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5 Alternative South Asian Romances

Feb/12/2023 / by Pratika Yashaswi

Cuddle up with less conventional tales of romance this Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is a day of love and celebration, and what better way to spend it than by watching some romantic South Asian films? Whether you’re looking for classic Bollywood or an intense drama, there are plenty of great options available – but for this article, we’re going to focus on films that tell unconventional tales of love: from a queer coming-of-age film to the story of two people separated by a large age gap but joined by the deep sense of understanding that love begets.

Here are five movies that will make your Valentine’s Day extra special. Grab the popcorn, snuggle up with your loved one, and get ready to experience all the feels!

1. “Arekti Premer Golpo” (Another Love Story)

Written and directed by Bengali filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly, this 2010 movie was way ahead of its time, which was well before India decriminalized homosexuality. Touching upon themes such as transphobia, bisexuality, homosexuality and femininity displayed by men, the film follows two love stories set in different timelines, but with striking similarities. This is beautifully portrayed by Rituparno Ghosh, Indraneil Sengupta, Jisshu Sengupta and Churni Ganguly, each of whom plays double roles. Featured in the film is legendary jatra actor Chapal Bhaduri, who was well known as Chapal Rani, the last of the men who played female roles in traditional jatra theater.

2. Jogger’s Park

This movie delves into the complications and intricacies that surround relationships where there is a significant age gap between the partners. Retired Justice Jyotin Chatterjee, played by Victor Banerjee, finds companionship and eventually love in Jenny Suratwala (Perizaad Zorabian), a model several years younger. The duo’s trials and tribulations as they navigate a judgmental society as well as the pressure of family honor, make this a must-watch. This movie also acted as the gateway for other movies that heavily used English dialogue, such as “Mumbai Matinee” and “Morning Raga,” both of which also feature Perizaad Zorabian in a lead role.

3. Margarita with a Straw

Kalki Koechlin shines in her role as a college-going teenager dealing with cerebral palsy. This movie is a hidden gem that gained a lot of recognition especially in film festivals all over the world, and its portrayal of a young and messy love warms the heart. Sayani Das and William Moseley give impeccable performances as Kalki’s primary and secondary love interests. The protagonist is relatable in spite of her specific physical difficulties, and the journey she takes in exploring her sexuality makes you root for her in spite of the fact that she is not perfect. And isn’t that what we want for ourselves as well, that the ones around us accept and love us through our flaws and shortcomings?

4. Fire 

Two co-sister-in-laws living in a traditional joint family with their indifferent and unfaithful husbands, find sexual pleasure and love in each other instead. Played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, the two women are tested time and again until they find happiness. “Fire” is loosely based on a short story by Ismat Chugtai called “Lihaaf” (“Quilt”), which is also about the lesbian relationship of a married woman. While the pace may seem too slow for some, there is enough going on emotionally to keep viewers hooked. The film was very popular in film festivals around the world, and is one of the most popular Canadian films in the Indian LGBTQ+ sphere.

5. Joyland

Although this movie raised eyebrows in its home country, Pakistan, it earned high praise at several film festivals, starting with Cannes. “Joyland” is the story of Haider, the youngest son in a highly patriarchal family who secretly finds a job as an erotic theater and falls in love with a trans woman, Biba, who works there. Haider’s efforts to earn his keep for his family, maintain their reputation, and please his strict father while simultaneously enjoying his newfound relationship with Biba have enthralled audiences across the globe.