“Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring”, goes the lyric of the famous song. In cinema, love is all that and so much more. It is stalking, taming, grovelling and everything in between. When the love is unrequited, it often sends one of the protagonists on a road filled with multiple Alcoholics Anonymous signposts. It is not a coincidence then that my favourite movies on love are the ones that have largely stayed away from these stereotypes. So, in no particular order, below are my five favourite films on love across languages and most of them go beyond the “happily ever after” and “wallowing in self-pity” brackets.
This story of Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) and Jaanu (Trisha), childhood sweethearts reuniting after school is one with a happy ending. It shows that “happy” need not necessarily be followed by “ever after”. Two people with broken hearts meet after twenty years at a school reunion and spend a day together reminiscing the old times, wondering about the what ifs and clearing up misunderstandings – in short, healing each other. They meet at the interval of their lives to bring about the third act of their own stories. As they say their goodbyes, it is a new beginning to their individual lives with no regrets or holding on to the past. Their present is healed so their future can prosper.
Notting Hill (English)
Girls have stood in front of guys asking for love since the beginning of cinema, but when the girl is the reigning queen of the silver screen and the guy an ordinary joe from a London suburb, things change. For countless film lovers, the ultimate fantasy is that of dating their favourite onscreen actress and this film lets them watch their fantasy play out on screen. Hugh Grant plays the ordinary joe to perfection and Julia Roberts lights up every frame with her beauty and charm playing a fictionalised version of herself.
Set in the middle of the second World War, Casablanca is a classic love triangle with a pragmatic turn. While traditional romantic movies wax eloquent about love superseding everything else in the universe, Casablanca has probably the most realistic of lines spoken by Humphrey Bogart’s Rick – “it does not take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”. It does not trivialise the emotion of love, instead it focuses on the love when it is zoomed in at individual lives. The pain of having lost Ilsa can be seen in Rick’s eyes when he laments “of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she had to walk into mine”. It is only when the film zooms out of these three lives and shows them in the context of the geopolitical that it goes for the more logical ending. As time goes by, in Dooley Wilson’s voice there remains an eternal ode to love.
The Lunchbox (English/Hindi)
The Mumbai dabbawalas play match makers as they inadvertently bring together two disparate individuals whose paths would have never crossed otherwise. Saajan (Irrfan) a widower on the verge of retirement, and Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a lonely housewife whose life is confined to the four walls of her home and 90s Hindi film songs. Another film that is not about a romanticised notion of happily ever after, but very much about the here and now. As two people fill the lacuna in their lives through letters and food, it is more about companionship than love. For what is love, if not the first milestone on the road to companionship.
Guy proposes, girl disposes with a tricky condition attached. Guy then goes on a life changing journey to fulfil the condition – discovering the Bengali language and music in the process. This reincarnation tale by Srijit Mukherjee has an interesting love story at the core that is not about dates and roses but music and poetry in the effort to win the girl’s love. Jisshu Sengupta as the hopelessly in love Gujarati and Swastika as the fanatical about language Mahamaya is a match brought together by pages of history coming alive. The music of the film and the ode to Anthony Firingee just lift this film multiple notches.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.