February 28, 2018January 9, 2019 4min readBy Tina Lapsia
One of the first ever original films on Netflix from India, “Love Per Square Foot” is a youthful rom-com about Sanjay Chaturvedi, a software engineer (played by Vicky Kaushal), and Karina D’Souza, a bank employee (played by newcomer Angira Dhar), and their ploy to apply for an apartment meant only for married couples in Mumbai’s elusive real estate market.
Directed by Anand Tiwari and also starring debutante Alankrita Sahai, Ratna Pathak-Shah, Supriya Pathak, Raghubir Yadav, Brijendra Kala, Arunoday Singh, and Ranbir Kapoor (in a guest appearance), the film certainly had potential to reach new heights and break Bollywood boundaries with the volume of cast talent, but was led down by eyebrow-raising plot contrivances, unnecessary musical interludes, and a couple of stereotypical characters.
“Love Per Square Foot” opens with the only good musical track in the movie (“Yatri Kripya Dhyan De”), which shone with witty rapping by the artist Mumbai’s Finest and beautifully complemented the brilliant shots of everyday Mumbaikar life shown throughout the number.
I became very hopeful for the film and its seeming depiction of urban life in India’s busiest city, but was soon let down by the introduction of a subplot involving Sanjay and his manipulative, annoying boss Rashi (Sahai). She is shown as someone who wants to keep her relationship with her boy-toy and “slave” (her words, not mine) a secret, especially from her lover/boyfriend Kashin Malhotra (Singh). A development later on in the film highlights Rashi’s hypocrisy and need for attention, but her character is just another representation of the overbearing and overdramatic female boss characters we’ve seen in Bollywood time and time again.
Sanjay and Karina meet at a mutual friend’s wedding, which, of course, wouldn’t have been complete without a dance number. I don’t know if India just discovered the chicken dance or something, but Tiwari and the producers somehow turn it into a desi-fied track as one of the multiple songs that unnecessarily lengthened the movie’s running time (but I guess that was just one of Bollywood’s unfortunate influences on the film). I really hope this doesn’t turn into the next dance phenomenon – the chicken song from “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” was already enough.
There was still a lot I enjoyed in “Love Per Square Foot,” thanks to the wonderful performances by the film’s most seasoned actors. The best moments come between Yadav (what a delight to hear him sing) and Pathak, especially in the scene where Yadav retires from his position as a railway announcer. Both play Sanjay’s devout Hindu parents living on a government paycheck with excellence.
Pathak Shah as Blossom, Karina’s single mother, definitely added depth and complexity to her character that most other actresses couldn’t, but her eccentric, broken-Hindi-speaking Catholic mom role represents Hindi cinema’s lack of comfort and stereotypes in representing non-Hindu characters. On that note, the (minor spoiler alert!) inter-religious marriage part between Sanjay and Karina and their families meeting was a poignant touch and could’ve been explored further, but things go a bit haywire as the second half of the film just sped through many important moments and overdid the ones it did spend time on in that filmy way it was trying to avoid in the first place.
“Love Per Square Foot” could have been a funny yet poignant dramatization of the real-estate crisis plaguing millennials in Mumbai, and dealing with familial pressures. Instead turns into a hasty rom-com where the housing situation fades away as a subplot.
In a way, this was like “Dostana,” as far as the pretending-to-be-a-couple-to-get-an-apartment element, but fortunately, that’s as far as the similarity goes. Kaushal and Dhar’s chemistry is sweet, but not electrifying.
Watch the film for a decent night in, the ensemble cast, and Ranbir’s one-minute guest appearance, but don’t hold your breath for anything revolutionary.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.