This is one of those recent movies that was recommended in a sort of “well, it’s kind of interesting, you might as well” sort of way. Instead of the “You MUST watch this movie!!!” kind of way. And that was basically my reaction too, it’s okay, it was enjoyable, but it didn’t blow my mind.
There were some really cool visuals, the whole idea of his quest for the girl being like a video game and some of the cuts and edits were nice. And there were some nice clever touches to the script as well, having it start with him becoming famous for a jealous comment on Facebook and that coming back around hours later with some kids wanting to take a selfie with him because of it. Or, at the same event, having his older brother randomly show up, also played by Dulquer (yes? right?), be there just long enough to be a jerk to him, and then never be mentioned again until a end credits stinger. All of that was nice. But the essential plot was pretty basic, really. Guy meets girl, guy chases down girl, guy and girl meet, girl is engaged, guy wins girl over and she breaks the engagement at the last minute.
In a weird way, all of the little clever touches served to make the whole formula feel a little insincere. It’s supposed to be a love story, but I was never really worried about the characters or caught up in their romance. And I know these two actors have the ability to get me caught up with them! This is my third Dulquer-Nithya Menen movie, after OK Kanmani and Ustadh Hotel. OK Kanmani had a great script and great direction supporting them, but in Ustadh their whole relationship was barely there. And yet I felt more real emotion and was more concerned about the outcome of that sub sub sub plot than I was with their romance as the whole focus of 100 Days.
(Required link every time OK Kanmani is mentioned)
It’s a hard balance, to include the cool and clever touches to the visuals, but still make the audience feel like it is a “real” story, like they should actually care about the outcome. The most famous American example, 100 Days of Summer (which 100 Days of Love is definitely related to), never really worked for me either, for the same reason. Yes, it was cool and clever to watch, but it was ultimately a kind of shallow story. Although, I think with 100 Days of Summer, that was the point. The artificial fantastical elements to the filming were to reflect the artificial way that our hero was connecting to his girlfriend, the fantasy he was creating around them. There was a similar concept with the other related American film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. That Scott needed to mature and the visual of video game levels was to show his growing maturity, as it was still defined by his immature interest in gaming.
But 100 Days of Love never has that moment when our hero decides he has been viewing the world in an immature or shallow way. It’s all clever little visuals supporting a story that feels kind of uninterested in the romance which is supposed to be the main point. The most interesting interactions between our hero and heroine actually take place before the love story kicks into high gear. If they hadn’t felt so wedded to the quest-obstacle-winning her over formula, there is an interesting story in there about a guy meeting up with his childhood nemesis, her helping him at his ex’s wedding, him helping her with her parent’s wedding anniversary present, and them falling in love without meaning to, with the twist that her parents are all for a love marriage and she is the one who thinks arranged is best.
That is actually the movie we get for about 40 minutes in the middle, after they finally meet up. But before that we have an hour of the usual roaming the city hunting for the girl, and suddenly at the end of the friendship part we have All Kinds of Drama! Complete with him getting drunk and sneaking into her bedroom to confess his love, and her rushing out to tell him she is engaged only to see that he has already disappeared from her life.
It just feels like 3 different movies awkwardly shoved together. There is the quest film part with his friend and all the video game comparisons. And then there is the nice friendship film that isn’t nearly long enough. And then there is the big romantic drama that doesn’t feel earned at all.
But I can’t write it off completely, because there were some parts that were really good! Dulquer and Nithya do have a really relaxed and comfortable kind of chemistry. And the whole macguffin with needed to collect matching photos of her parents romance around Bangalore is sweet. And their big romantic “almost admitting their feelings” evening ending with food poisoning is awesome! Although, probably, that small touch, now that I think about it, revealed the director’s actual opinion of the whole romance plot.
