Rainy days. A steaming cup of chai. And a good ol’ Bollywood film. Those were some of my favorite times growing up. Watching old classics always brings a smile to my face, but there are times when I, like most of us, crave something modern, fresh, and exciting. Nowadays, viewers users often favor shows over movies, and it was only so long before South Asia entered the ring. With the critical acclaim of exciting thrillers such as “Delhi Crime” and “Sacred Games” (which are amazing), one can’t help but wonder: can a show bring something else to the table, but still capture that old Bollywood charm in a modern format?
“Mismatched,” the Netflix India show based on “When Dimple Meets Rishi” by Sandhya Menon, feels that way. The show – which premiered in late 2020 and has now been renewed for a second season – embodies all of those classic themes of love, family, and friendship, but with a modern twist. If you haven’t seen the series, it starts off with a familiar premise: a lovesick boy falls in love at first sight and tries to get a girl to notice. Only this time, the narrative highlights the girl’s own internal conflicts, like wanting to go against her parent’s wishes of getting married and focusing on her education instead.
This may not sound groundbreaking, but “Mismatched” subtly removes some of the common stereotypes in the South Asian film industry, especially regarding women. As more films cast women with strong goals as protagonists, “Mismatched” goes above and beyond. Dimple isn’t different, or an outsider in any way. She has the same love for her desired profession, coding, as the other girls in the summer course. Unlike films like “Hasee Toh Phasee” which portrays the “intelligent girl” as strange and outlandish, “Mismatched” proclaims that being passionate about your career isn’t rare or abnormal for women.
Rishi, on the other hand, only has one thing on his mind: marriage. At the age of 18, when most teens are still figuring out what to do with their lives, Rishi knows he wants Dimple to be his wife. After being paired with her on a matrimony website (Dimple has no knowledge that she was even put up on the site), he sets out to meet his one true love for the first time. But he soon realizes that his goals are proving to be much more difficult than anticipated. In many films, like “Hum Apke Hai Kaun”, the “happily ever after” ending eliminates any problem in sight. While this can make for a feel-good experience, real-life obviously doesn’t work like that. “Mismatched” doesn’t shy away from the messy truth, and, spoiler, the season finale proves just that: Dimple and Rishi go their separate ways.
While this itself makes for enticing television, the side characters not-so-subtly break even more common South Asian movie and television tropes. Rishi’s best friend, Nimrata, is a lesbian. Moreover, the way viewers find out isn’t unnecessarily made into a big deal. In a very matter-of-fact way, Nimrata simply tells Rishi who she has a crush on. Rishi, instead of being surprised by her feelings, celebrates this because she hasn’t liked someone in a while. Mainstream South Asian media severely lacks in LGBTQ representation with only two blockbuster films, “Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan” and “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” which are about adults. “Mismatched” brings these issues to the forefront for teenagers, allowing them to have their own complex and valid feelings about love. They don’t have to wait until marriage to find someone but instead can explore their options and figure out for themselves who they want to be with.
The show also does a great job of dealing with class conflicts. The general assumption about all of the students is that everyone taking the summer course has enough money to afford it and that it was paid for by their parents. Even though there is definitely an “elite” group of students, viewers are given the impression that most of them are still somewhat well-off. However, that is when we are introduced to Celina, who has to work in order to afford the camp. She keeps this from most people, even from Dimple, with who she is sharing a room. She begins to hang out with people who are far wealthier than her to further ensure that no one actually knows her real status. Oftentimes, in Bollywood films such as “Khabie Khushi Khabi Ghum”, the girl is from a poor family who is portrayed as seeking wealth and higher social standing through marriage. “Mismatched” subverts this by showing Celina as a powerful, hardworking woman with the strong desire to make it own her own. Leather jackets, purple hair, and a motorcycle— Celina is a strong, badass female more than willing to work for herself.
Speaking of strong women, we also have Zeenat, a widowed housewife, who decides to take the summer course despite it being filled with unsympathetic teenagers. She carries what she felt when she was married: feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. As she befriends Dimple and her teacher, she learns that she is much more capable than she thinks. She breaks the common ideology that you can’t start over after a certain age. Knowledge knows no limits, especially when it comes to age, and Zeenat proves just that.
“Mismatched” doesn’t stop there, further touching on promiscuity, disability, privilege, and belonging, all of which are depicted as normal aspects of life to struggle with. I am often dissatisfied with the ways shows tend to one-dimensionally write teenagers. Often, they are entirely described by one characteristic or its opposite: promiscuous or prudish, shy or outgoing, ambitious or carefree. This especially proves itself in the perceptions the South Asian community has about teenagers especially women, where being promiscuous is seen as completely shameful, but the privilege is perfectly acceptable.
There is a lot that needs to be changed, but I would argue that it all starts with how teenagers and young adults are represented. We are multifaceted beings: we are shy, but we also want to casually date. We want romance, but we also have ambition. None of these things should be considered mutually exclusive. In reality, human beings are far more complex, no matter where in the world you are.
“Mismatched” is modern, but it doesn’t lack heartfelt emotions. It isn’t cold towards its characters but rather treats them as they should be treated, as if they aren’t just fictional. It’s authentic, raw, and shows the intricacies that come with being young and confused. The show is perfect for a rainy day, and a good one to catch up on now before the second season premieres! It recreates those classic feelings from a Bollywood film while pushing the boundaries of what we know as South Asian media.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.
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.