Sui Dhaaga, Manmarziyan, Laila Majnu, Loveratri: Regional romances return to Bollywood after years
It is the season for love to blossom in Hindi cinema, particularly when set in a specific context. Films that are set in a region, culture or social background bring credibility and authenticity to the romance genre. Yash Raj Films’ forthcoming film, Sui Dhaaga: Made in India, makes for an ideal case in point.
Mauji and Mamta belong to the lower middle class of skilled labour in India. Set in Ghaziabad, a satellite city caught between the bustling New Delhi and the unplanned, cluttered urbanisation of its surrounding semi-rural areas, Mauji and Mamta’s aim to find their self worth and respect through their craft is heartwarming. Desi and believable in its simplicity, director Sharat Katariya’s Sui Dhaaga: Made in India rests upon this married couple and their daring to aim for a better paying, more satisfying life. Set against the theme of Make in India, the film is about love that evolves with enterprise.
The film industry has built itself upon the boy-meets-girl-and-both-fall-in-love stories since its inception. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Maine Pyar Kiya, love stories that became monster hits and modern classics, did not take the trouble of building context significantly. Audiences accepted them for their fresh appeal. With viewership appetites built on international shows and films thanks to Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime Video, audiences demand a better, more believable story today. Reality has become an essential part of cinema with the what, where and when of a story being key. Drawing characters from the non-metropolis, smaller and less visible India plays a crucial role in shaping a relevant romance today.
Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan has adapted Bollywood’s favorite culture, Punjab, to a credible and contemporary romance. It is evident from the trailer that a romantic relationship continues in this story after marriage. Taapsee Pannu and her lover, Vicky Kaushal, choose to meet after she has married another man (Abhishek Bachchan). Kashyap's leading lady, Taapsee, is self-willed and decisive when it comes to making a rational choice for marriage. In the past, Kashyap has done a fine job of adopting the Bengali classic novella, Devdas as Dev D. In that one, the spoiled protagonist seeks lust beyond love, and both his women are free-spirited and impulsive. Manmarziyan seems imbued with a similar spirit of risky emotional reactions. That his Punjabi love story is not about group dancing, singing and hailing family values, and focuses on more realistic, natural behavior of people itself makes Manmarziyan interesting. Punjab is captured in its lush green beauty without forceful over-lighting and over-embroidered beautification.
Laila Majnu is a romantic drama with two established names backing it. Imtiaz Ali is a signature romantic filmmaker of this generation, although his stories tend to be repetitive. Ekta Kapoor is a producer with a cutting edge sensibility to films, a departure from regressive and melodramatic TV that she makes. When it comes to films, Ekta displays an appetite for experimentation. Imtiaz has written this story about two young people, imperfect and comfortable in their skin, falling in love in the volatile backdrop of a Kashmir torn by political strife and sectarian violence. Laila Majnu does not count on the stunning good looks of its lead pair. Instead, their love story appears to be doomed given that their families stand against each other. Feuding families have been in vogue, in romances since William Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet. But feuding families that are opposed to each other in business or industry would probably strike a compromise deal and let a couple marry. In a city, shedding blood is not really an option. Move this outcome to Kashmir’s simmering everyday reality and Laila Majnu feels like a love story that can just take place.
A region's culture and reported incidents make Dhadhak convincing, despite flaws. The film is set in Jodhpur where caste-based differences lead to honour killings. Elders and Panchayats forbid love. Critics have not unanimously liked the film. But audiences flocked to it. The shocking climax draws from news stories that pop up frequently and make your gut turn. When this reality is adapted to a young romance, the film holds emotional appeal.
Not quite as anticipated but also surprisingly fresh, is the trailer of Loveratri. Set in Vadodora during the peak of the Garba season, this film has picked a unique celebratory moment in this city’s annual calendar. Garba nights mark the time for dating and spotting potential boyfriends and girlfriends in Vadodara, a university town with limited entertainment and leisure options for young people. Colourful, carefree and often the meeting ground for future life partners in this Gujarati city, Garba nights bring an annual high point. Loveratri has tapped into that, appealing to Gujarati people with a solid cultural connect.
Adding cultural and linguistic aspects to Hindi film love stories have worked well in the past. K Balachandran’s 1981 classic Ek Duje Ke Liye finds its emotional connect with the audience because both its protagonists fall in love despite not being able to understand each other. Their language barrier does not prevent them from falling in love. There is a mad, doomed charm to their desperate love. Similarly, Bobby (1973) by Raj Kapoor uses a poignant reality of class-driven metropolises in India. The son of a rich Hindu businessman seeks to thank his poor Christian governess of childhood and falls for her grand daughter. At a time when differences in wealth made India a deeply class-driven society, Bobby touched a chord.
Love stories will always be in vogue, in books, movies and music. But a regular love story feels bland while thrillers and dramas make up for more engaging films. Giving love stories a region, a culture or even a dialect, gives them character and authenticity. This might just be the right method to successfully bring back classic romances on screen.
All images from YouTube.
Updated Date: Aug 19, 2018 09:05 AM