Look out, love is back

This February, filmmakers have decided to go the romcom way. After a period of heavy-duty action films and dramas, Bollywood seems to have realised that nothing sells quite like romance in the month of St Valentine

What do Imran Khan-Kareena Kapoor, Prateik-Amy Jackson, Riteish Deshmukh-Genelia D'Souza, Madhavan-Bipasha Basu and Ali Zafar-Aditi Rao Hydari have in common? Of late, we have been privy to their flirting, wooing and romance on our TV screens as the promos of their films enjoy heavy rotation -- a breather from the glut of action-thrillers, comedies, remakes and sequels that have of late held sway over Bollywood. In fact, for the next four Fridays, cinemas are going to be flooded with romances. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, as many as five perfectly-timed candy floss extravaganzas are cashing in on Cupid fever.

Prateik and Amy Jackson get lovey-dovey at Juhu Beach.
The two star in upcoming romcom Ekk Deewana Tha.
Pic/ Mahesh Chafe

Cupid in theatres
Releasing just four days before Valentine's Day is Dharma's Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, starring Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor. This coming-of-age romcom, helmed by Shakun Batra, is about Rahul Kapoor and Riana Braganza, who get married on an impulse, while under the influence of alcohol. No prizes for guessing that love happens soon after. February 17 will also see the release of director Gautham Menon's Ekk Deewana Tha, a remake of his Tamil hit, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. The film stars Prateik and British newcomer Amy Jackson, and boasts of music by AR Rahman. "This film is very different from modern love stories that people are used to seeing on Indian screens. Ekk Deewana Tha, unlike the others, is very identifiable," he says.

Adding a dash of cynicism to this mushy mix is Ashwini Chaudhary's Jodi Breakers, with the unusual pairing of R Madhavan and Bipasha Basu, that releases on February 24. As the name suggests, this film shows the duo trying to break up couples in unhappy relationships. "This Valentine's, Jodi Breakers says that if you are not happy in a relationship, partner badlo or enjoy being single till you again get a chance to discover love and the right partner," says Chaudhary.

Battling these in the same week, will be another love story -- the Kumar Taurani produced Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya starring real life couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'souza, about a North Indian romance between polar opposites -- quiet Viren and perky Mini -- laced with dollops of humour. And releasing on March 2 is Anu Menon's London Paris New York, starring the freshly-baked pair of Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao Hydari. "It's a very young and witty take on romcoms. Even our songs are very conversational," avers Goldie Behl, the film's producer.

The Valentine hype
It's not rocket science to make the connection between this sudden glut of love stories and Valentine's Day in February. Though Menon says he personally doesn't believe in the concept of a Valentine, he is candid about the reasons for releasing Ekk Deewana Tha on February 17. "It is a love story and the marketing team says that releasing it close to Valentine's Day will help it," he admits. "Love stories that release around Valentine's Day, cash in on the mood," agrees Chaudhary. He adds, "In terms of marketing and creating a buzz, filmmakers use it as a tool to lure audiences."

Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan will star in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu,
a romcom that will release around Valentine's Day

No wonder that Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, which was supposedly scheduled for a September 2011 release, was delayed till February. Batra responds, "There were no delays as such. The release date that we have got now is fine. I think it all happens for the best." While filmmakers believe that ultimately it is the script that counts, they also realise that a release close to Valentine's Day is advantageous for romcoms. Behl admits, "There is a mood and a taste for movies that don't necessarily have the three Khans or Hrithik Roshan. We have to fight for our own little space and work hard to entertain the audience. When I was a child, I remember asking my dad (filmmaker Ramesh Behl) why Raj Kapoor released his movies during the monsoon. He said that it is because he makes romantic movies. That is the atmosphere and mood suitable for his films."

Why has love been on the run?
The recent upsurge in the number of romantic films is in contrast to the last few years, in which action thrillers and comedies have dominated Bollywood. One probable reason for the sidelining of romance could be the maturing of our big stars. Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were known for their romantic films in the 1990s but with age, they have now broadened their range. Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn have sustained their stardom through comedies and action thrillers. And even the younger-in-comparison Hrithik Roshan, after Kaho Naa � Pyaar Hai, has been most successful as a superhero or an action figure.

Romance had taken a backseat as stars and filmmakers raked in the moolah with masala action films and comedies like Dabangg, Singham, Agneepath, Housefull, and the Don and Golmaal franchises. When was the last time we saw SRK flaunt his quintessential arms-wide-open stance in a film? While the reigning 40-and-thereabouts stars are shying away from romance like they would from a fever bug, newcomers too, have not been able to make an impact at the box office with romantic films. This wasn't always so. In the 1980s, a string of romantic films starring unknown faces -- Love Story, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Betaab, Hero, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Maine Pyar Kiya -- hit theatres and became superhits.

