What ‘La La Land’ Can Teach Bollywood (And All of Us) About Love
‘La La Land’ is a brilliant and original love letter to cinema — they truly don’t make movies like this anymore.
(Note: This article may contain spoilers)
“Here's to the hearts that ache.
Here's to the mess we make.”
- ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’, La La Land
On a 70 mm screen, love looks larger than life. Sighs of young love look ravishing in technicolor, obstacles appear intimidating in surround sound and everyone expects a happy, satisfactory end and a long walk into the sunset.
But sometimes, if we’re lucky, comes along a love story which makes our hearts ache. We feel the grand rhythms of love but are also made acutely aware of the staccato beats of mundane reality. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is one such film; blending uncomplicated love with melancholic truths and leaves us wanting for more.
Dear Bollywood, Modern Love Doesn’t Have to be Commitment Phobic
“I’ll always love you.”
Sitting on a park bench, Mia (played by Emma Stone) tells Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling), and he responds with a sardonic “You know I’ll always love you too.”
Both Mia and Emma appear to be characters from a different era, stuck in 21st century Los Angeles solely on the strength of their dreams. He is a jazz pianist, fiercely passionate about its history, only to realise that the kind of music he wants to play is heard by only 90-year-olds. She grew up staging plays with her aunt, working as a barista at a cafe in the Warner Brothers’ lot and being rejected in one audition after another.
But when they fall in love, they do so quickly and unabashedly. There’s no ‘should I text him first?’ conundrum of modern love and no ‘we-don’t-yet-know-what-we-are’ dilemmas. Mia and Sebastian’s love plays out in modern LA, is entangled in messy ambitions but is unafraid of being romantic.
Contrast this with Aditya Chopra’s Befikre which was sold to us as a modern love story, but premised on two young people who are apprehensive about even uttering ‘I love you’ to each other. Why does contemporary Bollywood romance shy away from taking a deep dive into old-world love?
As an exasperated Sebastian asks his practical sister, “What’s wrong in being romantic?”
Epic Love Stories, And Incomplete Endings
“That’s the window where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman used to look out from.”
An excited Mia tells Sebastian as she shows him around the Warner Brothers’ plot right at the beginning of their relationship. The reference to the 1942 movie Casablanca is not incidental. Just as Rick and Ilsa swear eternal love but are forced to hold on to the memory of Paris; Mia and Sebastian too must choose between eternal love and their dreams. And towards the end of the film, when Mia walks into Sebastian’s jazz club, one can almost hear Rick saying “Out of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine..”
The best love stories, the ones you remember long after the lights come on in the theatre, are the ones which leave you with a heartache. Think of Ann and Joe in Roman Holiday and Salim and Anarkali in Mughal-e-Azam. Even when you know that these couples will not get their happy ending, you hopelessly believe in their love.
Chazelle takes a risk with La La Land by making us invest so heavily in Mia and Sebastian’s love and then gently reminding us that sometimes love needs to slowly bow down to everyday hurdles. It reminds us that even though Mia and Sebastian’s love may not get a happy ending, they will always love each other — and ‘always have Paris.’ (Or Los Angeles)
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is a musical, but at heart, its a jazz performance. Raw, spontaneous, full of conflict and unforgettable. The songs in the film are not an artifice as it is in some musicals, but seamlessly blends with its characters and their moods. Linus Sandgren’s luminous frames are in tandem with Justin Hurwitz’s scores; each note scored and each frame shot with unflinching love.
La La Land has got seven nominations at the Golden Globes 2017, including the Best Director gong for Chazelle.
But for once, awards don’t matter. La La Land is a brilliant and wholly original love letter to cinema — they truly don’t make movies like this anymore.
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