It must have been love, but it’s over now

It was about rich, beautiful people living in a perfect little bubble. They are slightly vacuous, definite party poopers and guess what — they are you. Or actually us. If Ayan in ADHM shows the emotional maturity of a seven-year-old, Kaira in Dear Zindagi, too, refuses to grow beyond that particular mental age. The rants have equalled the raves in their intensity — and the rants have mostly focused on how singularly shallow the lead protagonists of both these films are. In recent times, two films, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) and Dear Zindagi have achieved what only Imtiaz Ali films like Tamasha and Rockstar could previously boast of — polarise Facebook status updates. There were uncomfortable love triangles, fatal ailments and characters who fell in love after a heartfelt courtship. These are easier times — and we are a self-satisfied lot. It would be ironic to quote Dear Zindagi, but at one point, Shah Rukh Khan’s dishy therapist says, “If you won’t cry hard enough, how will you laugh hard enough?” You could say that to us as film audience and as characters in a movie — we don’t feel hard enough. Or the reasons why they are conflicted. But for all the self-contained prettiness of their lives, they lived and loved hard. In absence of external conflict, films like ADHM, Dear Zindagi or Tamasha take the conflict inwards. Don’t get me wrong, the 1990s films were insular too. Don’t blame the filmmakers — their work only chronicles the times we live in. A great philosopher (not Rumi) said, “Never before has a generation so diligently recorded themselves accomplishing so little.” Our storytelling is extended Insta stories of an entitled generation with the posterity value of Snapchat memories. If characters in movies no longer move us, if you find their trials and tribulations trite, if there is no conflict that touches a chord deep inside — welcome to our lives. And that is where the problem of the current-day film comes in: it doesn’t make you feel enough. Both these characters wallow in self-inflicted angst to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. It catered to a growing NRI audience. But since the average millennial has the emotional depth of a cup of frothy cappuccino, the internal conflict is often trivial, indulgent and a tad boring. (Right) A still from Dear Zindagi. Self-satisfaction, however doesn’t make for a compelling story. The economic disparity of the ’80s (Maine Pyar Kiya) gave way to the loaded question of parental consent even when you were wise enough to fall in love within the same strata (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge). Mental illness and unrequited love can be powerful narrative tools — but if you don’t care for the characters, chances are you won’t end up caring for their conflict either. Written by Naomi Datta | New Delhi |

Published:December 11, 2016 12:00 am

(Left) A still from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. It has characters who are far too cool to fall in love or feel anything at all — and even if they are messed up enough to seek therapy, it is cutesy and all too easy.