As Netflix’s first official mainstream Bollywood release, Love Per Square Foot certainly had a lot of hopes and intrigue attached to it, given the streaming giant’s strong reputation for backing some great films in other markets.
Anand Tiwari, known foremost as an actor in films like Go Goa Gone, who previously wrote and directed the hilariously gratifying Y Films web series Bang Baaja Baaraat here makes his big screen (proverbially speaking) directorial debut with this quirky rom-com. While Tiwari proves himself a self-assured filmmaker, his Love Per Square Foot is a competent if at times annoying love story which doesn’t take you anywhere particularly new or interesting and is hardly likely to stay with you long after the credits roll.
The film just sort of plods along, sailing on the back of its spunky, upbeat energy and glorious supporting cast neither of which are enough to make it worthwhile. Where Tiwari falls short above all else is in failing to offer up an emotionally engaging love story that resonates beyond a handful of moments.
Sanjay (Vicky Kaushal) and Karina (Angira Dhar) both dream of owning their own home and having a space for themselves yet neither earn enough to make it happen. When the two meet at a wedding and discover their shared predicament, they decide enter a marriage of convenience in order to qualify for joint ownership and purchase their dream house. This gives rise to a budding romance which soon has them questioning their feelings vs their arrangement.
The way boy meets girl, the budding romance that ensues and how they happen feels forced and almost like a spoof of mainstream love stories. Their’s is by no means the kind of convincing love that you feel invested in or can buy into, instead it just sort of proclaims that these two are meant to be and it is for us to just get on board. One scene which sees them on a train repeatedly thrown together leading to the most cliched of horrible cutesy moments felt almost laughable. Granted Tiwari’s tale isn’t going for the endearing, life-changing brand of love but even high energy, offbeat rom-coms need to be rooted in some sense of chemistry and connection between its lead pair.
Instead, Love Per Square Foot works best when it focuses away from the central pair and rather on the stupendous supporting cast, many of whom deserve a better film, including the likes of Ratna Pathak Shah, Supriya Pathak, Bijendra Kala, Raghuvir Yadav and Gajraj Rao. Not to mention the highly underrated Kunal Roy Kapur – forever cursed to be the onscreen lovesick chump boyfriend – who once again steals some of the funniest scenes. Suffice to say there is no lack of some of the finest comedic talents on offer here, not enough of which translates to the narrative.
It’s also clear that Tiwari is desperate to make this a through and through ‘Bombay movie’ – one that manages to capture the experience of life in the maximum city. While it does so in spirit and in how it talks about the lack of personal space for one and all and the deeply relatable aspirations of many to own their own space, it also tries to force its Bombay-ness down your throat with an almost desperate attempt to show all aspects of the city to spark some sense of nostalgia and setting. Add to that an entirely unimpressive soundtrack which felt like it was commissioned just to offer up the wholesome Bollywood experience.
Also, I’m sorry but if you were so busy trying to make a Bombay movie, did you perhaps forget that people from Bombay might themselves watch it? Both Sanjay and Karina work in a bank which you can clearly see is situated in Mumbai’s BKC area. In one scene which begins with both fighting over getting an auto, Sanjay asks her to get a coffee somewhere ‘close by’ and we next see them on a rooftop café next to The Gateway Of India – more than an hour away at peak time traffic. Following this for some nice romantic post coffee chats we see them at Bandstand, again more than an hour away at the best of times. Because clearly in movie world there”s no traffic, no headache and all the sexy nice places are walking distance from each other.
In performances, the film is spearheaded by the ever capable Vicky Kaushal. As Sanjay, Kaushal is a tad overexcited at times but its good to see a new a more amusing side the actor who’s thus far largely been seen in darker roles. Despite a likeable screen presence Angira Dhar is far less interesting and manages to do little with the role of Karina.
In the end, despite being an honest effort and having a light-hearted energy, Love Per Square foot just doesn’t prove satisfying enough. While Tiwari is clearly a capable storyteller with a strong affinity for comedy and quirk, credible love stories may not be his forte as he just doesn’t have enough tricks up his sleeve to make this wholesome enough I’m going with 2.5 stars.