Before "Dil Chahta Hai" happened in 2001, romance and action thrillers were ruling the roost in Bollywood. But the film about three urban youngsters not only proved to be a huge hit, it also brought the theme of friendship back in vogue.

"New York" is the latest film successfully exploring bonding among friends. It comes after last year's three big hits - "Dostana", "Rock On!" and "Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na" - which also revolved around changing equations among pals.

Filmmaker Kabir Khan, who gave this year's first big hit "New York", said:

"Friendship is an interesting human bond and this as a theme lends scope to have many interesting situations and stories. It is a very interesting relationship to explore.

"When you have the theme of marriage, then you might get stuck somewhere but with the subject of friends, the opportunities are immense and many interesting stories and angles can be given to the film," he told IANS.

"However, what is of prime importance is that the film is made well. If the film is not made well then no theme can work, whether friendship or something else," he added.

Starring John Abraham, Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh, "New York" narrated the story of three friends.

But Bollywood has experimented with the theme earlier in melodramatic movies like "Dosti" (1964), a sentimental drama on the friendship between two people - one blind and the other crippled - and "Sangam" (1964), where two friends - Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar - fall in love with the same girl (Vyjayanthimala).

Action-oriented films like "Sholay", "Dostana" and "Yaarana" too had friendship as an integral part of the storyline.

It was young filmmaker Farhan Akhtar who gave male-bonding a new definition with his superhit "Dil Chahta Hai", which starred Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan. Their performances as chilled out urban youth struck the right chord with the multiplex audience.

In 2007, Govinda- and Salman Khan-starrer "Partner", a light-hearted romantic comedy, went on to be a huge box office success.

In the recent past, filmmakers have explored the bond successfully in blockbusters like "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Jhankaar Beats", "Masti", "Mirch Masala", "Rang De Basanti" and "Heyy Baby". These films were light-hearted and thoroughly entertained the viewers.

Mumbai-based film historian S.M.M. Ausaja feels people identify with such films and that's why they work at the box office.

"Over the years, films on friendship have done quite well, with films like 'Dosti', 'Yaarana' and of course 'Sholay' being landmarks in this genre. The main reason for their success is that people identify with such subjects. When such themes are explored in movies, they mostly make a mark," he explained.

Film critic Omar Qureshi agreed: "Films with which people can identify always work. Everyone can connect with films that revolve around friendships because everyone has a friend. There is no one who doesn't have a single friend.

"When the audience can relate to the situations in the film, they get interested in the story. Thus, friendship films have been hits mostly."

Geetika Joshi, a 19-year-old college student, feels films like "Jaane Tu..." or "Rang De Basanti" have more appeal because of the friendship angle rather than out-and-out love stories.

"I like films based on friends more. After all friends are such an integral part of our lives today. I go and watch such films with my pals and have a ball. These are light-hearted and have a fun element," she said.

"Films on friends are young, hip and very us, they represent our generation.

I love such films,"

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