Selvaraghavan once said in an interview promoting his new film that he was going to show us what real love was because, in his opinion, all other Tamil films deceive us with filmy love stories. Then he went on to release Irandam Ulagam.
Maybe for Selva, voyeurism is the real form of love and he feels every other form is deceptive. But his take on romance is what makes a Selva film unique. Tamil filmmakers have a weird habit of including romance in their films, regardless of necessity, for the sake of reaching out to a wider audience. Maybe a part of the audience comes to watch a film only if there is some version of love involved in the story. But apart from it being a business, is there any reason why there are so many versions of unwanted romance we see in our films?
Let’s take Dheeran – Adhigaaram Ondru for instance. The film revolves around a true story. The intent of the film did not warrant any romance at any point in the story. And yet there was an intolerable amount of “romance” that totally distracted from the pace the movie was trying to set. I’m not even talking about the commonly found misogynistic portrayal of love in Dheeran. Why have any kind of romance in a film that’s dealing with cops and their adventures? If it was meant to humanize the protagonist, it clearly didn’t. Even as an amateur movie watcher, this were frustrating as it pulled us away from our relationship with the story. I wonder how it is that the writers don’t realize this despite multiple such films?
The supposed to be masala films also deal with a similar problem but the difference is that usually the films are forgettable even without the romance. But on the other end of the spectrum, there is Vettaiyadu Vilayadu. Romance is used to humanize the protagonist in this as well but the way it is depicted makes us want a separate movie focusing only on the lead pair’s relationship. The story doesn’t need a relationship. Aaradhana could have been anyone for the script to work. But making her the love interest for the protagonist only made the film even more beautiful. Raghavan’s arc with Aaradhana affects his investigation. His police work affects their relationship. The romance blends in with the script so seamlessly that we don’t even feel the switch between the different scenes. It’s not just about a dignified portrayal of women or love, it’s about good writing primarily, which often includes the former.
So is not having romance as the core subject the problem? Remo is a good counter example. It is about a guy trying to woo a girl who clearly is not interested in him. We are not new to films having stalking as their definition of romance. Setting the morality debate aside for later, the romance in Remo was neither realistic nor pleasant. Having love as the main theme, one would expect the writers to think of a better way to represent it but the film had nothing but a cringe-worthy expression of lust by two people who had absolutely no idea about love. Even if we see them just as characters, their shallow characterization doesn’t warrant any kind of emotions from the audience. Maybe commercialization of romance isn’t really a good idea?
Mani Ratnam on the other hand, handles love in ways no other writer handles it. Be it the humble Chandrakumar approaching the uninterested Divya Chandramouli (a wonderful example that the Remo writers could have looked to for inspiration), or how the reflex decisions affect Karthik and Shakthi’s relationship, or the way Indira conveys her liking towards Thiruchelvan or the transition of how love overcomes Aadi and Tara’s disinterest in marriage, he writes love in a way we would want love to be in our lives. We can find the thin line between filmy and realistic love in his movies. Although the cinematography, music and others behind the scenes play a huge part in creating such masterpieces, everything comes together this good only if the writing is strong enough.
Good romance is of course subjective and everyone has their own version of how well it can be portrayed. But if we see the pattern of romance in films, it gives us a perspective towards the kind of people who write these. Although writers’ creative freedom is controlled by many factors, we still can see a few films where romance is dignified and realistic. What differentiates these films from the bad ones are the experiences and the way writers of these films think about love. Vettrimaran’s film is filled with amazing filmmaking but his approach towards love is not something he should be proud of. This doesn’t make him a bad filmmaker, but perhaps he hasn’t experienced the kind of love that inspires good writing, if at all. We can only hope filmmakers experience romance that is more realistic and pleasant so that it translates to good romance on screen.