Romantic movies once in all vogue, out and about are no longer to be found in Western or Hindi cinema. His disappearance from mainstream films has left the hearts of cine-goers, who flock to theaters to grab a bag of popcorn with their partners and laugh and cry for the predictable but fun (and sometimes soppy) features. Huh.
But in recent times some hardcore romantic movies have been made in desi cinema. A good example is cinematographer Prem Kumar’s acclaimed directorial debut 96 (2018), starring Trisha Krishnan and Vijay Sethupathi in the lead. Now 96 was not your regular play. Sure, it had emotional height with its primary theme of lost love, but it was never silly or sentimental. However, on the face of it, meeting your sweetheart after decades at a school reunion can seem both silly and sentimental to some. But the way the story was portrayed on screen was believable, meaningful.
Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) and Jaanu (Trisha Krishnani) meet as school children, and eventually fall in love with each other, but due to a brutal twist of fate and a major gap in their communication, Trisha marries someone else in an arranged setting. Even though Ram knows what is happening. So why doesn’t he stop her? There are some filmy elements, some missed opportunities where we see both the partners wait in vain for each other until they finally part ways due to Jaanu’s marital bond with a stranger. Cut adult Ram and Jaanu; Ram is a photographer and Janu lives in Singapore with her husband and daughter. They meet at this class reunion and the past comes back. All their suppressed desires and questions erupt in a flurry of worry, excitement and any hope. Maybe hope to meet together?
But filmmaker Prem Kumar dashes that hope when he decides to keep the old lovers apart till the end. In a heartbreaking conclusion, Ram takes Janu to the airport, and during all this, even though he mentions the proverbial elephant in the room, they haven’t actually touched each other, or even hands. Haven’t caught. The intimacy is clear and deeply sad when they last walked in together at the airport. You know they can’t be together, but you can’t help but root for them. The last time in years Jaanu actually touches Ram, he covers his face as she weeps openly at his fate.
So, why didn’t the director opt for a happy ending? And is there any universe in which these two are together?
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Speaking in an earlier interview with Film Companion, filmmaker Kumar had said, “Their separation in the end was inevitable and the audience knows it. It is like death in a sense. We know it’s going to happen, but we’re always afraid of it, even when we don’t feel anything at all.”
Talking about whether there is still any hope for Ram and Jaanu, Kumar said, “I very badly want them to meet again. That’s what I’m expecting from them. But, I know it will not be a planned meeting. It has to be luck again. ,
We’re keeping our fingers crossed for Reunion 2.0. Nevertheless, yes.
96 is available to stream on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.