A Look at Romance in the OTT Era – The New Indian Express


Express news service

In Modern Love Season 2 on Amazon Prime, Lucy Boynton meets Kit Harington on a train from Dublin. For a generation unfamiliar with love, hook, line and sinker at first glance – others may remember how Rahul met Simran at Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1995 – l modern love with all its strangeness makes you smile. This, yet another romantic anthology on a streaming platform – and there have been a bunch of them lately – is not a collage. Done correctly, it can keep viewers in a sustained emotional space, like a music album or storybook.

Not so long ago, the romantic anthology died out for a while. We would remember the close cousin of “the anthology”, the “hyperlink film”. In 2007, two Hindi films – Life in a… Metro and Salaam-e-Ishq – combined several love stories on a large canvas. The same year, Dus Kahaniyaan, a truer anthology of 10 films, was released. While Life in a… Metro became a semi-hit, the soundtrack of Pritam having become cult, the other two failed. With the arrival of the OTT, it is an opportunity to associate several directors with a minimum of risk. Lust Stories (2018) offered a quartet of tales of knotty relationships. He was sharp and cheeky (Karan Johar, one of the four directors, had his heroine orgasm to the melody of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham). Suddenly a market developed. Plus, the pandemic with its endless gloom meant lighter headlines. There was Feels Like Ishq in July, Kaali Peeli Tales in August, and more.

“Anthologies allow you to tell a story your way,” says Abhishek Chaubey, who directed a segment in Netflix’s Ankahi Kahaniya. Set in 1980s Mumbai, Chaubey’s film is based on a story by author Kannada Jayanth Kaikini. It follows, for the most part, two lovers inside a single screen theater. “The two and a half hour format has too many demands,” he laments, adding: “In 30 or 40 minutes, you are better.” Anthology directors often don’t know what other films are about. Even if they do, the packaging and reading order is not decided by them. One exception is Adeeb Rais, who wrote and directed all six episodes of Kaali Peeli Tales (on Amazon miniTV). Beyond the connection device of each film ending with a taxi ride, Rais wanted to create “six different worlds synchronized together”.

Ankahi Kahaniya

There are often rifts, which director Saket Chaudhary discovered when he, Chaubey and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari saw their films together for Ankahi Kahaniya. “All of our films are about loss,” observes Chaudhary. “It’s about not getting the love you crave.” Today, Hindi audiences have “lost their patience” for complete romance, producer Ashi Dua fears. In Bollywood, the only love stories that get turned into feature films are romantic comedies (without the occasional Photograph or Love Aaj Kal). For anything deeper, stronger or stranger, there is the anthology. Dua’s own films, including Lust Stories, Paava Kadhaigal and Pitta Kathalu, rode this wave heavily. What fascinates her is the way different filmmakers interpret love. “Johar’s point of view will always be different from that of an Anurag Kashyap – one is dal makhani and the other is Chinese.”

One topic of interest is infidelity and its connection to marriage. Older couples appear more frequently on the screen. Queer romances have become relaxed and less cartoonish. The greatest result of the anthology was the return of the working class love affair. In 2020’s Unpaused, the most poignant entry was Vishaanu, about a migrant couple in lockdown. The film’s themes of confidence, aspiration and urban survivalism were reflected in Interview (2021); while Sachin Kuldankar’s short film Feels Like Ishq is about two wrestlers in Mumbai. “At one point, we stopped making films about the working class. But with the arrival of OTT, things are changing.

Never left behind, Netflix has already announced IRL: In Real Love, their first reality TV show in India. Meanwhile, smaller platforms such as Hungama Play and ALTBalaji have taken over. The latter is solely responsible for bringing eroticism back to the fold. It is a dizzying time. The world is shrinking, and so is love.

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