Netflix’s ‘Love Per Sq Ft’: A Middle-Class Millennial Love Story
Netflix's first Indian straight to streaming mainstream movie, Love Per Square Foot, touted as a millennial love story, refreshingly does not dwell on the tropes that have come to be associated with the generation. There are no right swipe, left swipe Tinder references and the lead pair does not deal with the angst of the ‘privileged’ kind. Though not a scathing take on urbanisation as the erstwhile Gharonda, it grapples with the housing crisis in Mumbai in a lighter vein, creating a resonant portrait of the city.
The citizens of this Mayanagri have traversed the distance between Bombay and Mumbai and the demographic cohort has shifted from Generation X to Y but the question of home and hearth seems to be timeless. This juxtaposition of an enduring urban malaise with millennial protagonists makes it a frothy yet not a frivolous film.
Love Per Square Foot is an unpretentious romantic comedy about a duo that is looking for an apartment instead of love. Sanjay Chaturvedi (Vicky Kaushal), originally hailing from Kanpur and Karina D’Souza (Angira Dhar) from Bandra opt for a transactional relationship with a marriage of convenience after stumbling upon a new housing scheme that is only meant for married couples.
In popular culture, millennial lives are almost synonymous with galloping digitisation. Love Per Square Foot instead directs its gaze on the middle class realities and aspirations of millennials living with their parents in cramped houses, with no privacy of bedrooms of their own. It bracingly avoids defining them merely by technology. The film may not break thrilling new ground with its subject but the observational humour in the dialogue, the bevy of supporting characters, earnest performances and an assured directorial debut make it worth a watch.
Director Anand Tiwari and writer Sumeet Vyas weave their offbeat ‘web-series’ sensibilities into the Bollywood masala format. Insert <Udit Narayan song and a cameo by a star> This formula is at times a hit and at times a miss but the largely breezy and unassuming tone makes it an enjoyable watch.
In one of the scenes, when Sanjay comes home to find his Mama sleeping on his bed, he gives his mother an exasperated look. The mother (an excellent Supriya Pathak) reminds him how he would snuggle up to his Mama and insist on making space and sleeping next to him in his childhood. To this hush hush tete-a-tete, the Mama responds by breaking wind. It’s moments like these that elevate the situational comedy.
Netflix Original Film vs Theatrical Release
One may argue that at a time when digital downloading is threatening to turn the communal experience of film-viewing into a solitary one, Bollywood streaming-only movies being served straight up on Netflix may hurt the future of theatre releases. The idea of a future where people watch films only at home can be unsettling. As impossibly dystopian as it may sound, there is something to be said about the personal experience of watching an intimate film on the laptop. Netflix is a beacon of hope for storytellers who want to tell their tales, their own way without their voices being stifled by the compulsions of the box-office.
Love Per Square Foot does not boast of stars and nor does it shoulder the mantle of a blockbuster. Smaller films don’t tend to draw audiences in hordes in theatres. But thanks to Netflix, a worthy movie that could slip into oblivion stands in the company of the likes of Okja and Black Mirror and is exclusively available to more than 109 million Netflix members in 190 countries simultaneously.
The Non-Millennial Shades of Millennial Love Per Square Foot
Even in the digital age, we see the leads of the film stumbling upon and earmarking the ad for an affordable house in a newspaper. As is evident from the world they conjure, the writer-director duo is not interested in cobwebbed clichés.
In a Punjabised Bollyscape it’s refreshing to see a Chaturvedi-D’souza pairing. Picayune details of the Catholic culture, depicted in the film, like the chicken dance are conspicuous by how under-explored they are in mainstream Hindi films. Ratna Pathak Shah’s performance as Blossom, almost exudes the whiff of Basu Chatterjee’s Baton Baton Mein universe.
In Tiwari’s world, the conflict does not arise from a clash of communities. That hurdle is effortlessly surmounted with what could easily be one of the most delightful scenes in the film where Karina’s mother meets Sanjay’s parents.
The ensemble cast of the veteran non-millennial characters in pivotal roles (Ratna Pathak Shah, Supriya Pathak, Raguvir Yadav, Gajraj Rao, Brijendra Kala and more) lay bare the emotional paradoxes of infuriating, affectionate and enabling parents.
The exploration of the profession of a railway announcer in the character essayed by Raghuvir Yadav makes us wish that a spin-off movie is made on him.
It is the non-millennials who truly shine in this millennial movie.