Love Per Square Foot is best Hindi film of 2018 (so far) and it's on Netflix India
The movie tells you attraction and passion can only take you so far.
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"Sapne toh khulke dekho (dream big), middle class."
It's a line that best reflects the simple ambition of Anand Tiwari's lovely directorial debut - Love Per Square Foot (LPSF). Two twenty-somethings are keen to move out of their parents abode and find a place of their own.
What makes Sanjay Chaturvedi (Vicky Kaushal) and Karina D'souza (Angira Dhar) stand out is that they are eager and ready for the big plunge: buying an apartment in Mumbai. It's akin to tying the knot with the Maximum City. Given the astronomical rates of the property, it's a bond that may as well be sealed with "till death do us apart". It's the biggest commitment a Mumbaikar can make.
It's this shared pursuit that brings Sanjay and Karina closer together. But like all love stories there is a hitch in the form of "the other". Sanjay is stuck being his manipulative boss's secret lover, while Karina is dating a man (Kunal Roy Kapur in a brief and delightful appearance) who is ready to domesticate her as soon as they marry. The encounters that Tiwari creates for the pair to get familiar are precisely what good Bollywood romantic comedies need - sweet, amusing and real conversations. How refreshing to hear two people discuss what their homes would be like.
But amidst the fun there's a deeper purpose too. LPSF goes beyond the "Jab they Met" romance to show what it takes to keep things going smooth when all is supposedly in place. Attraction and passion can only take you so far; the real foundation of a relationship rests on trust, compassion, space and security, Tiwari suggests in a script that's high on detail and wit. Even as LPSF heads in a predictable direction with a falling out between Sanjay and Karina, it still holds your attention because the director sets up a world beyond the two characters.
That comes in the form of supporting characters, predominantly the parents. One of the better construed relationships is that of Karina and her mother, Blossom D'Souza (Ratna Pathak Shah), who live in place that's falling apart. Mrs D'Souza wants the best for her daughter, which obviously means for Karina to be married and settled with a "decent chap", ideally of her faith. In a memorable showdown, Karina lets out "I don't want to become you", explaining where her dream stems from. Supriya Pathak and Raghubir Yadav play Sanjay's folks who have lived in the crammed railway quarters well aware it's a temporary home. Credit goes to Tiwari in painting vivid portraits of the elders that offer a better understanding of the young pair.
He also crafts some memorable moments here. The inter-faith romance results in a hilarious "Meet the Parents" sequence in which Yadav and the Pathak sisters steal the show as the uncomfortable parents trying to break ice. There is a poignant farewell party which is a super excuse to also hear Yadav sing. Even the fleeting characters get to make an impression thanks to Tiwari's funny bone. With an acute eye on the city and its changing social trends, Tiwari lays down the elaborate process of getting a house. LPSF is a reminder that love unlike a property cannot be a deal.
Sumeet Vyas, with whom Tiwari has collaborated in Bang Baaja Baaraat, and Asif Ali Beg chip in ably in delivering cracking lines. Vicky Kaushal in his first breezy role and Angira Dhar in her film debut make Sanjay and Karina a coupling to ship for with their fine portrayals. LPSF though best demonstrates Tiwari's talent as an assured writer. He starts off his film career with a bang, and with the surprise ending he also knows how to sign off well.