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When Sparks Fly

Friday, August 04, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

This title of this week’s release, 'Jab Harry Met Sejal', brings to mind a film that has been voted one of the best Hollywood romcoms of all time; 'When Harry Met Sally'.

There may be no similarity between the two films, except for the genre. Bollywood films are still struggling to portray contemporary urban romance and relationships without coyness. The Rob Reiner film, released in 1989, is still as fresh as ever; the matters of the heart it brought up are just as valid, perhaps more so now, in the time of casual hook-ups. The question that this film raised was can a man and a woman be just friends? Harry (played by Billy Crystal) thinks not, because the “sex part” would come in the way; Sally (Meg Ryan) is convinced it is possible. Today, of course, the phrase ‘friend with benefits’ has been coined to cover that eventuality.

Their on-off friendship is surprisingly modern; whenever they meet with long-ish gaps (this was before email and the cell phone, when it was easier to keep in touch), they are in relationships, or engaged to, other people. But the audience could see, even if they couldn’t, that they were made for each other. Not only did they look cute together, the chemistry between them practically gave out sparks. 1989 was still the time of happily-ever-afters, and if the two didn’t get together in the end (and that’s no spoiler), the audience would be heart-broken.

By then the Western audience was grown-up enough to accept that the ‘perfect’ couple could go through a series of other relationships before they matured enough to realise that they were meant to be together; there was no timidity about sex whatsoever. In fact, the multiple-award winning Nora Ephron wrote of the funniest scenes ever. Sally fakes an orgasm in a restaurant, to prove that women do it easily all the time. As he looks shocked, an elderly lady at the next table (played by Reiner’s mother) tells the waiter, “I’ll have what she is having.”

Here, the man and woman have to sing and dance and pretend there is no attraction, till they are practically hit on the head with it. In 'When Harry Met Sally' the two actually age and mature; in Bollywood, there mindset remains adolescent till the end. In very few films like 'Meri Pyari Bindu' does the girl actually move on with no regrets and dares the guy and the audience to judge her. They do judge, and deem the guy a loser.

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