I know I will meet the One before midnight this Valentine's Day, which also happens to be Puranmashi," says Madhuri Dixit, wearing a glazed, waiting-for-the-mothership expression in Dil To Pagal Hai. We don't know where this dotty conviction comes from, but the movie's clearly on her side. That used to be the kind of no-conversation, no-good-reason vision of romance that Hindi movies had got us used to. Movies from the Houses of Chopra and Johar grew many of us up with that absurd, contentless idea of love.
For all their preoccupation with romance, mainstream Hindi movies are only now beginning to fill in the details. The way you think you want people and then you don't, you want someone else. The way you fall helplessly out of love too. They have begun to acknowledge long-distance relationships, exes, different ambitions. The films might be forgettable, but they're introducing new elements, trying to infuse something real into a conservative genre.
Pick any random movie, and you see the small subversions. Imtiaz Ali's romantic comedies decisively let go of the Johar-Yashraj magical thinking to explore the flux and confusion of relating to each another. Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal all have moments when you're thrown. No, Kareena Kapoor doesn't throw herself into Shahid Kapoor's waiting arms when he finds her, jilted and broken, because she's still hung up on her awful boyfriend. Deepika Padukone even gets married to her lukewarm fiancé, as Saif watches. There's a small ping, of expectation belied. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu shows us a provisional ending, where Imran is still trying to talk Kareena into a relationship.
But Shuddh Desi Romance is different from all of these movies toying with the conventions. It simply upends them. It's about being young, daring, determined to make a new thing out of your life. About romance as joyful and sexy and silly, a utopian force at odds with jhoote riwaj and jhoote samaaj. There is a pioneering spirit to it that makes you forgive the film its loose editing. Think of small towns — what is oppressive about them