Let’s see, what else? Oh! The filmi references! Which was the main reason I wanted to watch the movie in the first place! Most of them went totally over my head. I’m guessing the hero was named after a Prem Chopra equivalent actor in Malayalam films? And of course I recognized the meaning of his rival being named Rahul. That’s clever. Although felt a little similar to the Raj-Simran naming trick from I Hate Luv Storys. And I don’t know if I would have gotten this if a friend hadn’t pointed it out, but her parents falling in love in a chemistry lab was probably a Classmates reference. I liked them not just because film references are my favorite thing, but because it felt like the director/writer was actually having fun with that part of the film. I mean, he had the hero dressed up like Heath Ledger’s Joker just so he could have a little fun with the rote “You can’t marry him! You love me!” scene.
(I hate myself for loving this)
Oh, and then the next morning after that scene is one of my favorite parts! When her parents greet him with coffee and smiles while she stands in the corner rolling her eyes. This answers a question I always have, both with Indian films and romance novels. If heroes and heroines have been falling love and marrying for love in hundreds of films/novels for decades and decades, why do they never turn into parents who believe in love? The other recent film I can remember that actually dealt with this quandary was Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania. Which makes it clear that Alia’s parents had a love marriage, but have reverted to being anti-love after her sister’s elopement. By the way, romance novels have also clued into this and have started elaborate multi-generational stories where the child or sibling of the lovers from the first book ends up struggling to find her own love that can live up to her parents/siblings. Like Nithya’s character here! And that all seems both kind of clever and true to character. Yes, a confident only child would decide that it is better to make her own decisions and find a nice boy who is a good match without waiting for love. Even if she respects her parents’ love story, it doesn’t mean she wants or expects that for herself.
(the whole multi-generational story from arranged to love back to arranged all in one catchy song!)
Our hero though, much harder to get ahold of! Even though we spend a lot more time with him. Or maybe because we spend a lot more time with him? Long enough that the director starts throwing in things that don’t really fit just to stretch out the time. I find everything consistent up to the super romantic last part. He is a little impulsive, a little too ruled by his emotions, the kind of guy who would post something angry on the facebook wall of an ex-girlfriend or quit his job in a rage after he feels his boss has insulted his work or decide he is in love after seeing a girl for a second, then decide he doesn’t love her after he finds out she is his childhood nemesis. That all works. But I actually thought the end of the movie was going to be him taking the train out of town and falling in love again. I never felt like there was that big moment that showed he had worked through all his impulsiveness and fantasies and was actually serious this time. Maybe that he did a lot of work and surprised her with the photos? But even that, he was super late and drunk and almost forgot about it.
The scene that I think maybe was supposed to be his big character turning point was after the anniversary party when he admits to Nithya that it is his birthday and, now that Ummar has left town, no one remembers. Only, that doesn’t fit his established character at all! Yes, we had the little hint that he was kind of a screw-up in school, that his big brother is always more successful and beloved, and we never really saw any friends besides Ummar. But it never felt like he was unloveable! Or like all his behavior was coming out of low self-esteem or anything. If anything, it was the opposite, he was always rushing in without looking, thinking things would work out. Maybe if the scene had felt more like it was saying this kind of behavior, the getting drunk and posting something he shouldn’t have on Facebook, yelling at his boss, needling his work rival, and so on, was WHY he was alone, and he was just now realizing it, maybe that would have worked. But it didn’t quite go that way, so it felt very out of character and didn’t really feel like it resolved any of his issues/the issues with their relationship.
Unlike Nithya who, again, had a very well-defined arch. She was practical and happy and independent, planning her marriage to an appropriate and reliable guy. She bumped into this guy from childhood and liked him right away, and started hanging out with him. She got engaged to her boyfriend and had moments of vague doubt because of the other guy, but not enough to really question her choices. Especially after the other guy got drunk and embarrassing in his protestation of love, and her parents were all wink-wink nudge-nudge about it the next day. And then at her parents’ anniversary party, he gives her the perfect gift, which shows how much he understands her, how much he worked to make her happy, and reminds her how much her parents love each other and how happy they are. And then she tracks him down, hears a deep and emotional speech about how lonely he is, and it makes her break her engagement. All of this works! It turns into a strong female character, because the heroine is in so little of it. She isn’t around long enough to have her character stop making sense, and ends up being more memorable than the hero who is onscreen 90% of the time.
(Also, she’s really short. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, it just strikes me everytime I see her in a movie.)