The Romantics On Netflix Is A Charming Love Letter To Movies, Despite A Self-Indulgent Post-Script

You'll be smiling through and through!
The Romantics On Netflix Is A Charming Love Letter To Movies, Despite A Self-Indulgent Post-Script

I remember watching the trailer for The Romantics, with a Valentine’s Day release, and thinking this is probably the most I am going to be smiling on February 14th. Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra’s movies have shaped so much of my idea of love. When you love a piece of art—whether it is a book, movie, musical composition, or painting— you form a strong kinship with its artist. And this documentary series, directed by Smriti Mundhra, singularly tugged at this very string of my heart, with its promise of a trip down memory lane of our favourite YRF films, talking heads like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, the late Rishi Kapoor, and the bait of an elusive Aditya Chopra’s interview.

 

 

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To say I was excited would be an understatement.

And Bollywood rarely does understatements. In fact, on point, The Romantics opens with a black-with-red-hearts-clad Ranveer Singh shuffling into the room, his boombox in tow, and singing ‘Aankhein Khuli Ho Ya Ho Bandh’, from Mohabbatein. RS, apart from being a YRF discovery, is also obsessed with the movies and superstars as much as you or I. Who better to kickstart the conversation than someone who is both the lover and the loved? The energy levels, the nostalgia vibe, the candidness … everything established in one swoop. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, which isn’t so much a mystery as it is the anticipation of something hitherto unseen. The Aditya Chopra interview. An inspired choice!

The first two episodes of The Romantics are like watching the chiffon saree of a Yashraj heroine billowing in the breeze on a Swiss mountaintop. See? Instantly evoking nostalgia and feelings of love and romance, stunning to look at, and might even turn you into mush. A chronicle of the humble beginnings of Yash Chopra, first in the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra, and then on to creating his own Yash Raj Films, with Pamela Chopra by his side, as his partner-in-art. It was a nice touch to juxtapose his filmography with how marriage transformed Yash Chopra’s way of looking at things, particularly how he approached his female characters. It lend more gravitas to the infusion of softness in his cinema, his turn towards unconventional romances like Kabhie Kabhi and Silsila, and the arrival of Chandni on the block.

The Romantics is at its most charming when it is delving into the stories of the master and his art, his craft. What made Yash Chopra the king of romance and one of the biggest names in the Hindi film industry? Where did his stories come from? Why did everyone love him so much? What was it like for him to watch his son, Aditya, step into the same industry? How were the father and the prodigal son the same yet different? With a broad backdrop of India’s sociopolitical atmosphere; lots of old black, white, and sepia-toned photos of everyone from stalwarts like Shashi Kapoor and Lata Mangeshkar, to a young Hrithik Roshan, Karan Johar, Uday Chopra, and Abhishek Bachchan; and funny one-liners from the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and the late Rishi Kapoor, the first two episodes leave you smiling from ear to ear.

You’re singing along to the songs, applauding when Rishi Kapoor says “After sex, cinema is the only best form of entertainment in the world,” and thanking the Gods that Aditya Chopra convinced SRK to do DDLJ, giving us the ultimate romantic hero of our generation.

Then arrives the third episode, which you can anticipate, is about the old guard standing down and the new guard taking control. And this is where some of the spell starts wearing off. There are still a lot of films that needed to be talked about, for example, Veer Zara, a surprising snub considering it is a truly loved film, songs et al. Yet, time is instead devoted to making a point about nepotism using the failure of Uday Chopra’s acting career as a case study. Now sure, the younger Chopra is absolutely one of the most entertaining things about this docuseries. His Twitter is the stuff of legend, and his opening line about accents and subsequently speaking in one all through the series seems like he’s humouring us.

I’ll also credit it with building on the argument that most industry people have been making when defending nepo babies and remaining diplomatic in the insider-outsider debate. However, the documentary jumps into that discourse at the cost of its charm. And what follows ends up sounding like a PR activity for the studio.

For the first few minutes of Episode 3, I was a little disoriented by this shift. Why was John Abraham making like a blink-and-you-miss appearance and spending it talking about Uday Chopra as Ali instead of his own experience working with YRF? Wasn’t that the whole purpose of this exercise? Thankfully, the episode fell in step again, with screenwriter Jaideep Sahni bringing in the origin story of Chak De! India and how it was instrumental in ushering in a real change in perspective, and the phenomenal but not at all easy debut of Ranveer Singh with Band Baaja Baaraat. Episode 4, too, had its highs and lows, but there’s no way you’re a cinema lover and you don’t tear up watching the making of Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Yash Chopra give one of his final interviews to Shah Rukh Khan, before he passed away.

The Romantics retains enough of its charm to leave you satisfied and your heart full and makes it easier to gloss over the expected self-promotion (YRF branding itself an ‘Indian Warner Bros’) and apparent intent of being aimed at a diaspora audience. My favourite moments remained ones where we found out more about the moments, big and small, that shaped some of the most iconic and beloved movies that came out of the YRF banner, and where we discovered more about the people who made them, their fondness and bond, the circumstances or strokes of destiny that propelled them. Even the entire sequence where Bollywood tells you, point blank, how much it hates the term ‘Bollywood’ but, as Karan Johar said, still uses it because it is less of a mouthful than ‘Hindi film industry’… those are the moments that add that zing flavour.

Also Read: What To Watch This Week Of February 13 To 19: The Night Manager, Ant-Man, The Romantics And More

There’s this notion that documentaries are supposed to be unbiased and objective. But I don’t think I’ve seen many lately, much less from Netflix, that would fall into that category. It would be naïve to expect anything else when you’ve got so many industry people, including one of the most reclusive of their lot, opening up about someone so prolific and era-defining as the late Yash Chopra. But The Romantics gives you more than enough warmth and nostalgia that you don’t mind the rest.

The Romantics is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Jinal Bhatt

A Barbie girl with Oppenheimer humour. Sharp-tongue feminist and pop culture nerd with opinions on movies, shows, books, patriarchy, your boyfriend, everything.

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