressed in Sau Baar Janam Lenge, Sau Baar Fanaa Honge (Ustaadon Ke Ustaad, 1963). Lyricist Asad Bhopali writes, “I will be born a hundred times, I will be extinguished a hundred times”.

In 2006, the emotional state inspired a movie about deadly love – the Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer Fanaa and its soundtrack’s best tune.

Mere Haath Mein, Fanaa (1006).

Mehboob’s lyrics for AR Rahman’s club track Fanaa in Yuva (2004) isn’t as much worried about annihilation as the idea of union after disintegration.

A reminder that you can’t get too serious about heartache is in Fanaa (Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, 2006), in which lyricist Sameer places “fun” before “fanaa”.

Fanaa, Humko Deewana Kar Gaye (2006).

Lethal love is clearly a state to aspire to. The instances include the duets Jogi Tere Pyaar Mein Lut Jayegi Mar Jayegi (Suryavanshi, 1992), Maari Gayi Pyaar Mein (Jaanam, 1993), Tere Pyaar Mein Main Marjawan (Hogi Pyaar Ki Jeet, 1999).

These morbid thoughts have their roots in star-crossed romances such as Laila Majnu (1976), Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), Sohni Mahiwal (1984) and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988).

The series of films based on the novel Devdas featured depressed heroes caught in the twilight zone between life and death. In the 1955 version starring Dilip Kumar, Devdas laments that it’s “jeena bhi mushkil hoga aur marne bhi na payenge” (it is hard to live but impossible to die). The lyrics are by Sahir Ludhianvi.

The 21st-century version in Dev.D, just as powerless but far more crude, asks his beloved Paro to kill him. Amitabh Bhattacharya writes, “Bol bol why did you ditch me, zindagi bhi le le yaar kill me…. whore.”

Emotional Atyachar, Dev D (2009).

The declaration (or threat?) of dying for love is nearly always either masculine or the dominating sentiment in a duet. In Javed Akhtar’s lyrics for Kehdo Ke Tum from Tezaab (1988), the hero brings up death at every turn while the heroine shushes him: “dekho kabhi na aisa karna” (Never do this, please).

His response: “yehi adaa to ek sitam hai” (Just this way of yours is irresistible).

Kehdo Ke Tum Meri Ho Warna, Tezaab (1988).

Perhaps few contemporary heroes have embodied the feverish intensity of onscreen romance as Shah Rukh Khan. His earliest expressions of romance in the 1990s films Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam were coloured by death and destruction. The apogee of the love-as-death idea is in a film about love that leads to death – starring, of course, Shah Rukh Khan.

In Dil Se (1998), Satrangi Re builds up the intense romance line by line, paragraph by paragraph, until it explodes. Gulzar writes in the coda: “Mujhe maut ki godh mein sone de / tere rooh mein jism dabone de” (Let me sleep in the lap of death / Let my body drown in your soul). Khan’s character gets down on his knees and whirls like a dervish, his signature wide-open arms seemingly controlled by a higher power.

Satrangi Re, Dil Se (1998).

The cloak of anguish was worn by other suffering souls in movies in the 2000s – Ya Ali from Gangster, 2006; Mar Jawan from Fashion, 2008). Agony was expressed with a wink and a smile too, such as in Mar Jaawan Mit Jaawan (Aashiq Banaya Aapne, 2005) or Marjaani (Billu, 2009).

Sometimes, the obsession with death can be strangely energising. In the title track of Ishaqzaade (2012), Kausar Munir beautifully writes, “Khaak se khwaabon ko bunn / raakh se bhi khushiyan chun le” (Weave dreams out of ashes / Find happiness from ruins).

The song celebrates high-octane romance, as does the zany Aa Khushi Se Khudkhushi Kar Le (Darling, 2007), in which Sameer outdoes himself with the hookline.

Aa Khushi Se Khudkhushi Kar Le, Darling, 2007.