Valentine's Week of Sex: Bangalore Days New Review!!! Three Protagonists, Three Sexual Journeys

When I started thinking about the couples in this movie related to sex, I realized that I had enough new thoughts I shouldn’t just update the existing review, but rather write an entirely new review. Woo-hoo! New review!

Multistarrers are rare these days. Actors are too proud to share the screen, films are too short to allow time for multiple stories, and it’s just plain hard to write well. Bangalore Days is a very very well-written multistarrer. What makes it really unusual is that it is a multistarrer love story! Or more generally, “relationship story”. And that is even harder to write.

Image result for bangalore days poster"

In a traditional multistarrer in the Hindi pattern, you have a central story, usually something about criminals and a jewel theft and one of the stars is a police officer and one a thief and so on. Each of them has their own romance as well, and backstory, and on and on, but there is a central shared storyline that ties it together and then their own stories branch off fromt hat. A relationship story is different, and harder. They only thing holding our three stars of Bangalore Days together is that they care for each other. Otherwise, their journeys are entirely separate. Really totally separate, it would have been tempting to bring them together at some point, reveal one love interest is secretly related to another love interest or something, but no. Three love stories, almost no moments of intersection.

The three separate love stories means we have the rare opportunity to show the way love stories, and sex as part of love, vary completely depending on the people involved. Nazriya’s relationship with Fahad, Nivin’s with Isha, and Dulquer’s with Parvathy. Our central three characters (Nazriya, Nivin, and Dulquer) each have their own way of approaching love and sex. And then their interactions with three other totally different people bend them further apart, as their love and sex feelings shift to accommodate another person.

Until I sat down to write about it for this week, I hadn’t thought of Bangalore Days as a sex movie, which is a tribute to how well it is handled. It’s a relationship drama, and part of relationships is sex. Sometimes a healthy part, sometimes an unhealthy part, sometimes a part that is important because of a decision to NOT make it important. This isn’t limited to romantic relationships either, this is a film where the way cousins, friends, parents and children interact is related to their sex lives. Just as food is a part of relationships, and shelter is a part of relationships, sex is a vital element of the human experience and as such, is part of humans communicating.

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Let’s start by thinking of our three leads as sexual people. First, most importantly, all three of them are awash in hormones whether they admit it or not, because they are healthy young people. Nazriya is a proper young woman, but the way she touches and doesn’t touch her attractive new fiance and then husband shows that she is attracted to him, she wants sex. Nazriya was ready for sex on their wedding night, more or less. She didn’t know him that well, she wasn’t in love with him, she even had cold feet moments before the ceremony, but on their wedding night she was dressed up and excited on the wedding bed only to be disappointed when he avoided her. That’s a very different kind of bride, one who isn’t ready for any other part of marriage but is DEFINITELY ready for sex. The rest of their relationship dysfunction comes later, all the other ways Fahad disappoints her, but Nazriya was primed that an early marriage and an education cut short would at least give her the fun of sex, and the denial of even that plays a big part in her growth.

And then there’s Dulquer. They movie makes clear that Dulquer is a casually sexually experienced and active young man. He ran away from school as a teenager and made his own way, living alone in the world. Just as he drinks, has strange friends, and lives in strange places, so he clearly has had strange sex. And that’s not unhealthy, that’s not anything that’s a “problem”. But it becomes a problem when he falls in love with a young woman in a wheelchair. The movie never explicitly says whether or not Parvathy is capable of sexual intercourse, I’m going to assume she is. But there’s “capable” and “capable”. The wheelchair limits her freedom, she can’t sneak in and out at night easily, they can’t casually bed down together in a field, sex is a bit more of a production with her in a way that requires a commitment of some kind. Even if that commitment is just getting a hotel room for the night and making clear plans in advance. This love story is about Dulquer realizing the physical part of it isn’t going to be easy this time, in many ways. In a typical film, it would be because Parvathy is a “good” girl and he has to “win” her and blah blah. But in this case, it’s not some kind of moral or mental block, it’s physical limitations that force Dulquer to decide if he is ready to take it slow, be careful, and be ready for rejection.

And finally, Nivin. The “good boy”. He is planning to marry a proper traditional young woman and have sex on his wedding night. Which lasts as long as it takes for an attractive woman to come on to him. Isha is clearly sexually experienced, and Nivin does not judge her for it because once the reality of a “bad woman” is in front of him, he just sees her as a woman. And he discovers he enjoys doing the things he thought were “bad”, and they aren’t actually that “bad” after all.

