Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Top 10 Romcoms

Love ought to conquer all, but for decades the classic Indian love stories had tragic endings—right from Achhut Kanya to Mughal-e-Azam, to Laila Majnu and Heer Ranjha. So to keep the Valentine’s mood cheerful, here is a pick of 10 romantic comedies or romcoms as they have come to be known. Since romance is a very popular genre, there are thousands of films to choose from, but there must be a reason why these have endured. Leaving out the ones that everybody must have seen –HAHK, DDLJ and KKHH among others!

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When Harry Met Sally (1989):

Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally is one of the best and most-imitated romcoms in movie history. It raised the as yet unsolved question: can men and women just be friends? Remembered for the most famous fake orgasm scene known to cinema, the film stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal as two friends, who like each other, but not in a romantic way, or so they think. The audience can see that they are made for each other, but they keep getting into unworkable relationships with other people. The endearing characters, the fabulous script and funny lines, make this one a romantic classic. Meg Ryan was, for a long time, America’s sweetheart.

Image courtesy: nzherald 

Pretty Woman (1990):

Gary Marshall’s film is a clever reworking of the My Fair Lady fairy tale, but so romantic and such fun. The wealthy Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) visiting Beverly Hills, needs a woman on his arm on a work-cum-socialising week, so after a chance encounter, he hires Hollywood Boulevard hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) as his escort and gets her to move into his five star hotel suite. She is so beautiful and good-natured that he ends up falling in love with her. She is new to Los Angeles and to the sex business, and to look the part of Edward’s date, she is given a transformation—there is the classic scene of a snooty boutique attendant snubbing her, before she realizes her error. After living a week of luxury and privilege will Vivian be able to return to the streets?  If it is a woman as gorgeous as Julia Roberts with that blinding smile, is that even a valid question?

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Sleepless In Seattle (1993):

Nora Ephron could do romance like no other—lending humour and warmth even to romcom cliches. In this update of An Affair To Remember (1957), Tom Hanks plays Sam, a lonely widower, whose cute eight-year-old  son Jonah calls up a radio station to talk about his depressed, literally sleepless, father. Sam then shares his heartbreak and grief with listeners. Among the women moved by his story is journalist Annie (Meg Ryan). Despite being engaged to the straight-laced Walter, she proposes to Sam that they meet atop the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Sam receives hundreds of letters from women, but Jonah picks that one letter from Annie. Meanwhile Sam is attracted to a woman he spots in the city. Does magic happen?  Of course it does! A film that evokes enough sighs for multiple viewings.

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Notting Hill (1999):

Richard Curtis, the master of romcoms directed this sweet story about William Thacker (Hugh Grant), a bookshop owner, and Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), a beautiful and popular movie star.  They meet casually and after a few minor disasters, like him spilling orange juice over her dress, they get along well. But can a relationship between a modern-day princess and a commoner survive—especially under the glare of the tabloid press? Then comes that immortal dialogue:

William: I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name.

Anna: I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Always has people reaching for their hankies.

Love Actually (2003):

The perfect Valentine’s Day film—though it was set during the Christmas season—Richard Curtis put together a cast of wall to wall stars and told eight stories that are linked. There’s a writer isolating himself to work, and finding himself attracted to his Portuguese housekeeper, even though they can’t communicate in the same language; a man in a stable marriage is tempted to have an affair; a woman ponders over telling the man she is attracted to that she loves him; the newly elected and single Prime Minister finds himself in a romantic quandary.. And a bunch of unusual love stories come together in a film that never seems dated.

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Jab We Met (2007):

Imitiaz Ali’s film used all the classic romcom tropes and Indianised them. He also gave Kareena Kapoor one of her most memorable characters, of the high-spirited Geet, who meets the morose Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) on her journey home to Bhatinda, where her family has fixed her wedding. They have an adventurous trip back and then she takes Aditya’s help to escape so that she can reunite with her true love, Anshuman. He betrays her, and the spark seems to go out of Geet, till Aditya learns of what happens and comes to give her the support she gave him when he was down. The heart-warming plot was peppered with wonderful songs.

Image courtesy: vogue.in

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (2008):

The ‘best friends who don’t realize they are in love’ plot of Abbas Tyrewala’s film has been overused, but it was still  delightful—funny, poignant and genuinely youthful.  The quirkiness of the director, the witty lines, and the freshness of the characters were appealing.  The mild-mannered Jai’s (Imran Khan) best friend is Aditi (Genelia D’Souza), a feisty and ill-tempered girl. They have a ‘gang’ of loyal friends and everyone thinks Jai and Aditi are made for each other, except the two themselves.  Jai falls for a soft, feminine Meghna (Manjari Phadnis), while Aditi is attracted to a macho type (Ayaz Khan). It takes a few plot twists for the two to discover their true feelings.


Wake Up Sid (2009)

Ayan Mukerji made his debut with this winning  coming-of-age story about a rich brat Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), who does not take life seriously till he walks out of home in a huff and has to fend for himself. At a party he befriends aspiring writer Aisha Banerjee (Konkana Sen Sharma), who has moved to Mumbai from Kolkata to work with a magazine. Circumstances force him to share an apartment with Aisha, so he gradually acquires a sense of responsibility and a career as a photographer. Told with simplicity, the film worked because it stayed true to its milieu and concentrated more on emotions than on style, the casting was spot on and the performances effortlessly charming.

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Band Baaja Baraat (2010):

Directed by newcomer Maneesh Sharma, the film had nothing novel in terms of plot, but the treatment was fresh suffused with an infectious  joie de vivre. Bittoo (Ranveer Singh) is a village boy, dreading the idea of returning to his father’s sugarcane farms after he graduates. He runs into bright and ambitious Shruti (Anushka Sharma) and inveigles himself into her wedding planner business. First he has to promise not to be anything more than a friend, because she does not believe in mixing work with romance.  Her aim is to reach the posh Sainik Farms via downmarket colonies. Their company Shaadi Mubarak delivers great weddings each time and prospers, but Shruti breaks her own rule and falls for Bittoo, who is too confused to reciprocate. Wonderfully contemporary and very Dilli, with a rare leading lady who cares more for her career than a happily-ever-after for herself.

Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017):

Ashwini Tiwary Iyer shifts the basic plot of the French classic Cyrano de Bergerac to Bareilly, where Bitti (Kriti Sanon) is besotted by a poet, Pritam Vidrohi. This is the pen name of a shy printer Chirag (Ayushmann Khurrana) and when Bitti accosts him to help her meet Pritam, produces his friend, the real Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), after training him to be an outgoing flirt. A comedy of romantic complications ensues in which Bitti falls for Pritam not knowing that Chirag is the writer; and Pritam is attracted to Bitti’s friend, but is trapped in Chirag’s drama. A funny and charming romcom where the chemistry between the characters was near perfect.

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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