Love Per Square Foot, Dhadak, October could give romance genre much-needed shot in the arm
Romance used to be the go-to genre in Hindi cinema for years. But in the era of instant gratification, filmmakers need new ways to bring back the old world love.
There was once a time in Hindi cinema when a superstar became known for his ability to romance. Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan lead the brigade of heartthrob screen legends whose legacies boast of classic romantic roles. Love stories predominated successful Hindi films.
Yet, if you look back at the last few years gone by, you will be hard pressed to think of a classic Bollywood romance.
This year, a supersized version of sacrifice for love worked well for Padmaavat. Otherwise, most love stories or romantic films have bitten the dust in the past couple of years. Befikre,Aditya Chopra’s frothy love story, failed to woo audiences despite decent performances. The poorly executed Raabta fell face down as did Rangoon, a weak story that tested your patience. Half Girlfriend, despite being adapted from a Chetan Bhagat book, was a weak film rejected by audiences. Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma did not make impact in the boring, heavily promoted Jab Harry Met Sejal. Stars are no longer a safe bet to sell a love story that has not been made well. OK Jaanu, a remake of the Tamil super hit O Kadhal Kanmani, sank. Even the feel-good Qarib Qarib Singlle did not do business.
Instead, love stories with a twist found an audience. Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, a jerky ride, worked thanks to stunning visual imagery and an eventful script. One cannot help think that the film could have been better. Bareilly Ki Barfi by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari worked well in a well-executed localised context and humor. As did Badrinath Ki Dulhania, a romance that bats for social issues in a filmi manner.
Love Per Square Foot, the first Hindi film to release on Netflix, breaks through this plateau phase. This urbane, mint fresh love story is completely credible. One connects the film because of its resonance with lives of many young middle class people in Mumbai. Thematically influenced by Gharonda, the 1977 classic starring Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab, this film by Anand Tiwari constructs itself on the struggle for owning a home in maximum city. Irrespective of what one gets in terms of quality, getting a roof over your head in this city has over taken lifetimes of countless people.
In its 21st century, pragmatic yet lovable manner, Love Per Square Foot brings you a relevant romantic movie. By releasing it on Netflix and saving audiences the expensive multiplex ticket, this small film has gained a much better chance at being watched. With fine performances by its lead pair Vicky Kaushal and Angira Dhar, and a strong supporting cast with Raghuvir Yadav, Supriya Pathak Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah and Kunal Roy Kapoor, Love Per Square Foot romances Mumbai with its flaws and finer nuances.
While watching the movie, I did wonder as to why has the classic love story fallen off the radar of Bollywood. That romance and love have taken on an FMCG avatar could be a factor that leaves storytellers somewhat muddled. As studies on social media and youth preferences reflect, youth seeks companionship and gratification while commitment can take a backseat. Love blooms on Tinder, Facebook and WhatsApp. Love gets de prioritised sometimes to pragmatic demands of building careers. There’ is also a lot of expectations from one’s partner. Therefore, the classic tenet of love as cinema has shown is under a shadow of doubt.
In Hollywood and the West too, love stories and romantic comedies have become less frequent. The good ones do find an audience, either on the big screen or on streaming platforms. The Big Sick, a romantic drama, looks at contemporary immigration related issues in the USA. Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, about a real life romance in the 70s, won critical acclaim but failed at the box office. On Netflix, Our Souls at Night by Ritesh Batra has caught the audience’s fancy, as has Home, Again. Both look at aspects of mature romances. That they draw upon the nostalgia of poignant romantic films from the past works to their advantage. As this year’s Oscars and awards line up reflects, a classic love story has massive appeal. Both The Shape of Water and Call Me By Your Name, are built on the premise of all consuming love. They are interpreted in contexts that are refreshing and consciously different from conventional relationship sagas.
Here in India, a good romance can still connect with people. Some of Chetan Bhagat and Durjoy Dutta’s novels are about local, believable love stories. Mani Ratnam, whose interpretation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew in films like Mouna Raagam and Roja set him apart, continues to deliver his take on contemporary love successfully. Both O Kadhal Kanmani and Kaatru Veliyidai have worked with audiences.
Clearly, romance is not dead. It is a question of presenting a love story that will connect with the current 18 to 35. 2018 will bring Dhadhak, which launches Ishaan Khatter and Jhanvi Kapoor. Young, new actors often fit right in with a romantic drama. And then there is October, starring Varun Dhawan with newcomer Banita Sandhu, a love story that has teased alluringly, revealing little about its story. Romance has grown and evolved cinematically too.
As romance and love undergo a 21st century transformation in life, and as ways to watch films also evolve with streaming platforms catching up in urban India, love on cinema should find more takers. With a whole lot of new actors entering the acting business in the next two years in highly visible debut projects, love in its many versions might soon return to Hindi cinema in a significant manner.
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