I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. Love is all around me, and so the feeling grows.
That's exactly my state of mind these days. Valentine's week has already started, and D-Day (read V-Day) is around the corner.
So are you still looking for ideas to celebrate (or how not to, for single souls) Valentine's Day this year? Watch a rom-com! Yes, I know most people have a disregard for the romantic comedy genre (I can see those scowls). Some say it's shallow, unrealistic, pretentious and celebrates an oh-so-perfect notion of life and love. But trust me, romantic comedies are infectious. They get to you, stay there and turn you into an addict.
Of the innumerable rom-coms that I've watched, here's a list of the ten best of them. Some of these films are lesser-known and doesn't figure in the 'best romantic comedies of all time' or 'must-watch rom-coms before you die' lists. And not all are box office bumpers or critically acclaimed, but then whenever I'm low, it's these endearing movies that lift me up instantly. That's perhaps what they call the magic of cinema. So I extend my unflinching loyalty towards these terrific ten.
One of the most heart-warming rom-coms I've ever watched, hands down! Set in London during Christmas, this cheerful love story follows interrelated stories of a dozen or so individuals as they embark on the journey called love. The way they fall in and out of love – sometimes with the right person, sometimes with the wrong one – makes this British rom-com irresistibly enchanting. The screenplay blends in the right portions of romance, friendship, happiness, humour and warmth. But what stands out is the pitch-perfect ensemble cast that will actually make you fall in love with the film. Forever!
A wedding-phobic small-town girl who has a habit of leaving her grooms-to-be at the altar, a big-city journalist who, after writing an offensive column about her, now seeks 'vindication', and the quaint town of Hale, Maryland – that's what Runaway Bride is all about. On first watch, the bride-on-the-run couldn't steal my heart the way a certain Pretty Woman did years ago. But then love doesn't always happen at first sight, does it? An enticing storyline, Garry Marshall-Julia Roberts-Richard Gere troika, a first-rate supporting cast, tongue-in-cheek humour – voila, there comes your perfect Valentine rom-com!
A Lot like Love
Ashton Kutcher is no Billy Crystal. Amanda Peet isn't Meg Ryan either. Nor is A Lot like Love anywhere close to the classic When Harry Met Sally. But there's something captivating about this movie that makes me watch it over and over again. Two 'poles apart' individuals keep coming together and drifting away over the course of seven years as their relationship evolves from lust to friendship to love, until they finally realise that they are, indeed, soulmates. Thanks to the delightful script and refreshing direction, the film stops short of degenerating into a run-of-the-mill bland love story.
Wake Up Sid
Long before Ayan Mukerji fell in the trap ofBollywood commercial cinema and made the terrible Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, he gifted us a mint-fresh love story woven into a coming-of-age tale that melts your heart. The film is about Sid, an unmotivated slacker whose carefree world transforms after Aisha walks into his life. But what's so unique about it, you might ask. Well, the difference lies in the intelligent screenplay and the film's close-to-life essence. The leads give stellar performances and exude an infectious warmth that gets on you, and you keep on longing for more of Sid and Aisha.
10 Items or Less
This indie gem defies rom-com rules in many ways. No preachy, saccharine-sweet 'happily ever after' message, no Hollywood glitz and an unconventional lead pair (Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega – yes, you read that right!). In fact, 10 Items or Less isn't a love story per se. There's no hint of a traditional romantic affair between Freeman and Vega. But there are strong undercurrents of love, longing, friendship and passion running throughout. The engaging narrative sprinkled with humour and wit, crackling chemistry between the leads and smart direction make this film a rare cinematic experience.
Hasee Toh Phasee
Adman Vinil Mathew's spot-on directorial debut is much like its female protagonist – a special-yet-misfit who is misunderstood by everyone, but in the end turns out to be the brightest gem of the family. This film arrived and went away almost unnoticed, but for me, it was one of the best Bollywood rom-coms of 2014. Hasee Toh Phasee has a rare charm that takes time to grow on you, but once it does, you can't help but fall head over heels for this quirky, predictable-yet-unconventional love story that will surely tug at your heartstrings.
Did Imtiaz Ali watch Elizabethtown while scripting Jab We Met ? The similarities are too many to ignore! A dumped-by-girlfriend-and-on-the-verge-to-commit-suicide-shoe designer meets a talkative, warm-hearted flight attendant who changes his perspective towards life and love (ring any bells?). Now a transformed person, he sets out to find the girl who had brought his life back on track. The road trip he takes in the end elevates this bittersweet romantic comedy-cum-celebration of life-cum-road movie into something more poignant. And we realize, as the makers say, the best things in life happen when you least expect them.
Music and Lyrics
A melody is like seeing someone for the first time. The physical attraction... But then, as you get to know the person, that's the lyrics. Their story... It's the combination of the two that makes it magical. When a film starts off on that heartfelt note, can it be anything but an absolute treat? The premise of Music and Lyrics might seem rather clichéd, but it's the clever treatment and the unusual pairing of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore that makes it much more than just a date movie – an enchanting piece of melody.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Love comes in all sizes – that's what this middle-of-the-road rom-com makes you believe in. And it also proves that silence speaks a lot louder than verbose dialoguebaazi Bollywood takes such pride in. Never once the leads say 'I love you' in the film, and yet the viewers know every bit of their passion, love, heartbreak and longing. Set in the 1990s, the film is a nostalgic trip to those childhood days of mine when emotions were real and love was innocent. Yes, Dum Laga Ke Haisha has flaws, but its heart is so much at the right place that you don't take those flaws to heart.
Socha Na Tha
It's not always that Imtiaz Ali churned outpseudo-cerebral, pretentious tamashas. He made a sparkling debut with this cute, funny and absolutely adorable youthful love tale. It kick-started his pet theme of “boy meets girl, boy leaves girl, boy realizes he's in love, boy finally gets his girl” that has sort of lost its charm now. But Socha Na Tha beautifully captures this dilemma of young lovers and makes you root for Viren and Aditi. No OTT melodrama, no corny romantic sequences, this believable, hip rom-com is a breath of fresh air. Love at first sight, unadulterated!
So this Valentine's Day, grab these movie DVDs and lose yourself in the sheer magic only love can create. And cinema of course!
Photographs by Mrinmoy Ghosh