Once Again, Badhaai Ho, Yours Truly, Lust Stories: 2018 has been the year of mature romances
Kanwal Sethi’s Once Again is hitting theatres across the country today on 8 December. The Shefali Shah-Neeraj Kabi film tops off a short but refreshing list of films this year that revolved around romance between two older people.
In Bollywood, it is a belief as old as celluloid itself that only the young can and should fall in love. As characters get older, the need for love and romance is replaced with societal responsibilities and pressures. Earlier this year, we saw a 40-something Reena (played by Manisha Koirala) cavorting on the beach with a man, who is not her husband, in Dibakar Banerjee’s short in Lust Stories; and, Gajraj Rao reciting poetry to a giggly Neena Gupta on a stormy night in Badhaai Ho.
While Hollywood has had mega hits like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Something’s Gotta Give, It's Complicated and Mamma Mia, autumnal romances are not very common in Bollywood. Given the $3Bn dating industry in the US has double digit percentages coming in from people above the age of 50, one could argue that it is a reflection of society. But is finding love “again” really such an alien concept in the India of today?
In Once Again, Shefali plays Tara, a widowed restaurant owner and a mother of two who begins to develop a relationship with an aging actor. The film ticks many of the boxes that you would expect from a mature love story. The overtures are restrained, the chemistry builds up ever so slowly, and there is lots for those who like peeling away layers and digging a little deeper into the language of long silences. This is not your typical Bollywood romance film.
What the film inadvertently does, however, is question our collective conditioning as an audience. Despite the chemistry Tara knows she has with this man, she spends a lot of time trying to discourage the relationship, because her kids come first. And that speaks volumes about the shackles that Indian society places on single, older people. Because for most of us, “people that age aren’t supposed to be falling in love.”
Forget falling in love, it is a known fact that, as a society, we are not comfortable with PDA and it is frowned upon even more when the couple in question is middle aged or older. Many of us will have a childhood memory of the family oldies at a wedding getting up to do a little jig to 'Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen.' And while the uncles boogied around their wives, you would see all the kids sniggering. That image singularly sums up so much that is unsaid in a repressed society that screams, “It’s our culture” whenever its flaws are exposed. Being ageist about romance is just one of those things. 'Mummy-daddy affection' is for those westerners after all. Is it any wonder then that we have rarely seen two characters in the second or third act of their lives find love in Hindi films.
If Badhaai Ho was about looking at one’s parents in a new light, how about a tale of the spinster-next-door? Sanjoy Nag’s Yours Truly, that premiered at the Busan Film Festival earlier this year, has Soni Razdan playing a woman on the brink of retirement, who realises that the one thing she will miss is a railway announcer’s voice during her daily commute. That she decides to begin the search for her imagined soulmate at age 57, is a story of hope and a lesson for the judgmental auntie that resides in each one of us.
The stories we see on screen reflect the society we live in and general acceptability plays a large role in defining what a filmmaker will decide to go with. That we are seeing films around erstwhile 'embarrassing' topics tells us that mindsets are changing but cannot dispel the fact that it is restricted to certain audiences, who are are more accepting than others. Films like Badhaai Ho look to break such stereotypes and we could do with more of these.
The last big budget attempt in this genre was Baghban, which was more a family drama, but the romance between Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan’s was heartwarming. Now that most of our 50+ superstar heroes have finally deigned to playing 40-year olds on screen, one can only hope that they start romancing ladies their own age and give us more mature love stories.
Updated Date: Dec 08, 2018 13:31 PM