More than romance
Younger actors too are now taking to the genre, while broadening their repertoire by dabbling in other kinds of films at the same time. Imran Khan seems to have become the youthful poster boy for romcoms after Jaane Tu � Ya Jaane Na, I Hate Luv Storys and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, although he says, "I have also got tremendous appreciation when I have gone off-track and done a film like Delhi Belly." Like Khan, his contemporary Ranbir Kapoor too, is not keen to be perceived only as a romantic actor. After the success of Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Kapoor could have very well built a romantic career like his father, Rishi, but instead chose to do films like Rocket Singh: Salesman Of The Year and Rajneeti. Now, with the forthcoming Karan Johar-produced Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (opposite ex-girlfriend, Deepika Padukone), he has the potential to develop into the genre's mainstay over the next decade.

There is a mood and a taste for movies that don't necessarily
star the Khans or Hrithik Roshan. We have to fight for space
and work hard to entertain the audience. As a child,
I remember
asking my dad why Raj Kapoor released his movies during the
monsoon. He said that it is because he makes romantic movies.
That is the atmosphere and mood suitable for his films.

- Goldie Behl
Producer of London Paris New York, starring Ali Zafar and
Aditi Rao Hydari

Look around, the others are trying it too. Ranveer Singh will romance Sonakshi Sinha in the forthcoming Lootera and Prateik will try his luck with yet another love story, Issaq, a modern day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
Actresses too are keen to star in love stories. While action films largely have men showcasing their biceps, a love story affords women greater screen space and good roles. Kareena Kapoor, who has expressed her reluctance to do stunts in films like Ra.One and Agent Vinod, is very excited about Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. As she puts it, "I am just too feminine, I enjoy romance and dance."

Never too late, or costly, for love
Trending or not, love stories never go out of fashion. Behl believes, "Falling in love never goes out of style. Thrillers and action flicks will come and go, but romance is always in fashion." Menon, who has chalked out Assi Nabey Poore Sau, another breezy romance with Aditya Roy Kapoor, agrees, "Love is an eternal emotion. People will always like a good love story."  Economically, too, love stories are emerging as a safe bet for filmmakers.

Karan Johar alternates his big budget extravaganzas like Agneepath with an Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Chaudhary explains, "An action film can't work without Salman, Akshay, Shah Rukh or Hrithik. You can't make a huge action film with an upcoming star. But romcoms are a safer bet with younger heroes and limited budgets." Director Aanand Rai, who proved this with sleeper-hit Tanu Weds Manu vouches, "The romcom is a lovable genre for family audiences to enjoy."

Rai is going to stick with the genre with the Tanu Weds Manu sequel and Raanjhanaa, starring Kolaveri di sensation Dhanush. The director, who is scouting for the female lead for this film says, "I really enjoy relationship-based stories coming from smaller towns of India. Raanjhanaa is a pure love story with very Indian characters."

The return of romance
But it's not just Valentine's month that will host romcoms in 2012. Kunal Kohli's untitled love story spanning three eras and starring Shahid Kapur and Priyanka Chopra will release in June, while Ranveer Singh turns Lootera for Vikramaditya Motwane in a period romance set in the '50s. Tusshar Kapoor romances Kulraj Randhawa in Samir Karnik's Chaar Din Ki Chandni in March, and newbies Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra will sizzle in May in YRF's Ishaqzaade.

Filmmakers too, are incorporating love as a strong element in their upcoming releases. Madhur Bhandarkar's Heroine is a realistic depiction of the life of a superstar actress. But not many are aware that at the heart of this Kareena Kapoor-starrer is a love story with Arjun Rampal. Rampal divulges, "Heroine is a beautiful love story of what happens to two characters from the same line of work, and how the media creates misunderstandings in their relationship."

After the success of Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Milan Luthria too is aiming for a high romantic quotient in this gangster-crime sequel starring Akshay Kumar. "This film has an interesting romantic triangle and there will be a lot of scope for music," he says. And the cherry on the cake is that SRK, once touted as the 'king of romance' will return to familiar terrain with a Yash Chopra venture this Diwali. After experimenting with Ra.One and Don 2, expect him to romance chiffon saree-clad Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma in Switzerland. If this doesn't signal the return of romance, what does?

Screen on, chemistry off?

Deshmukh admits that it is tough to bring off-screen chemistry to the silver screen. He recalls, "An actor-friend of mine feels that couples tend to say a lot to each other with just one look because the other person really understands you. But in a film you are trying to convey to a third person; and it is important for the audience to understand what you are conveying." In sync with her beau, D'souza feels, "I don't think you can blame two actors if the lines are not right or if the moments are not correct. I have always believed in chemistry being written in the script."

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