Looking at the three leads, each of their romances is a traditional one, but with a twist. Nazriya is the inexperienced bride, Dulquer is the “bad boy” who falls for the one girl he can’t have, and Nivin is the “good boy” who is seduced by the bad woman. Only in this case the inexperienced bride really wants sex right from the start, the bad boy can’t have the girl because she is physically limited, and the “good boy” discovers that being seduced by the bad woman isn’t what he thought it would be.

Each romance starts with sex, in the most subtle hidden way. Nazriya’s is the most obvious, that failed First Night where her excitement is contrasted with Fahad’s total lack of interest. But then Nivin is established as judging “modern” women for being sexually free and dreaming of a perfect traditional girl, until he meets Isha. We know that he translates jeans and short tops to “sexually free”, which means his acceptance of and interest in Isha comes along with a suddenly awoken excitement and the possibility of a sexual relationship with one of those modern women. And then there is Dulquer who hesitates and stops once he sees that the modern smart woman he loved on the radio is in a wheelchair, meaning they can’t have the sort of free and casual physical relationship he is used to.

And then two out of those three romances move past sex. As Nazriya gets further into her sexless marriage, she discovers many other ways she is unfulfilled. She wants friends, she wants to spend time with Fahad, she wants to have freedom in her own home. Sex was what she wanted at the start, but by the end she wants so much more than that. As Dulquer gets to know Parvathy, it’s not about her physical limitations but about the way those limitations effect the non-physical. She has to leave India in order to find a place with more handicap accessible spaces, she has to stay with her mother in order to have a 24 hour caregiver, simply spending time together is hard. They have a physical connection, hold hands and sit together, and he picks her up and down from the chair. But the central question of the relationship isn’t “can we have sex?” any more, but “can we be together across the difficulties?”

But Nivin and Isha, it stops at sex. Not big important meaningful sex, but small pleasant sex. That’s sort of the point, Nivin and Isha are young and single and live alone, he can spend the night at her place without making a fuss about it (unlike Nazriya with her public First Night pressure, and Parvathy with her mother as caregiver and awkward obvious wheelchair everywhere). So they spend the night together, and it’s fine, Nivin still likes her well enough, but her ex-boyfriend shows up and she breaks up with him and that’s fine too. Nivin gets this thing that he thought was a big deal, and the closer he comes to it the less of a big deal it is, and then it is all over and pretty soon it is forgotten. It wasn’t nothing, Isha was a person he knew and cared about to some degree, and the way she used him hurt him. But once his mother appears in his apartment, and his cousins get caught up in their own complicated issues, suddenly Isha fades away into a very small part of his life because ultimately she was just a crush and a sexual infatuation, no more.

It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider what would have happened if all three relationships had managed to deal with the sexual element so easily and casually. After all, that’s part of it being set in Bangalore, a place where young people are free from scrutiny and can do these things without fuss. If Fahad and Nazriya had had sex that first night, even if it was super awesome and satisfying for Nazriya, it still wouldn’t have solved his grief over his dead girlfriend Nithya Menon (the hidden reason he wasn’t interested in working on the marriage), and it wouldn’t have solved Nazriya’s dissatisfaction with a lonely life as a wife. Pretty soon it would have faded into meaning nothing in their lives and the other problems would still be there. If Parvathy hadn’t been in a wheelchair, if she had been a young and free woman, they would have had a young and free relationship but eventually Dulquer would still have realized he loved her and struggled with his insecurity and inferiority issues over proposing to a woman so much more educated than he was. Anjali Menon chose to put a pin in sex in two out of the three relationships, to let the couples work on all their other issues instead, and that worked creatively. But these characters are so well drawn that we can see how no matter what it would have ended in the same place. Sex doesn’t fix the underlying problems in their relationships.

