Director Anu Menon considers herself a die-hard romantic. This is probably one of the reasons she chose to debut with a romantic comedy London,Paris,New York. More often than not,we end up talking about relationships and their importance in our lives,perhaps due to the society and times we live in, says Menon,who chose the genre for its topicality. Menons debut is a story of 20-somethings who fall in love under unusual circumstances and how their lives unfold in the following years. The progression of their story invokes a sense of deja vu that comes when watching similar boy-meets-girl films. Yet,Menon claims its the treatment that differentiates it from the rest. In the film,I have focussed on contemporary characters who fall in love but are still ambitious, she says.
Menon is among several first-time directors who are looking to make a mark with romantic comedies. In a couple of weeks,Shakun Batra will make his directorial debut with Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu,a remake of What Happens in Vegas. Another newcomer behind the camera,Mandeep Singh,has roped in Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia to romance on screen in Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya,and Kapil Sharma will also explore this genre in the John Abraham-starrer U,Me aur Mein.
Despite the universal theme of a romcom,the genre unfortunately suffers from a paucity of new ideas. After so many years of watching romcoms,there is nothing novel left in the genre. The biggest challenge is that a director has to fight clichés, says Batra. For instance,in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu,Batra has played with characteristics of the lead actors. In the Bipasha Basu-R Madhavan-starrer Jodi Breakers,the lead actors are portrayed as match-breakers rather than match-makers. Yet the regular churning out of romcoms,according to Batra,shows that this is one genre which hasnt run its course with the audience. It still has a connect with the people, he adds Romantic comedies also appear to be an instant gateway into Bollywood for newcomers. Romcoms give a debutant filmmaker a wider audience as opposed to a thriller or a horror film,which have a niche appeal, explains Menon.
Still,this genre hasnt seen impressive success rate compared to action and comedy films. While a successful masala film may earn around Rs 100-150 crore,a superhit romantic comedy only generates revenue in the vicinity of Rs 50 crore. Romcoms are made at a moderate budget and released in fewer screens. It would be inappropriate to say that they do not do well, says Batra.
The romantic comedy genre,although a widely exploited one in recent years,is hardly new to Bollywood. The trend emerged in the 1970s and 80s when films like Chashme Buddoor,Baaton Baaton Main,Rafoo Chakkar and Chhoti Si Baat drew in houseful audiences and left critics impressed. The winning formula was clearly the simplicity of a light-hearted love story. The new crop of directors,however,is focussing more on nuanced characters. Romcoms are more in a real space now. As a first-timer,we just want to be close to real-life situations. Its about comfort factor, says Malhotra.