Idealized Love Versus Raunchy Romance

While  I  watched  the new Vijay Sethupathi  blockbuster ‘86 I couldn’t help think back to Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan  where  Vickey Kaushal and Tapsee Pannu  couldn’t keep their hands  off each  other.

In  ’86 if Sethupathi’s hand accidently touches Trisha’s hand he recoils as though hit by an electric  current.

And no one  laughs.The myth that  today’s generations equates love with lust and a love relationship without  sex is  like a meal without dessert …or whatever…is effectively demolished  in this game-changing  love story. In this era of lustful cynicism  it requires a whole lot of guts to make a film as plunged in the platonic as  a seer immersed in his holy chants that no amount of temptation can detract him from.

Ram in  ‘86 played  by  Vijay Sethupathi loves  Janu(Trisha Krishna) with religious devotion. For the want  of  a better word, worship is what Ram does. For half the  film the younger Ram,  played with brooding vulnerability  by young AdithyaBhaskar,  sits in the classroom glancing anxiously at Janu. He cannot speak to her. On her birthday friends have to bodily lift him and  bring him to her to say ‘Happy Birthday’

Then school ends. The  love-smitten pair moves in  separate ways. 22 years later they reunite at a college reunion. The  sparks  fly. Ram still won’t say the three magical words. He  would rather  just adore his beloved, a  sort of  Radha  in reverse  worshipping Krishna.

 ’86  provides a  refreshingly revisionist look at love and romance. There are no villains separating  the couple in love, the  culprit is the hero’s  taciturnity rooted  in his spiritual attachment to the object of his adoration. He can’t bring himself to confess his  love  even when he gets a chance  to do so  22 years later.

I  fell in love with this ostensibly  obsolete  variety of love where once the  love confession is made  the magic disappears. Ram won’t say it aloud. He  is willing to pay the price. He will  remain without his loved one all his life. But he won’t drag his sublime feelings down to  earth. Let them float freely in the  universe. Let love be.

That’s what Gulzar Saab wrote in one of his  finest love songs: Humne dekhi hai unn aankhon ki mehekti khushboo haath sechuke ussey rishton ka  ilzaam naa do sirf ehsaas hai yeh rooh se  mehsoos  karo. Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam do.

’96 is  a  unique take on love.This is love with no strings attached.  Sex is not even a thought. The delicately persuasive film says, in not so many words,that love remains even when the one you love is  not with you physically. To make  a film so passionate lucid engaging and moving about the idea of love , requires a whole lot of guts.

Regional cinema ceased  to be regional long ago. The sooner Bollywood recognizes it the better. This romance between two  people passed their prime can comfortably be made  into Hindi. All the superstars in Hindi cinema are  passed  50. All they  have to do is  agree to work with one of their co-stars  from ten years ago instead  of  insisting on being paired with girls  half their age.

A  rare and  precious film like  ’86 pricks the patriarchal   bubble effectively. The Rajni-Kamal brand  of  romancing is over in Tamil cinema. Bollywood’s superstars  too need to accept their age. If Salman Khan  behaves like an  8-year  old, as  he did  inTubelight, there will be hell to pay.

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