I watched Happy! Because I wanted Bommarillu and I got confused. But this one was still cute. Is it possible there is a whole genre of “Genelia D’Suoza rom-coms”? Just because she has such a young perky face, she ends up in cute young perky love stories?
If there is a “Genelia D’Souza rom-com” genre, this is a respectable entry in it (the soundtrack isn’t anywhere near as good as Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na or Boys, but the plot is pretty nice). She was only 19 during filming, so a good 4-5 years into her career, but still fresh-faced and painfully young. Which lead to a fresh-faced and painfully young kind of romance. But with grown-up stakes.
One of the things I love about Indian movies is their attitude towards young marriages. They don’t pull any punches about how naive and innocent the bride and groom are. And how unprepared they are for life. But there is also an argument that that isn’t an excuse. If you make this commitment, you need to learn how to live up to it, and you will learn how to live up to it.
Okay, that sounded bad. I don’t mean that I want every 18 year old eloper to be forced to be together forever and ever. But in a larger sense, I like the message that 18 year olds can have the right to live their own life and make their own decisions. And can be able to follow through with those decisions, despite their youth.
This movie is one of those that starts out with innocent jokes and tiny stakes. And then those tiny stakes grow and grow into a life and death situation. And at the same time, our hero and heroine grow and grow until by the end they are capable of handling a life and death situation.
But what really stands out to me is how the tiny stakes, as they grow, slowly shift so that the higher stakes are weighted towards supporting Genelia. This is her story, and Allu Arjun is just there it support her dreams and her goals. That is wonderful!
And she isn’t punished for having dreams and goals and being selfish about them. In fact, she is rewarded with support and understanding by basically everyone, including the two young men in her life who sacrifice their own happiness for hers. It’s great!
And, to get into exactly how that happens, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
The opening is, frankly, kind of slow. I may have left the room to do dishes in the middle of it. Genelia is the daughter of a politician, who dreams of being a doctor, but is nervous about her father canceling her studies if he feels they might endanger his status. Allu Arjun is a young flirty boy who is new in town and is trying to go to school and support himself by delivering pizza. They keep bumping into each other in various “fated” ways, like her yelling “I love you” in response to a bird call, only to discover it was really him whistling, or their bracelets interlocking as they brush against each other on a mall escalator.
What is kind of new about this part is that Genelia’s response is not over-whelming anger or embarrassment, but just sort of mild irritation. She’s not lying (laying?) awake nights because she can’t get him out of her mind, she just doesn’t like him when she happens to see him, and doesn’t think about him otherwise. And Allu is the same, he is a flirt, and he will flirt if Genelia gives him an opening, but otherwise he doesn’t think about her.
What is also new is that Genelia has no problem demanding Allu help her when she gets in trouble and he has no problem helping. Her problems are technically his fault (he got confused and put a love note from his friend to her friend in her book instead of the friends), but it’s not like they are his fault because of something he did on purpose, it was just an accident. But she still feels brave enough to insist on his help, and he is nice enough to give it.
In a way it reminded me of Humpty Sharma. When Alia asks for Varun’s help because he is “safe”. In that movie, it wasn’t just that he was “safe”, he was also in love with her. But you know, now that I think about his character, Varun probably would have helped her anyway. Because he really was “safe”, just like Allu is here. He will listen to Genelia and understand her concerns and problems and treat them seriously, and help her because it is just plain the decent thing to do. And, importantly, he will help her in a way only a man can, but will respect her wishes in the way only a young man can. This is the reason we keep having these young love stories in Indian film. It’s to contrast the support and respect that young men give young women versus the controlling way they are treated by their families.
(It’s also why we have old legends like “Mirzya-Sahibaan”. Young women have always had to fight for their agency)
Which is Genelia’s problem, her politician father thinks she is getting love notes and so wants to end her schooling and marry her off to a man of his choosing. The first twist that really made me sit up and take notice in this film comes when Allu goes to meet this man of her father’s choosing (Manoj Bajpayee) and he also respects Genelia’s wishes! Because young men are better than old man and, according to this film, we should expect them to be understanding because it’s just plain the decent thing to do.
