Yay, more rom-coms! 2016 was the year of serious patriotic historical dramas, but 2017 is looking decidedly more romantic. Romantic and dramatic, none of that lightweight stuff like Befikre. Which means I am watching these trailers going “wait, is something terrible going to happen or is this just a humorous misunderstanding?”
I have to admit, my interest in Meri Pyaari Bindu is still fairly tepid. For 3 reasons:
- Ayushmann and Parineeti probably aren’t going to get a big career change out of this, their roles are similar to what they have played before, so no seismic shifts in the star power rankings will come from this film.
- Also no seismic shifts in the producer/director rankings. Maneesh Sharma is producing, it looks very similar to his previous films as producer. The director is new, but the vibe seems so Maneesh Sharma driven, I’m not really seeing him as the auteur, more Maneesh.
- And finally, nothing new from the production house. Yash Raj has been moving in this low-budget high concept rom-com direction for a long long time.
But none of that takes away from the fact that this looks like a pretty good low-budget rom-com! Not exciting and groundbreaking (for all the reasons listed above), but a nice little movie. With a nice little ad campaign.
Speaking of the ad campaign in particular, it is super cute! Giving us little glimpses of their characters and relationship over time. I do wonder if it is one of those things where all the inventiveness went into the ads, not the film. The ads are set up like chapters, giving is little complete vignettes of their friendship, starting when they met in childhood. The structure is what is intriguing, having almost short films with these two characters instead of the usual “song trailer” or trailer that gives a bunch of images from the film.
But if you remove the structure, if we look at it as just the chemistry between the two leads and the story that we are being given, is it really that interesting? If the film tells this story more or less straight-forwardly, will we still be interested?
Yash Raj (more specifically, Aditya Chopra) has a history of brilliant trailers and ad campaigns that sucker you into seeing movies that aren’t necessarily as interesting as their trailers. Remember the teaser for Befikre? How intriguing that was? And then how the film itself was just a straight-forward rom-com more or less?
Remove the trailer structure bells and whistles, and we are left with a bachpan (sp?) ki dost love story, with the twist of a nostalgic setting (if they were little kids in the 1980s, then the young people romance would be in the 90s), and a slightly more aggressive heroine and passive hero. I am getting strong vibes of Break Ke Baad, Baar Baar Dekho, and plenty of other recent films. Especially Dum Laga Ke Haisha with the cassette tapes and old film songs and 90s setting. Oh, and the fact that Ayushmann is telling this story looking back on the past gives a strong vibe that Parineeti is dead in the present, just like (SPOILERS SPOILERS) Katti-Batti and ADHM.
You see what I mean when I say it feels fun, but like nothing new?
Half Girlfriend, on the other hand, did surprise me! The first looks and the title and the buzz around it made me think it would be something a little more on the Befikre side of things. Young people being wild and carefree and avoid commitment. But the full length trailer looks a lot deeper than that.
I am kind of thrilled. 2 States is the closest comparison, and in 2 States I enjoyed the light college romance part, and the winning over Alia’s family. But what really made me it something new was the dark undercurrent in Arjun’s family. Especially how it wasn’t a sudden shift to the dramatic, it was there all along, just slowly more and more visible. Way at the beginning, there is a comment about how strange it is that Arjun chose to go to school far away from his home. His focus on needing to get a good job so he could support himself, his awkwardness over only his mother coming for graduation, there was always something a little off. And as the romantic relationship got more serious, they had to deal with his underlying issues before they could move forward. 2 States isn’t really a movie about romance, or even about regional issues (as the title implies), it’s about growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father and how that affects every part of your life, especially when you start to think about starting your own family.
And Half-Girlfriend looks like it might be kind of the same thing. Not about “romance”, but about class issues and gender issues. Arjun is clearly lower-class than Shraddha and she is supposed to be “out of his league”. But then there are added complications to it, somehow I am getting kind of a tragic vibe to Shraddha’s character, like maybe she needs someone like Arjun in her life, like her high-class English speaking world is trapping her a little bit.
And Arjun’s love isn’t just “ha-ha, out of your league!” kind of thing, it’s more obsessive and passionate. This is a Mohit Suri movie, after all. And his character isn’t just perfect and happy, he has darker undertones. Thank goodness, because those darker undertones are where Arjun excels.
Shraddha, I am less excited about, but I will give her a chance. This is her reunion with the director who launched her, so that might bring out something extra in her performance.