Do you remember hanging out with a group of friends, when the behaviour of one of them completely pissed you off, because of the way they mistreated someone who did not come from the same social strata? Or maybe you saw someone take that mistreatment in their stride. You probably felt angry. Maybe you spoke up or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you stayed up all night thinking, how is the world created so unequal?
How do we give legitimacy to these class-based prejudices that are so obviously oppressive and inhuman?
If you want to watch a good film that is thoughtfully made, that talks about society’s class problems breathing down our necks and is rooted in that relatability, then this is the film for you.
To be completely honest, the rich-man-loves-a-poor-girl theme has been well explored in Indian cinema or western cinema (the iconic My Fair Lady, comes to my mind). But Rohena Gera-directed ‘Is Love Enough, Sir?’ peels the theme layer by layer, while not dehumanizing any of the sides. The narrative treats the ignorance of the high-class society with as much compassion as it treats the helplessness and fatalism of someone from a lower rural economic class.
“Har kisiko sapne dekhne ka haq hai.” (Everyone has the right to dream)
If a society indeed was willing to blur the class differences and bring down the walls, the film offers a wonderful solution for that. As someone coming from a privileged background, are you willing to see people for people, as whole individuals who may have their own aspirations, beyond their current social status? Will you be their ally? Will you make available those opportunities so they can have a fighting chance? Do you have the capacity to let go of these prejudices inside your own head?
Call it the blessing of OTT platforms, but these platforms have allowed actors that the audiences knew as well deserving but producers did not have the guts to bank on, to finally receive their dues from the filmmakers in terms of the centrality of their characters. One such gifted find has been Tillotama Shome who plays Ratna, a widowed maid who comes to Mumbai to work as a domestic servant, but not one without her own dreams.
The film stands tall on the sheer realness of the two lead actors and the vulnerability portrayed by the two-Shome who plays Ratna and Vivek Gomber who portrays the role of Ashwin, a son from the family of upscale real estate developers. Ratna works for Ashwin, and eventually, the two develop a liking for each other- a love that is inter-class, forbidden, sweet, full of respect for each other, though one that some may even call ‘impractical’. I would not have believed the story myself if I did not have someone in my family who went through a very similar inter-class marriage and very successfully so.
You are also struck by Gomber’s ability to play a US returned-privileged-urbane professional who is simultaneously aware of and willing to see the social realities around him. Gomber has previously produced masterpieces like ‘Court’ (2015) that went on to win a National Award for the ‘Best Feature film’, yet another thought-provoking film that should have been a mandatory viewing for all.
His film choices seem to talk about Gomber’s obvious sensitivity for films that speak of our times, films that do more than just ‘entertain’.
The ones I love the most from the film are spoilers but one that is close to my heart and is probably fair game is when Ashwin orders a sewing machine for Ratna, on noticing her interest in tailoring and her dream to be a fashion designer. The most beautiful thing about the film to me, simply as a viewer is that Ashwin is shown as being not above moral failures. But he is seen as deeply invested in learning to treat Ratna better, in a way that does not breach her self-respect.
The film is not above its flaws. The music, in a bid to sound ‘typically Indian’, plays to the same stereotypes that you will find used in multiple Indian films made for international audiences.
All in all, this is a poignant film of love that touches upon yawning class differences, while showing the possibility of bridging those differences, with love and some sensitivity.