When do you think love is enough? Or is love really enough? an awkward but straightforward question. Ironically the more you delve deep into it, the more the answer gets mired in vagueness.
Rohena Gera marks her directorial debut with a heartening and non-preachy urban drama focussing on the class divide eclipsing romantic relationships in India. She asks a poignant question – can love blossom between an employer and his/her live-in domestic helper? The film starring Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber won international accolades including the Cannes Critic Week award in 2018 and is streaming on Netflix. Tillotama Shome gets a shout-out for her award-winning performance.
The movie opens with Ratna (Tillotama Shome) who has been hurriedly summoned back to a posh apartment in Mumbai where Ashwin – Sir (Vivek Gomber) is back after calling off his engagement as he learned that his fiancé cheated on him. Ratna is a perfect house help, she neither disappoints her Sir nor us, while secretly nursing her long-cherished dream of becoming a fashion designer. She takes pride in her economic independence and supports her younger sister’s education in her village. Ratna gets our immediate respect, and we want to see her excel in life beating all the hardships that she tackles silently from the judgemental society because she is poor, pathetic and happily ignored.
Just when you itch to render your sympathy (not needed though) to Ratna, Gera beautifully maneuverers the plot mirroring the parapet of separation between wallflowers adorned living rooms and a matchbox-sized servant room to unmask the abyss between the contrary worlds of Ratna and Ashwin.
The initial interactions between them are formally marked by unwavering politeness. She cuts across as a brave woman when she says, “Life doesn’t end Sir”, having been widowed within four months of her marriage. Ashwin encourages Ratna to pursue her passion, enjoys his frequent conversation with her in the kitchen, and doesn’t stop chiding his friend who blasts Ratna on a trivial pretext at his house party. Although born with a silver spoon, Ashwin does take a stand and doesn’t shy away from showing his growing affection toward Ratna. He is aware of the fallacy of the class divide in society.
Love was never intended but gradually find its way.
People will make fun of us,” Ratna says while acknowledging her feelings for Ashwin. “I don’t care,” he tells her. But she cares. So do his friends who tell Ashwin, “You can’t be dating your maid. Your mom won’t sit at the same table as her. And people will never let her forget that she is a maid. Just let her be.”
The brilliant writing, realistic portrayal of characters, and the subtlety of discussing complex romantic relationships remind us of the same question from where it all began, ‘is love enough?’ At the end of 99- the minute’s movie, we have two endearing individuals in their pursuit to transcend their present circumstances and linger with an idea that Ratna and Ashwin will find a meeting ground.
The writer Tanika Sarkar is a freelance copywriter based in Singapore. She writes for digital marketing websites, start-ups, and tech companies. Writer by choice, she is a corporate trainer, educator, and instructional designer by profession.