A feel-good list of 8 rom-coms to fall in love with 

Plus, all the reasons we need more Bollywood versions in our lives

An elderly couple falling tenderly back in love, after years of being ‘the ones that got away’. In parallel, a young couple whose insatiable lust turns into an enduring relationship. Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani pandered to the woke checklist as well as Kjo’s familial tropes — but it was still an endearing rom-com for the ages. Between the bloody Pathaans, Leos, Jigarthanda DoubleXs and Animals that dominated Indian screens in 2023, this one felt familiar — like the rom-coms we grew up with in the ’90s and ’00s.

Image: Dharma-production.com

Over the last decade or so, Indian cinema has shifted focus to ensemble-cast, action “masala” starters, perhaps reflecting the growing patriotism-focused environment in the country.

Masses are lapping them up, but as described in our story on ragey cinema, “Research done and reviewed for years suggests that watching violent films influences aggressive behaviour in humans and reduces inhibition control.” They may be ‘art’, but our newspapers, smartphones and real lives are already dominated by crimes, wars and acts of aggressions.

This summer, Bollywood is giving us doses of love — with the recently released Do Aur Do Pyaar and the upcoming Mr and Mrs Mahi (releasing on May 31st). But I’m asking Indian cinema to take a page out of world cinema’s book, which gave us gems like Past Lives, Love At First Sight, The Idea of You and the tennis rom-com meets drama, Challengers.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a screen, asking it to fall in love with love again.

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GIF: Giphy.com

What rom-coms do for our psychology

We watch rom-coms to feel good — an article in Pyschologytoday.com highlights that it’s the predictability of a happy ending that makes them comforting.

Psychologist Pamela Rutledge says re-watching old favourites, “provides a sense of security and safety knowing that there’s order in the world”.

Rom-coms focus on universal emotions. Even if you have nothing in common with the characters, you connect with their feelings. Watching and discussing rom-coms with your partner may help address issues in your relationship.

Rom-com revival: what we need from them now

Rom-coms are loved and loathed, equally — the latter for being formulaic, problematic, unrealistic and cheesy. So, we need updated versions.

My husband and I met playing badminton. My cousin was at a wedding when she was texted by her parents about an arranged match — who happened to be at the same wedding. Plenty of app-based unions are thriving. We’ve had laughs, tears and more in our courtships. Real life can inspire the rom-com.

Focus on modern, plausible meet-cutes (on apps, in gender-neutral bathrooms as seen in Rye Lane). Life after the meet-cute. Falling in love with yourself. (Pagglait, Barbie, I’m looking at you). Diversity, LGBTQIA+ leads, flawed characters, the mundanity of everyday life.

Skip the tired enemies to lovers’ tropes, grand gestures (like 2023’s Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar’s airport scene) and Bollywood’s obsession with stalking = wooing. Just retain the happy ending.

If you’re done with angry cinema and too-real films, and want a dose of love (actually), this watchlist is for you.

8 rom-coms to get you falling in love again

anyone but you glen powell sydney sweeney rom-coms
Photo: IMDB

Anyone But You (2023)

The film that heralded the ‘return of rom-coms’ to American screens, it features Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell), who are reunited at a wedding in Australia, after a date that ended very badly. They are forced to play the perfect (fake) couple, and hilarity ensues.

Watch it online on Zee5, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Photo: IMDB

Satyaprem Ki Katha (2023)

Follow Satyaprem’s journey of unrequited love with Katha as she deals with a traumatic breakup. Set in Ahmedabad, the film tackles satya (truth), prem (love), and consent and abuse in relationships with maturity.

Watch online on Amazon Prime Video

Photo: Netflix

Players (2024)

Four friends use fun schemes to wing-man each other across New York. The focus is on sports journalist Mack (Gina Rodriguez) and her bid to turn Nick (Tom Ellis), a one-night stand, into a life partner. Watch to find out who ultimately scores.

Watch online on Netflix.in

Photo: Disney+ Hotstar

Premalu (2024)

The Telegu rom-com set in Hyderabad follows Sachin (Naslen), as he tries to move to the UK, and Reenu (Mamitha Baiju), who has just moved to Hyderabad. Situational humour, an engaging pace and a focus on real-life adulting drive this whimsical love story.

Watch online on Disney+Hotstar

Photo: Disney+ Hotstar

Rye Lane (2023)

A gender-neutral loo at an Art Exhibit in London is the meet-cute locale for our two heartbroken leads (David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah). A believable look at the banter-filled start of a romance, this one is for cynics and cheeseballs, alike.

Watch online on Disney+Hotstar.

Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Red, White & Royal Blue (2023)

The first son of the US (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and a British prince (Nicholas Galitzine) fight conflict and customs, find camaraderie and, finally, companionship. Though a bit OTT, the film will have you rooting for the crowning glory of life — love.

Watch online on Amazon Prime Video.

Photo: Netflix

Third World Romance (2023)

In this Filipino rom-com, two grocery store workers (Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon) navigate love and poverty. Their meet-cute isn’t cute, it’s just co-workers meeting on an ordinary day. Setting the tone for a film like this may seem simple, but the commentary on economic inequality and its effect on relationships is real.

Watch online on Netflix.in

Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya (2024)

Boy (Shahid Kapur) meets girl (Kriti Sanon). Boy and girl fall in love. Boy finds out girl is a bot. The modernest of modern rom-coms, watch for a layered take on loneliness, Indian familial expectations and a man vs machine debate. And for some laughs.

Watch online on Amazon Prime Video.

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