Which brings me to how sex effects ALL relationships, not just the romantic ones. Dulquer is scarred because his parents romantic/sexual life was messed up. They couldn’t live together, he doesn’t know why and we the audience don’t know why, but they were a married couple so for sure sex was a part of it. And now Dulquer is left with a mother who abandoned him and he hasn’t heard from in years, and a father who did his duty but didn’t love him. Nazriya’s family rushed her into marriage in a misguided belief that early marriage and early sex and early pregnancy is the best thing for a woman, and when the marriage doesn’t seem to be working out they also rush her out of it. The deepest secret Nazriya keeps from them is that the marriage is not consummated, keeping that secret is the first small loyalty Nazriya shows to Fahad versus her parents. It’s even between the three of them, Dulquer and Nivin have a slight frisson because, although they are cousins of the same age, Nivin is not sexually experienced and Dulquer is. And then Nivin spends the night with Isha and that goes away, not because they are now equals but because Nivin now knows enough to see how it doesn’t really matter.

Bangalore Days is a relationship drama, not a sex drama. Sex isn’t the be all-end all of anything. But the film also doesn’t shy away from the ways sex affects human relationships. And the way human relationships affect sex. Isha and Nivin having whatever they had was meaningless, because their whole relationship was shallow. By the time Nazriya and Fahad finally have sex, it is deeply meaningful because of what it has come to mean about their relationship, because if is Fahad finally being vulnerable and open, because Nazriya understands how hard it is for him to be with another woman after Nithya. And Dulquer and Parvathy don’t need sex, that’s not important for them. Their whole relationship has been physical because Parvathy’s condition forced that, Dulquer carrying her or stopping to sit next to her so they are eye to eye, or just going hand in hand and not carrying about the stares, that is as intimate as sex could be. Eventually it will happen, but what it means to them has already happened.

14 thoughts on “Valentine's Week of Sex: Bangalore Days New Review!!! Three Protagonists, Three Sexual Journeys

    • Oh, go back and watch it again as a sex film! See if you like it more then.

      As a person who didn’t love Bangalore Days, can I ask you if you found Fahad sexy? Because everyone else in the world seems to have found him sexy and I try and try and I just don’t see it.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 11:24 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. While I enjoyed this movie and loved your review of it (leading to watching it from a whole new angle) I have to admit, I prefer the Tamil remake, Bangalore Naatkal. In place of earnest, stolid Fahad was…..Rana! And delicious Rana makes my toes curl. It also didn’t hurt that Parvathy reprised her role.

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    • Really? I thought Rana played the Dulquer character! Which is part the reason I wasn’t interested in the film, because it was such perfect type casting it seemed boring. But Rana in the Fahad role would be something very different.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 4:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Rana has the Fahad part, totally cast against type. Oh, and Prakash Raj plays the part of his dead girl friends father. Any movie is improved with a bit of Prakash Raj, one of my favorite character actors.

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    • So glad! We had a fascinating discussion in the comments a few years back about Malayalam films and sex. One of my readers who is South Indian but not Malayalam talked about her understanding that they were all soft core porn stuff, that’s what it meant for people to watch them in her region. But the Malayalam readers argued that their films simply treated sex as a part of life. Looking at this film in that way was really interesting, because we do have one straight up sex scene with Nazriya and Fahad, but it doesn’t feel like a sex scene, like something you would watch and enjoy out of context, sex is just part of their story.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 10:13 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Related to this and our earlier conversation about Malayalam films appealing to the art house circuit, turns out there’s an organization doing just that, promoting Malayalam films to people in the west who are interested in indie films. I wonder if they will eventually get some traction on this?

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        • Lilo Jose’s latest movie got some really great reviews from Toronto, so that’s good. He’s the director I think could cross over most easily, because his technical brilliance is so stunning you can’t ignore it if you know anything about film.

          On Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 9:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes, that seems right. It seems like it’s treated as more a natural part of life and relationships, without all the dramatic buildup and high stakes around purity. In this film! Not so much in Premam? That one seems more traditional to me.

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        • As I see Premam, it is purposefully looking at just one part of the hero’s life, thus the big time jumps and things. We skip all the bits where sex/love is less important and are left to fill them in for ourselves, from his relationship with his family to his job passions to everything else. In Bangalore Days, the love stories are all embedded within everything else in their life, which I think is more “normal” for Malayalam romances, that there is a lot of stuff happening. Premam was a structural experiment.

          On Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:42 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I finally watched this! This is an interesting take. You asked about favorite sex scenes a few days ago and I couldn’t think of any, but now I think I’d say Nazriya and Fahad, It’s totally earned. It’s like the moment when they truly become husband and wife, and Fahad showing his tattoo seems so intimate. Man, I loved this movie.

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    • Yes! I don’t even like Fahad, or his character, that much. But that sex scene is just so well done.

      On Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 4:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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