IS LOVE ENOUGH SIR? – Review by Mythily Ramachandran

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Is Love Enough Sir? is a tale of forbidden love. Rohena Gera marks her debut with a heart- warming and poignant story that holds a mirror to the class divide in India.

“People will make fun of us,” Ratna says while acknowledging her feelings for Ashwin. “I don’t care,” he tells her. But she cares.

Rohena Gera’s debut feature film in Hindi, Is Love Enough Sir, holds a mirror to society’s dictates on love and prejudices governed by social status and culture. The film won a Cannes Critic Week award in 2018 and is now streaming on Netflix.

Ratna, a live in maid working at Ashwin’s house is well aware of her position in the household. And the practical woman that she is, Ratna is not carried away by Ashwin’s idea of love. They clearly don’t make a ‘made for each other’ couple.

Set in Mumbai, this story of forbidden love is heart -warming and thought provoking. Tillotama Shome portrays Ratna’s dilemma poignantly and is well supported by Vikram Gomber who plays Ashwin.

Ratna is a typical lower class Indian woman-a face lost in a sea of people. Widowed young she leaves her village to work in Mumbai as a domestic help. Her earnings supports not only her in-laws but also her parents. She is funding her younger sister Choti’s education. Ratna has her own dreams-to become a fashion designer someday.
Ashwin, a writer living in New York comes down to India when his brother fell ill. Subsequently he joins his father’s real estate business. His marriage with Sabina a family friend is in the cards. But something goes wrong and he calls it off.

Living under the same roof, Ratna’s and Ashwin’s interactions are completely that of a master and servant. She prepares his food and keeps the house. He leaves for work in the morning only to return late evening. Many times he does not have dinner at home either. Love was never intended, but gradually an intimacy grows between the two.

When she shares her story of having been widowed within four months of her marriage stating- “Life doesn’t end Sir,” Ashwin notices a brave woman who faces life’s challenges head on. He encourages her passion for stitching when she seeks his permission to attend tailoring classes. The soft spoken young man treats his driver and the maid with respect- unlike his sister and her friend who are determined to keep a servant in her place.

With an unusual bond developing between Ratna and Ashwin, Gera lets you see the complications of their love without being preachy. Ashwin’s friend tells him, “You can’t be dating your maid. Your mom won’t sit on the same table with her. And, people will never let her forget that she is a maid. Just let her be.”

Gera’s narration is straightforward as she follows Ratna’s journey- from the opening scene and to the final shot. The scenes are staged mostly in the kitchen where Ratna is working or in the dining hall where she serves Ashwin food. You get a fly on the wall experience.

The writing is brilliant and it’s strength lies in its well etched characters-not just the two lead players but even the fringe characters impress. Attention to little details makes the story real. Ratna removes her bangles in the bus on her way to her village home and puts it back on again when returning to Mumbai for work. Widows in India don’t wear bangles. Even the opening scene where she is packing her clothes-the way she gives an extra pull to the zip reminds us of similar moments.

A scene that stayed with me is where Ratna enters a designer boutique. From outside she has been observing designer apparel on display. One day she musters up courage to walk inside the store. And, stares in wonderment at the dresses, when a staff there notices her and calls out to the watchman and scolds him for not attending to his duty. Even without being insulted directly, Ratna immediately understands that she is unwelcome there. Her status was apparent in her own attire.

Shome carries the film on her shoulders. The believability that she renders to her character makes Ratna real. As a domestic helper Ratna is not subservient. Honest and committed to work, she never takes advantage of her master’s kindness, keeping her self- pride intact till the very end. She is downright pragmatic.

Gomber keeps pace with Shome to dance the perfect tango. Among the supporting cast, Geetanjali Kulkarni as Lakshmi- a maid in the adjoining apartment and Ratna’s close friend-wins hearts too. The fringe characters not easily forgotten are the master tailor under whom Ratna is eager to learning stitching and Jeethu the nosy watchman of the apartment.

Sans melodrama, Sir is not a regular Bollywood fare. This film is a whiff of fresh air that leaves behind a beautiful story to ponder on. Amidst the present deluge of films and shows that rule the digital world -marked with ruthless violence, explicit sex scenes and a vocabulary of cuss words, Sir stands tall.
 

mithilyMythily Ramachandran, a Chennai based Indian journalist, is a regular columnist for Gulf News, a leading UAE daily. When this crazy film buff is not catching up with films, she is snooping around for those little-known stories of human interest, which eventually find a place in the Weekend Review of Gulf News.

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