With the evolution of the world around, the way emotions and relationships are addressed change too. Many do not understand that the connection between two individuals also has a lot to do with their mindsets, past experiences, ideologies and social background. That way, Orange (2010), starring Ram Charan (Ram) and Genelia D’Souza (Jaanu) is a romantic drama with a different approach. It has an opinion. It’s more a ‘story about love’ rather than a love story. Every character in this film has an opinion, ideology and approach towards the concepts of love and marriage.
When Orange released a decade ago, the audience was more conservative. Today, romantic relationships are driven by freedom of expression across the sexes, social media, career goals and the morals they uphold. The effects of globalisation and development seeped into the lifestyles of the people and its spill-offs are visible, post 2010. Which is why Orange was a disruptor in its genre when it released. Not very often do we come across films that trigger introspection. This one does.
Ram’s Idea of Love
Ram, the protagonist, drives the story of Orange. The uniqueness of Ram’s characterisation lies in his out-of-the-box ideology. His convictions are no different. Conflicting opinions about love and relationships make him similar to the character of Howard Roark from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead . He comes across as free-spirited, honest, egoistic, and influential yet sensitive. Ram strongly believes that eternal love is a myth. He chooses to love and be with a person for some time, and does not hesitate to move apart gracefully when the sparks of love fade. He’s done this nine times! With honesty he confesses his approach to Jaanu. He feels eternal love and marriage are ridiculous, because they are built upon lies and compromises that dilute one’s individuality.
Ram considers himself the world’s greatest lover and is audacious in his choices. He learns flying, photography and painting, but does not settle for the mainstream in those professions — he opts to be a skydiver, wildlife photographer and graffiti painter. Writer-director Bhaskar brings out Ram’s creative philosophy through these professions. This mindset makes Ram an intriguing character and the soul of the film.
In Creating Character Arcs, KM Weiland writes about the concept of ‘The lie that character believes’. This says that a character who holds strong beliefs (the lie), faces obstacles due to his/her beliefs. In the process of overcoming the problems, the convictions of the character alter, resulting in a positive change. Ram’s character arc goes through something similar. In a world full of obligations, adjustments and lies, Ram comes across as candid and liberated. His journey makes Orange stand out from the other romances in Telugu cinema. This point was elaborated in this video essay by Filmy Geeks, attached below.
The many shades of love
The film tries to portray several beliefs of society, the most mainstream of which is that love is eternal. Jaanu believes that too. She aspires to experience romance and a relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. The conflicting philosophies of Ram and Jaanu triggers introspection and results in overwhelming debates and arguments throughout the film.
Orange is set in Sydney in Australia. All the characters are well-educated and come from stable economic backgrounds. The flashback story of Ram and his ex-girlfriend Ruba is set in Mumbai, a city known to be liberal. The cities the film is set in suits Ram’s pop culture lifestyle and mindset, which is accommodative and fluid.
The film also depicts how older couples tend to sustain their marriage in spite of ugly fights and differences, making a bold statement that long-lasting relationships are more about responsibility than romance. While some tend to pretend to be in love, others quietly slip into lies or live in denial to maintain the semblance of a marriage. However, the effort to bring back the lost sparks isn’t addressed clearly.
On the other hand, we see youngsters quench their thirst of being in love by managing relationships through some sort of formula — one-sided love, double dating, and the like. These are again based on compromises, illusions, lies, double standards and self-denials.
Given the circumstances, both Ram and Jaanu avoid getting carried away by such misleading approaches. Jaanu seems gullible yet stands strong and doesn’t give herself too easily to Ram. In the process of convincing Jaanu to love him the way he is, Ram discovers the effort that goes into standing tall for the person he loves. Ram is willing to sacrifice certain beliefs and let go of his ego to be with Jaanu. Jaanu too understands, and finds a way to commit to this relationship. Eventually, both evolve from their respective positions about love, and find a middle ground.
Orange subtly points out that promises made by humans aren’t always kept, and that with time, emotions change. Love seeks commitment even during troubled times. Orange also says that a relationship before marriage is always easier to walk away from than one after, when one is invariably bound.
Despite a solid concept and storyline, Orange did not succeed at the box office. It was a late bloomer, and is much-loved now. The film seems to resonate better with today’s audience. Ten years ago, Ram was considered a rebel who is commitment-phobic and confused. Today, he’s seen as someone who is sensitive and in tune with his feelings, and confident about expressing them.
The hurried climax did not help the cause of Orange too. A film that set out to change the prevailing norms of love ended up confusing the audience. This film needed to breathe and draw you into its world and the fleeting moments of a beautiful romance. What we got was a series of conversations that was not in consonance with the rest of the film.
After the massive blockbuster of SS Rajamouli’s Magadheera, Ram Charan’s fan base panned out. This film, with great music by Harris Jayaraj, was understood only by a niche audience who came from backgrounds similar to the film’s characters. Ironically, something similar happened to another film that released the same year — Trivikram’s Mahesh Babu, Anushka Shetty-starrer Khaleja.
Today, with a gradual paradigm shift, those who revisit the film appreciate it better. If it had released even five years later, it might have also grossed well at the turnstiles.
Urban romances in the post-Orange era
Over time, we saw urban romances such as Oohalu Gusagusalade and Mental Madhilo that depicted a rollercoaster ride with respect to the choice of one’s life partner. Pelli Choopulu portrayed the silent romance of Prashant and Chitra while they explored their career, parallelly challenging gender roles and stereotypes around arranged marriage. Sammohanam spoke about toxic relationships, and their misogyny and oppression. The recent Netflix release Krishna and his Leela did speak about one person falling in love with two people at the same time.
Such films worked well because they struck a balance and gave the audience a reason as to why the characters behaved the way they did. The audience had also evolved, and in a strange way, this would all go back to how Orange disrupted the idea of what makes a good romance.