This is such a delightful throwback! No big social statements, at least none that are underlined and highlighted, no misunderstandings or stupid complications, no real “villain” even for most of the plot. It’s just about two people being in love and figuring things out. And yes, it is sort of weird and surreal in the way it does it, but at the same time it is the most grounded romance film I have seen in a long time. Oh, and it uses Akshay perfectly, and makes me respect him as an actor for taking this small but difficult role.
Back in the 90s, every romance didn’t have to be a Big Thing. Before my beloved KJo/SRK combo hit it big, the romance genre was cheap and quick and light and fun. You have films like Hum Hain Rahe Pyar Ke, and Love, and Chaahat. And they are decent films with some nice songs, and good performances, but they weren’t massive budget blockbusters. Just nice little movies with nice little love stories.
And then suddenly love stories could be blockbuster hits and the budgets and expectations shot up. No more little stories, it was all Big Stories, massive cast, best songs ever, etc. etc. Followed by the modern era where no one wants “just” a love story, it has to have a Message and be analyzed and blah blah blah. This film, to me, defies analysis. It’s not a social statement, it’s not a Big Hit With the Masses, it’s just a nice little movie that should be enjoyed as a nice little movie.
When I was in grad school, I was taught that there were three basic ways to analyze pop culture products: Textual, Reception, and Production. “Reception” means, “lets talk about who is watching it, why they are watching it, what are they getting out of it”. “Production” means “lets talk about who is making it, how they are making it, what influenced their decisions”. And Textual is simply the text itself.
Lately it feels like the only way to analyze Hindi film is Reception and Production. The text itself has to come a far third behind those two issues. Is the producer in with the government or not? Was there a dispute over casting? How was it promoted? And then, what is everyone on social media saying? Is there a backlash? Is it inspiring a movement? And also, oh yeah, the film itself was good/bad.
This movie, I am only interested in talking about the text. It’s a nice story. I don’t care about the political statement or boycotts or any of the rest, I just want to talk about the nice story.
Isn’t that refreshing? Watching a movie that feels like it was made outside of the whole production/reception cycle? I don’t know if it is because it was a direct streaming release, or because it had Dhanush as the lead who brings no political baggage to Hindi cinema, or because it was planned/filmed during the pandemic when everyone’s world was a little smaller. But somehow it feels like the 90s again, back when movies were just made and released and the only reason to watch them and talk about them was the Text itself.
(and now you are going to tell me that actually there IS a massive social media backlash, because of course there always is. Don’t care, what I am saying is that while I was watching the movie I didn’t have that feeling of “this was made in response to/in fear of what the audience would think” the way I did with, for instance, Zero, Aanand’s biggest budget film to date)