Netflix’s Love Per Square Foot has every ingredient that a Netflix venture should have. Stories and premise that perhaps would not get aired on a 76 mm screen. Characters and artists who perhaps would not be signed by big banners. Then there is the slice-of-life honest writing and the craft of debut director Anand Tiwari. The opening frame of Netflix’s Love per Square Foot has Vicky Kaushal standing on top of a building, a red gamcha tied around his neck while he brushes his teeth, gazing at a house and its occupants in a neighbouring high rise. This frame sums up what the film is all about — a longing for something better and bigger. And given that the protagonists are millennials, they also want it instantly with quick-fix schemes.
Mumbai’s housing woes have had their 15 minutes of fame. In the 70s, there was Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab singing ‘DoDewaane shehar hain, ek abodana dhoondte hain, ek aashiyana dhoondte hain’ in Gharonda, while the forgettable Rimi Sen and Aftab Shivadasani faked their marriage in Priyadarshan’s mad comedy caper Hungama to find cheap rental accommodation. In Love Per Square Foot, we revisit a similar premise. For as long as he can remember, IT professional Sanjay Chaturvedi aka Sanju (Kaushal) has craved one thing – his own space. Given that his lone time in the bathroom while reading a newspaper gets disrupted by his mother, who has forgotten the phenyl inside, this desire is duly understood. Kaushal is on his home turf, playing the son of a middle class sarkari mulazim. Juxtapose this with Karina D’ Souza (Angira Dhar, a bit two dimensional), a typical Bandra girl whose mother (Ratna Pathak Shah) sews for a living and lives with her in a ramshackle house in which plaster falls off the walls at inopportune moments. Boy meets girl as they dance the funky chicken at a wedding. The two also work in the same office – and what are the odds – she is the housing loan signing officer. The two are drawn together by their desire for a house, and as luck will have it, there is a scheme in place which offers low-cost housing for married couples only. What follows is a series of typical plot developments — faking a marriage, convincing their parents because ‘Isai-Hindu’ marriage – how will it work, as ‘she loves fish and you eat paneer?’ — and make out in a crowded Mumbai local. We all know one such couple. We all know how they invest in one hair brained scheme after the other to manifest their dream. But the fact the Sanju and Karina score on the house lottery, and they get the very same flat they romanced in, seems very unbelievable. The law of probability never seems to catch up with them.
Debut director Anand Tiwari’s love for Mumbai is etched in every frame, from the trains to the bylanes of Bandra or the view of the Taj Mahal Hotel from a roof-top café in Colaba. Love Per Square Foot belongs to the supporting cast who make Mumbai the melting pot it is. Raghubir Yadav is in fine form as Kaushal’s father, a train announcer who had come to Mumbai with dreams of being a singer. The train ticket checker who gives leeway to Sanju and Karina because they are “staff”. Aditya Roy Kapoor as the devoted but controlling boyfriend. One also sees many popular digital faces like Gopal Dutt and Raviza Chauhan as part of the ensemble cast. Kudos to the writing team of Sumeet Vyas and Tiwari for the very believable characters and the slice-of-life instances that are peppered throughout the film. Yet it just falls short to hit the spot. While the characters are honest and believable to the bone, the situations are too far fetched that they can’t even justify the term ‘cinematic license.’ The Pathak sisters are a riot and to see them together we are reminded of their Idhar Udhar days. Wish they had more screen time together. It is refreshing to see Kaushal try a clean-cut role after his rather dark last outing in Raman Raghav 2.0. Debutante actor Angira Dhar’s current repertoire consists of two expressions, one the wide-eyed smiling look and the other is ‘I am lost, rescue me’. A special mention to Udit Narayan belting out a shaadi reality check number “Ishq main bajti ghanti”, a throwback to his days of glory. The film has its heart in the right place and would have worked better had it been about twenty minutes shorter.
The film releases on Netflix today.