Writer, Director: Taranveer Singh
Producers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Bhushan Kumar, Shobha Sant
Luxe-Romance is a genre of great value, its light touch of giddy-release pairing beauty — of clothes, of characters, of cities — with anticipation — of kisses, proclamations, sex — is designed to make a viewing experience end-to-end satisfying, damn the after-taste of diabetic guilt. Tuesdays and Fridays jumps in this jacuzzi, swerving its story from India to London where it unfolds for the remaining time; young modern love that is yearning for tradition in an old city, crumbling under the weight of modernity — there’s promise here.
Sia (Jhataleka Malhotra) is a lawyer and Varun (Anmol Dhillon) is a writer, though we never really see him either write or do any writer-adjacent work. It’s like Kriti Sanon being a chocolatier in Raabta, or Jacqueline Fernandez as a psychiatrist in Kick. They could be anything, it doesn’t matter. It’s not an occupation as much as it is a mood, a vibe. That’s perfectly fine, given no one really wants this rom-com to step on its own foot and become an full-bodied portrait of a writer’s life. It’s supposed to be breezy, light, and frothy. But this film, clocking at 1 hour 45 minutes, is so light, it almost doesn’t exist, and I mean that with the least snark possible. I watched the movie at night, and wrote this in the morning, feeling like I perhaps didn’t even watch it, that it was all a weary, watery dream of nothingness.
Part of this feeling is because the plot-points are so loose they just don’t add up to anything substantial, and so nothing sticks. Sia comes to London to celebrate her mother’s birthday, and instead finds out her mother is getting married. She is the supportive, modern daughter who insists on a prenup. Before this, in India, she is seen flirting with Varun, a writer she is representing as a lawyer for his book’s film adaptation. (At one point he is described thus: “Raj ka romance, Rahul ki intensity, aur Prem ke sanskaar”) In London, their paths cross in a cafe run by a Pakistani woman.
They decide they like each other but also decide that they can’t be together all the time because then, they will inevitably break-up because that’s a thing young people do a lot. So to insure themselves against heartbreak, they make rules, and this is the most frustrating sub-genre of the rom-com, because we know, they know, that these rules, a replacement for the traditional obstacle sub-plot, will be so specific, so unnecessary that the couple will end up kissing and fucking and loving at the very faultlines of it by the end of the movie — it’s a tradition. I honestly preferred the misogynistic father-figure as an obstacle than these cobbled rules that mistake banter for a banger. There’s at least more bite in those films.
So Sia and Varun sign a contract she draws up on a lawyer’s pad, whereby they will be girlfriend-boyfriend on Tuesdays and Fridays (let’s call it the “romance days”), and the remaining days they will be friends. The specificities:
- On non-romance days, if you see each other on a date with another person, you will not react. On romance days, if you see the person on a date with someone else, you will cause a bloodbath.
- No sex till third date, on romance and non-romance dates. This contract is not an excuse for either to be slutty.
- Don’t stretch the relationship if it begins to feel too much.
To plumb this wobbly story into something coherent, even exciting, they speak like what 40-year olds think late 20-year-old singles sound like. (There’s an 18 year old who throws a party to lose her virginity, and proudly proclaims the same, arms covered with luxury brand shopping bags.) The writer of the film seems to only make sense of the dysfunction of millennial life by blaming the parents for incomplete, imploding marriages that cascade down psychologically. It’s so prescriptive in its language, it’s almost offensive. Tony Kakkar and Kumaar’s Hinglish lyrics don’t help. (When it’s heartbreak, swift swerve to earthy Punjabi laments) Nor does the serpentine subplot involving the aged Pakistani coffee-house owner. There’s also suicide, infidelity, a high-profile breakup, family secrets, and orange juice as a trigger for childhood trauma. It is clear that little thought went into the details of this film, content with the idea and budget of a luxe-romance.
Jhataleka Malhotra’s acting that begins as a sweet, weightless presence begins to feel more bothersome as the film goes on; she is incapable of expressing beyond certain limits — grief or ecstacy. Anmol Dhillon’s pitch, on the other end, a faint hangover of Saif Ali Khan’s commitment-phobic, charming roles, is perpetually beyond the range he is supposed to emote. This mismatch of over-excitement and under-excitement is odd, though it has the sincerity of two debut performances to it, both reading lines as if they are leaking profundity. They are not, and so the characters just amble about, stumbling into kisses, and off-screen sex, under the impression that this is love in all its faux-millennial glory—indifferent sometimes, intense sometimes, infuriating always.