Bollywood movies

From ‘Silsila’ to ‘Masoom’, the retro Bollywood movies that explored infidelity before ‘Gehraiyaan’

From Shakun Batra Gehraiyaan released, social media was abuzz with debates over the film’s portrayal of adultery or extramarital affairs, which many thought was “glamorized.” Some viewers are of the opinion that this is a new trend that Bollywood has recently caught up to.

Source: Amazon Prime Video

But for as long as cinema goes, adultery has been a theme explored in countless distinct ways.

Dev Anand
Source: DailyO

However, over the years our films have taken a regressive turn rather than progressing with a realistic lens to the subject matter. Infidelity has a comedic veil in movies like Pati, Patni Aur Woh, Masti, thank youand Prohibited entry.

infidelity in the cinema
Source: Reuters

We have therefore found a few films, released decades ago, but treating the subject with the maturity and sensitivity it needs.

1. Silsila

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, the film mainly focuses on adultery and the complexities of relationships. The subject matter was handled with great maturity and the script was backed up with stunning performances. A controversial film at the time, has now become a classic.

Amitabh Bachchan
Source: Rediff

2. Ijaazat

by Gülzar Ijaazatadapted from the short story in Bengali by Subodh Ghosh Jatugriha, unfolds through flashbacks retracing what could have gone wrong in the marriage of the protagonists. A complex love triangle, at heart, is approached with the utmost warmth and compassion. On top of that, the movie has one of the finest breakup songs ever made- Mera Kuch Saaman.

Source: Conversations on the cellar


Arthur is one of director Mahesh Bhatt’s cinematic attempts to chronicle his own extramarital affair with actor Parveen Babi. The film might be semi-autobiographical at first glance, but the film stands out for its layered characters played by powerful performers such as Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi.

Shabana Azmi
Source: Youtube

4. Astiva

Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, the film explores the patriarchal norm that forgives a man for his infidelity but punishes the woman. With Tabu in the lead role, more than an extra-marital affair, the film is about a woman’s own identity. Astiva is a film ahead of its time.

Source: Youtube

5. Libas

The adultery-themed film revolves around theater director Sudhir (Shah) and his actress wife Seema (Azmi). From a distance, the couple’s life seems perfect. Their marriage is turned upside down when another man enters the scene. The 1988 film, based on the short story by Gulzar Sema, was not released theatrically due to a disagreement between the creators. Later, in 2017, the release of the film was announcement.

Shabana Azmi
Source: Twitter

6. Masum

Shekhar Kapur’s directorial debut Masum, a brilliantly executed film, is a timeless classic of Hindi cinema. Starring Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, the film was adapted from the novel by American writer Erich Segal Man, woman and child. The story revolves around a family and their rather normal life that is turned upside down by the patriarch’s discovery of an illegitimate child from a former extramarital affair.

Shabana Azmi
Source: Twitter

7. Fire

By Deepa Mehta Fire, often counted among the most controversial films, tackles a subject that few films addressed at the time, even films that dared to address social issues. Usually cited as the first Indian film to explore queer romance, Fire challenged many aspects at once – conservative society, patriarchal norms and the under-representation of same-sex love affairs.

Shabana Azmi
Source: The Indian Express

8. Griha Pravesh

Just 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 struggle to build themselves a home.

Sanjeev Kumar
Source: IMDb

9. Aakhir Kyon?

The 1985 film, similar to Astiva, is a poignant story of a woman’s search for her own identity, in addition to 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 the opportunity to forge her own identity.

Smita Patil

In contemporary cinema, the approach has changed with a handful of films like Bombay Talkies, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, and lunch box, presenting the subject with more thought. However, these films are proof that infidelity is not a “modern” problem, nor is there just one way to deal with it.