Director: Anand Tiwari
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Angira Dhar, Alankrita Sahai, Ratna Pathak-Shah, Supriya Pathak, Raghubir Yadav, Brijendra Kala, Arunoday Singh
Love Per Square Foot, among the first Netflix Original films from India, is an urban romantic comedy set around a premise that’s instantly relatable – the dream and the desperation to possess one’s own home.
That dream seems especially elusive in a city like Mumbai where hawking both your kidneys might not cover the down payment on a new construction. This sharply observed middle class story is powered by laugh-out-loud humor and winning performances from its ensemble of terrific actors.
Vicky Kaushal plays Sanjay Chaturvedi, a software engineer, and the son of a railway announcer who’s grown up in matchbox-sized government flats across Mumbai, but who’s hoping to get a loan approved so he can buy his own place. Karina D’souza (Angira Dhar) lives with her mother in a crumbling flat, but is dreading the thought of moving in with her boyfriend’s family after marriage.
Sanjay and Karina barely know each other when they learn about a special housing scheme for couples, but decide to apply for it anyway, each recognizing that it might be the only shot he or she has at owning their own place.
Directed by Anand Tiwari and written by Asif Ali Baig, Sumeet Vyas, and Tiwari himself, the film makes interesting observations about modern-day relationships, and examines concepts of love, companionship and compromise as seen through the eyes of the younger generation. Is there any future for a relationship that isn’t founded on love, but on an arrangement of convenience?
Much of the film coasts along nicely on the strength of the humour embedded in the writing. But this is a Bollywood romantic comedy so it hits formulaic, predictable notes in its second half, and feels especially stretched at a running time of nearly two hours and fifteen minutes. A subplot involving Sanjay’s relationship with his female boss is played for laughs, but becomes progressively silly and unconvincing. Cultural clashes between Sanjay’s Hindu family and Karina’s Christian side take up much of the film’s final act but not a lot of it feels particularly fresh.
It’s a good thing the filmmakers assemble a cast of solid supporting actors to tide over the clunky bits. Ratna Pathak Shah is terrific as Karina’s permanently worrying mother Blossom, and Raghubir Yadav and Supriya Pathak bring heft as Sanjay’s parents. There’s also Brijendra Kala in a small role as a railway employee, and he’s expectedly wonderful, stealing both scenes that he appears in.
The principals too, are in good form. Newcomer Angira Dhar, and especially Vicky Kaushal have unmistakable confidence and the sort of natural charm that keeps you invested in their characters even when the plotting becomes puerile.
One of the joys of this film is its working-class, lived-in feel of Mumbai, even if the ease with which the protagonists land their dream home is a bit of a stretch. For the most part, Love Per Square Foot is funny, inoffensive, and the kind of movie that’s made for a cozy night in.
I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5
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