There’s a genre of Indian cinema I’ve come to dread. It hasn’t got a name (and truth be told, there haven’t been that many representative films), but it’s basically about narratives that have (1) a complex, relationship-oriented plot, and (2) a presentation that is at once childish and wannabe-ish. My Story, the Prithviraj-Parvathy romance, directed by Roshni Dinaker and written by Shanker Ramakrishnan, is the latest entry in this genre. It’s the kind of infuriating film that makes you feel very, very sorry for the actors. In the absence of coherent psychology or convincing motivation, they are reduced to emoting via Prada sunglasses and frocks that look like over-iced wedding cakes and ill-fitting hairpieces. (You read it here first. One day, a student doing a doctoral thesis on Malayalam cinema is going to present a paper titled Toupée or Not Toupée: Prithiviraj and his Strange Obsession with Wigs.)
My Story is about Tara (Parvathy) and Jai (Prithviraj), who meet on the sets of a movie being shot in Lisbon. (They are the stars.) This could have been any number of things. It could have been, say, a heart-on-sleeve love triangle, but we are never given a convincing reason for Tara, a woman of today, being with the clingy, controlling David (Ganesh Venkatraman). I didn’t care for this plot point in Dil Chahta Hai, either, but at least the woman there (Preity Zinta) felt obliged to the guy’s parents, who took her in after her parents died. Here, we’re not even sure why Tara takes to Jai in the first place. But then, in this genre of film, things just happen – like how Jai becomes a leading man. He walks up to a famously short-fused director (Manoj K Jayan), says he wants to be an actor, and two seconds later, he is the hero of an expensive production. If only!
Haram is practically an English movie, and certainly the only Indian film where I’ve heard the hero (Fahadh Faasil) rant about the “petit bourgeois.”
Other films of this genre include Raja Rani (Tamil; directed by Atlee), Haram (Malayalam; Vinod Sukumaran), and Ninnu Kori (Telugu; Shiva Nirvana). Some of them have non-linear screenplays, with ridiculous twists at the end. Some of them are set in foreign locations, which always makes Indian characters behave like they’ve just had grade-A psychotropic substances. Some of these films feature a ton of English dialogue — Haram is practically an English movie, and certainly the only Indian film where I’ve heard the hero (Fahadh Faasil) rant about the “petit bourgeois.” This occurs well into the second half, and I was startled that the man was supposed to be a Communist. Why? Because… things just happen. In My Story, a young Jai is told by his barber (who claims to have given A Nageswara Rao a haircut) that his future is in films. The grown-up Jai’s voiceover says something like this: “The screenplay of a dream commenced… ” Oh, yeah. Dreadful dialogue is another hallmark of this genre. What’s worse? When the dreadful dialogue is garnished with Portuguese, as in My Story.
I want your inputs. Are there more films of this genre? Remember, it should have all of the above: a relationship drama at the core + a sense of pretentiousness + overall amateurishness (leading to a high squirm count, on the part of the audience) + good actors mired in bad writing + strange costumes (as though cool people are above a simple pair of jeans) + so-bad-they’re-good lines. Actually, so-bad-it’s-good may not be a bad name for this genre. My Story has so many such nuggets — say, when we realise why Tara took off with Jai, whom she barely knows, for a day-long jaunt through Lisbon. Because David, the previous evening, made her dance with his friends; aka things just happen. Ninnu Kori has a plot point where a husband keeps zipping across the country because the woman who had a one-sided crush on him is threatening to end her life, which is something he could have just told his wife, instead of making her suspect he’s having an affair. I told you: things just happen.