It’s been five years since the release of “Shuddh Desi Romance,” a film which shows a modern-day, live-in couple, in spite of societal taboos. “Shuddh Desi Romance” stars Sushant Singh Rajput as Raghu and Parineeti Chopra as Gayatri, two complete opposites who meet each other as Raghu is running away from his own marriage from a young woman named Tara (Vaani Kapoor). The two fall in love and move in together, having to pretend to be siblings so neighbors don’t pry too hard into their personal lives. After Raghu has to convince Gayatri to get married, she ditches him at the altar – it’s the same fate he made Tara go through.
Funnily enough, Raghu meets Tara again, and now they fall for each other, but of course, Gayatri soon re-enters the picture. It’s a funny sort-of love triangle – one that at times is a little conventional – but the real heart of the film is about how some romances don’t need to be solidified through the bonds of marriage.
“Shuddh Desi Romance” is a Bollywood film that chooses to celebrate a different type of love story, so in honor of the film’s anniversary, we have created a list to toast a few more of the best modern Bollywood rom-coms.
Be careful! There are a few spoilers below!
“Love Aaj Kal”
While most Bollywood movies end with the central couple getting together (much like Shuddh Desi Romance), Love Aaj Kal brings Jai (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera (Deepika Padukone) together from the start. From there on they break up, move to different cities, meet new people, but because it’s Bollywood, you sense that they’ll end up together. Instead, where this movie truly excels is in exploring every permutation of their relationship over the years, from the painful distance they often feel to the uncomplicated friendship that’s strengthened only by their romantic history. – Proma Khosla
In a funny way, “The Lunchbox” is novel and modern because of its simplicity. The film follows Saajan Fernandes, an older man at the end of his career, whose wife sadly passed away a few years prior. He receives lunch through the dabbawala system in India, but thanks to a strange mix-up, his normal lunchbox is switched with one made by Ila, a woman who is attempting to reignite the romance in her marriage (with a man she eventually discovers is cheating on her) by making delicious lunches. Ila realizes the mixup, and writes Saajan a letter in the next lunchbox he receives from her — the two then embark on a sweet friendship through their letters. The pair eventually fall in love without having seen each other once, and they re-discover passion and love in their lives in the process. – Keertana Sastry
“Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”
As a kid, “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na” was one of my favorite movies, and ten years later, little has changed. This movie features a group of college pals, including two best friends who are stark opposites but end up realizing that they are in L-O-V-E! This movie is a great pick me up and is realistic in so many ways, beginning with the fact that the female lead, Aditi, (Genelia D’Souza) is anything but the typical Bollywood bombshell: she is loud, outspoken, argumentative, and hilarious. Combined with the quiet, Mama’s boy nature of Jai (Imran Khan), this movie is fun, quirky, and will give you ALL the feels. – Duriba Khan
“Margarita with a Straw”
The central romance in Margarita with a Straw doesn’t actually end on a happy note, but it doesn’t matter. The movie is more about celebrating self-love, independence and finding one’s own identity. Margarita with a Straw stars Kalki Koechlin as Laila, a young woman with cerebral palsy who embarks on a journey to New York City on scholarship to NYU. She is accompanied by her traditional mother, but that doesn’t stop her from lusting over a new male student in her class, Jared, and sweetly falling in love with a young female activist she meets by chance, Khanum.
Laila is confused by her sexuality, but is awakened by both Jared as Khanum in different ways. In the end, Khanum is the person she realizes she loves, and while their relationship doesn’t work out, Laila learns who she is through finding that love and having it reciprocated. While things are changing for the better in Bollywood, you don’t often see a female-centric film, that also features an LGBTQ storyline in a positive way. – Keertana Sastry
This movie isn’t about how a Tamilian girl named Ananya (played by Alia Bhatt) falls in love with a Punjabi boy named Krish (played by Arjun Kapoor). Falling in love is the easy part, what comes after is the whirlwind. Ananya and Krish’s families do not approve of their relationship because they come from two very different parts of India. The movie is spent showing the hurdles they both have to jump through to get their future in-laws blessing before getting married.
“2 States” brilliantly touches on so many themes: the north vs. south Indian prejudice, how a healthy marriage is not only between two people but between two families, abusive relationships, gender equality etc. etc. It truly is a romantic comedy that speaks to the challenges we’ll all face when it comes to falling in love and getting married today. The movie is funny, witty, emotional, and I would be lying if I said I don’t plan on making sure my wedding looks EXACTLY like the last 5 minutes of the movie. – Nikitha Menon
This might be a controversial (or at the very least, unusual) choice, but this movie is one of the very few that portray a May-December romance this well. Amitabh Bachchan is essentially Brown Gordon Ramsay, and Tabu is a customer that can ‘zafrani pulao’ better than him. He’s 64, she’s 34, there are bound to be some bumps. “Cheeni Kum” is not without its flaws, but is a rare Bollywood film that starts out with a truly unlikeable lead and develops the characters over time. R. Balki shows these people for who they are, warts and all, and in the end you end up rooting for that miserable curmudgeon. Come for the chemistry and the food porn, stay for the soundtrack by Illayaraja. – Shruti Tarigoppula
“Shubh Mangal Saavdhan”
Unlike “Shuddh Desi Romance,” the romance “Shubh Mangal Savdhan” isn’t that modern. It’s the film’s subject matter, and how the main couple handle the issue, that makes it novel. The film stars Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar (who also starred in another great rom-com, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”) as Mudit and Sugandha, a couple who fall in love and are about to get married. The problem? When they try to get intimate, Mudit can’t quite… perform the way he wants.
The film could have taken the more traditional (and offensive) approach and turned the whole thing into one big, crude sex joke. But what makes this movie so special is that during Mudit’s struggle through erectile dysfunction, we also see how it affects Sugandha, and how she tries to stay with Mudit and help him in any way she can. Mudit learns manhood and married life is not about needing to perform, it’s about being present for your love and working through your issues together.
We hope Bollywood continues to make more modern romances like “Shuddh Desi Romance” and chooses to show the many different ways people show their love for one another. Other Indian film industries have been making little modern gems for years, like the Tamil film, “OK Kanmani” (remade in Hindi as “OK Jaanu”). Let’s hope “Shuddh Desi Romance” was just the start.
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.
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!
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.