Director: Jack Prabhu & Santoshh
The premise of this film, made with a cast of newcomers, is what the title promises: the first night or the wedding night. In the case of arranged marriages, this can be an awkward thing. Long, long ago when marriages were arranged by elders, the couple barely met. After marriage, they would be pushed into a room and told to have sex. Today, things may not be as bad because the couple get to interact even in the case of an arranged marriage. But still, there's the awkwardness of having sex for the first time with someone you barely know or at least don't know too well. This is the premise of the film.
For example, one of the characters is a guy who hasn't had much interaction with women at all. So, his whole idea of sex is probably based on things like what he's seen in films. So, he goes into the room on his wedding night and locks the door; he then pushes his wife onto the bed, as if that's the only thing he's got to do: no talking or anything. It's just: I've got to prove my manhood by having sex right now.
Or, take this guy who has come back from the US for an arranged marriage. He's seen people date and live together there: intimacy is created organically over time. He's having trouble with the idea that he's going to be shut in a room with a woman. There's another guy who finds out, on his wedding night, that his wife had a boyfriend before marriage and she's probably done it with him. Even though he's had sex with quite a few women, he's unable to digest the fact that his wife has had an affair.
There's also the scenario that's probably all too common where a very young girl is terrified to go into the room on her wedding night. In fact, one of her friends tells her that some men can be rough while others can be gentle, and that she has to adjust; the girl's terror just mounts.
All these scenarios are fitted into chapters and the film is presented in an anthology format. Each of these chapters is about multiple couples: there's an organic density and you see one scenario playout in relation to another.
Usually, I'm not a fan of talky films because they have to be done really well, like the classic Before Sunrise, for example. Otherwise, it's too in your face. Especially, in Tamil cinema we can get very preachy about sex, love and relationships. Even in First Nights, the dialogues do get into a zone where they're giving advice or a message. But it isn't a problem because the situations are such that people are going to say these heavy lines. It's like how, after a few drinks, the grand, philosophical conversations with a friend might feel right even though they sound weird to a third person.
Similarly, conversations in the film are filled with awkward silences and pauses, but they don't seem overdone. The cast, made up mostly of unfamiliar faces, do a pretty good job of putting things across.
First Nights looks like a low budget indie film, which cannot be helped. But you still want it to look better than a TV serial. I would have also preferred the film to be a bit more serious. The film attempts a sitcom cuteness to make things light and sometimes that doesn't fit all. But given the constraints and also given some chapters are bound to be better than the others in an anthology, First Nights is a look at relationships, sex, and first nights that's not bad at all.
The film is having its international premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival and will be available on the MovieSaints platform.