Of course, Allu doesn’t know he will respect Genelia’s wishes, so Allu starts by spinning a lie, that he and Genelia are in love and he will die before giving her up, and therefore Manoj should step aside for their love. Manoj is incredibly sympathetic and immediately agrees, everything is perfect! And Genelia is appropriately grateful to Allu, although a little embarrassed when she finds out the way he did it. Until the second twist, that Genelia’s father finds another groom for her. Before Genelia can come up with a plan, Manoj decides to take control and drags Allu and Genelia off for a register marriage so they can never be divided.
In another movie, Genelia would be too scared to object. Or there would be an implication that they are already a little in love. But this movie is better than that, they are still just young people who vaguely know each other. But can speak honestly to each other and are smart enough to understand the situation. The decide to go along with it in order to get out of this tricky situation with Manoj there, and then get divorced a couple of days later. Only, of course, Genelia’s family is waiting outside the registrar office and now they are stuck.
The rest of the movie plays out in a predictable, and yet adorable, way. They may have entered this marriage through expedience, but now that they have to live up to it, they slowly come to an understanding. That understanding being “Genelia must always be kept happy.”
See, in another movie, (like, say, Sangdil Sanam), the hero would have his goals and troubles, and the heroine’s goals and troubles would become supporting the hero. She turns into the devoted wife who gives everything for his happiness, and that’s what makes it a real marriage. But this movie is the opposite!
(I have really got to re-watch this movie)
They start out fighting, and then Genelia is gone all night and Allu worries about her and hunts for her and fights for her. And his suffering convinces her to be nicer to him after that. Genelia thinks her dog has died, and it was rescued by Allu, which makes her thank him and call him a God, and now Allu is in love and even more devoted. Genelia can’t afford her school fees, so Allu quits his school and risks his life as a stuntman to help pay them. Genelia can’t study with Allu around, so she throws him out and dedicates herself to a final push to graduate top of her class. Genelia even gets to do the heroic run to the train station to stop him when Allu is leaving because he thinks she doesn’t need him any more!
I just summarized like the whole second half of the movie in just a few sentences, which is really under selling it. Their fighting bit is super cute, they have to share an apartment, but put a tape line down the middle, Genelia taunts him with her nice furniture, he throws music parties while she is trying to study, etc. etc.
And also super cute is the part when Allu is in love with her, having a little astral projection celebration the first time she asks for a ride on his bike, getting jealous of the little boy in her dance class who has a crush, all of that is just adorable.
But, for me, it is all building up to the moment when we learn why Genelia has been so focused on finishing her schooling. This was the motivation behind the whole charade with Allu and, when her happy relationship with him looked like it was affecting her schooling, it is the reason she threw him out.
Because! She is a feminist! Her dying mother made her swear to finish her schooling, because women need to be able to stand on their own, to have an identity outside of their men. Her traditional father wasn’t even at her mother’s deathbed, because that is how little he valued his wife. And that is why her mother wanted her to have a value besides just “wife” and “daughter”.
This is so great! I love the flashback message that women should have education so they can protect themselves. And I love that Genelia even gets to HAVE a flashback! The motivation is hers, the obstacles are hers, it’s all about her and Allu is just along for the ride.
And that’s the other thing which the movie doesn’t necessarily mean to say but is saying, that Allu is a much much better husband than her traditional father. He maybe carefree and flirty. But his “wife” is the center of his life, he will always be there when she needs him, and rather than standing in the way of her ambitions, he will help her achieve them.
And then it ends with a good old “the kids have grown up and learned to stand on their own two feet” message. And a “the older generation is just bringing them down, not helping them” message. As two young people living idependently with no parental support, Allu and Genelia are doing fine. They work hard and study hard and play a reasonable amount. The problems come from Genelia’s father and his political rival, a corrupt cop, who frames Genelia for prostitution and arrests her while she is on the way to the train station to tell Allu she loves him.
Allu has previously been established as a great fighter, so of course he rushes to the police station and beats everyone up. But what I love is that both Allu and Genelia get to have that “driven mad by protective instincts” moment. Genelia isn’t a fighter, so she isn’t able to break away from everyone defend herself. But when Allu looks like he is losing the fight and is pinned down and beaten, she gets to have that moment of crazed strength just like a Hero and throw off the people holding her back and yell the magic words that will get him to stand up and defeat everybody. Their love is mutual, it’s not about her sniffling and whining until he rescues her, it’s about the two of them fighting for each other.
Let’s see, did I have anything else to say? Oh right! Why are Allu’s bangs like that? Are they always like that? It’s not good.
(Not good. I just want to make him take a shower)