Director: Pradeep Ranganathan
Cast: Pradeep Ranganathan, Ivana, Radhika Sarathkumar, Sathyaraj, Yogi Babu
Pradeep Ranganathan’s Love Today does not want any credit for being termed an accurate portrayal of modern love in the age of social media. It also wants to narrate this story in a way that it appeals to today’s viewers who spend more time on Instagram Reels than on any other entertainment platform. There’s a mad energy in the way Pradeep writes his scenes, with a lot going on not just in terms of what it’s trying to say but also in the way it’s being told. So if a joke has been planted with a predictable punchline, the film doesn’t merely steer towards it. It doubles down on this idea and runs with it using multiple cutaways, bizarrely loud music (Yuvan’s music gets a lot better as we go along) and at times even visual effects (“I’ll break his face” literally translates to a face breaking) for the joke to land.
This style is probably a sign of things to come with the film giving you the feeling that you’re scrolling through hundreds of TikToks with a unifying theme remaining a mere backdrop. Given that the plot-line itself is extremely conducive for this sort of treatment, you need to give it to the makers for landing on a premise that keeps writing its own jokes. The actual plot kicks in with a parent forcing his daughter to exchange her phone with that of her lover’s to see how well they know each other. Besides the obvious areas you can go to with such a solid idea, the film also reminds you that this one-line is perfect for social media’s favourite comedy territory—the boys versus girls debate.
If the template of a mass action film is to set up a back-and-forth between the good guy and bad guy to see who is better, the structure of Love Today is between boyfriend and girlfriend to see who is shadier. It’s this game of one-upmanship that drives the film forward with one leaked secret making way for another that’s even bigger. So if Nikita (Ivana) goes on a late night drive with her ex and hides it from her lover, Uthaman Pradeep (Pradeep Ranganathan) gets caught slipping into the DMs of a bunch of different women. The joke isn’t really in discovering their darker, kinkier side. It is instead at how ridiculously far they take this joke to create an effect. Which means that when Uthaman slips into these DMs on Instagram, we also get to see an elaborately complex split-screen sequence with these women taking a part of the screen. And when he takes this a step further with his character asking these women for pictures of them dressed up in “tribal” clothing, the irreverence of it all is what makes it work.
When some of these setups work, they provide some wildly funny LOL moments. But when they don’t, you get to clearly see just how immature it can be. Take the case of how a scene is written around an annoying kid who wants to pee very badly. They push it so far that it’s neither clever nor funny. It’s the same with the idea of our hero having to shove her lover’s phone in his pants to protect it from rain. This visual too is pushed to such an extent that it borders on being crass and distasteful.
Even if you’re willing to overlook these as surface-level slips, what keeps the film at a distance from you is just how unlikeable its lead characters remain throughout. It is understandable that you question their choices given the film’s underlying theme, but this doesn’t always justify the notions they propagate. What this reveals is that the film’s youth-centric approach is limited to the making and the manner in which it includes technology into the plot. Ironically, the mindset of these 20-something characters remain as conservative as their parents. An example of this comes in the way Uthaman is quick to slut-shame his lover the very first instance he suspects her. Even the shockingly old-school weightage Uthaman and Nikita put on notions of purity and virginity (a running motif is how she refuses to kiss him) appear dated in a film that wants to speak a modern tongue.
This is a shame given how the film can also be perceptive when it wants to. For one, there’s some good writing that has gone into the hows and whys of casting Yogi Babu as Uthaman’s brother-in-law. At first, Love Today deceives you into believing that this too is another film designed to make fun of his appearance with a plethora of body shaming gags. But if you fell for it, the film is also clever enough to point the finger right back at you for laughing by creating the space for a Yogi Babu monologue that works outside the context of the film, just as it works inside of it. Even the way the film uses the metaphor of a mango tree gives the film moments of maturity, even if this idea is pushed too hard and too obviously.
With a lot of the energy from the film’s first half missing as it progresses towards a sober climax, we also start missing the audacity with which the earlier portions were treated. In what’s meant to mirror a boy’s coming-of-age story just as it reflects a couple achieving emotional maturity, Love Today could have easily been a cautionary tale about the importance of mutual trust in a relationship. But by settling for instant gratification from its comedy rather than investing in its broader, more meaningful themes, Love Today too settles for the ordinary. It might appear to be a product made by and for GenZ. Sadly, its soul is that of a boomer’s.