At the centre of Roshni Dinakar’s My Story, is a couple in love. Jai and Tara are from two contrasting social backgrounds, yet working in the same film industry as actors. On-screen, they play lovers. Under the limelight, they gaze at each other, dance at romantic spots and walk hand in hand. Off-screen, he is a novice, struggling to fit into a new social class where she is already a star. One day, he becomes her aide in a frantic attempt to breakaway from this life that had been choking her up.
It is a premise of great potential, akin to Guide (1965). The lead actors, Parvathy TK and Prithviraj Sukumaran, share a charming chemistry on-screen, and some of those tender moments that lead to the couple’s romance are impressive – the unreasonable excitement of falling in love, those furtive glances, the fluttering butterflies in the belly and the hope that everything would last a lifetime. The film tries.
Unfortunately, those moments don’t last long. My Story suffers from a common syndrome of ‘taking the background for granted’. It brutally neglects the whole plausibility factor in the story, and creates situations that make no sense. Every place, character and instance look set up, and even in the details of the love story, there is no surprise element. An unreasonably loud background score pinpoints to you what to feel in every scene, and the tacky staging of even the most mundane scenes ensures that you don’t buy anything you see on screen.
The film uses all the Indian potboiler genre cliches about young Indians who travel to Europe. In recent films such as Befikre, Raabta, Tamaasha and Jab Harry Met Sejal, the lead couple duly have a brush with angry white men in shady bars and on the streets, resulting in fun sequences of chase and stunt. My Story repeats this. Jai and Tara go on a road trip through Portugal, and although they are carrying only a small backpack that is visibly new and empty, they change into chic and colorful costumes several times, and they always find cycles, bikes and cars out of nowhere to travel around.
And My Story has a rather mediocre sense of humour. Take this scene where Jai, an aspiring actor, meets a filmmaker, a pony-tailed brooder, in a bar in Chennai. Barging into his personal space, Jai starts talking to him animatedly, something that loosely translates into this: “Here, this is your golden chance! Cast me in the lead role in your next film. You won’t find anyone better than me” Impressed by this show of weirdness, the director immediately hires him as the hero in a big-budget project shot in foreign locales, and featuring the biggest female superstar in south India. Auditions and screen-tests are for losers.
Jai and Tara are actors working in the 90s, an era which celebrated melodrama on screen. In the meta-cinema parts, the couple communicates in long corny lines. It is not tough to believe those scenes which are styled after typical Bollywood films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But there is little contrast between My Story‘s portrayal of reel and real moments. The film is neck-deep in outdated melodrama, the cringe-worthiness of which could distract your attention from the emotional turmoil of the characters. The writing is inconsistent. Sometimes, out of the blue, the characters speak like real people, crack jokes and laugh over them, or worry, like real human beings in real situations. In no time, they return to the melodramatic turf, delivering lines that belong to a television soap.
The film uses a non-linear style of narration, unfolding in two timelines – one that runs in the past, and one in the present, 20 years since Jai first met Tara. One of the weakest elements in this film is the transitions from one timeline to another. It is always abrupt, leaving you confused. It’s not just the editing that causes the damage. The production design and the get-up of the characters don’t help as well. Jai looks hardly different from his 20 years younger self, except for some grey strands on his wig. The tattooed musician Hema (Parvathy’s second avatar in the film), looks hip and different, but it is possible that you would pass her for Tara herself with a good make-over.
However, it’s Parvathy who scores the best in the film, even in the parts where the writing falls flat and narrative goes directionless. The actor has a flair for stagy melodrama. Non-believers should watch her performance in the recent Qarib Qarib Singlle where she looked camera-aware, consciously touching up even the slightest reactions and rendering of dialogues. In My Story, she is in a universe she naturally belongs to. She seems completely involved in the role, always outperforming her co-star who is stuck somewhere between melodramatic and realistic acting styles. Parvathy’s portrayal of Tara, a bohemian soul, is interesting, if not perfect. She doesn’t have the physique of a football-loving athletic person or a genuine accent, but the vivaciousness that she brings to the role is fascinating.
It’s a wonder that even after a century of movie making, our film industry still resorts to colorful designer wears, exotic foreign locales and manufacturing superficial situations to portray romance. For anyone who has been through the pleasures of young love would know how real and complicated it can be. How do people lose track of their former lovers in a world that is so connected by many forms of communication? What do Jai and Tara do or talk about when they are not brushing their arms against each other, exchanging smiles and kisses, and posing at pretty locations? In a film founded on a broken love story, why isn’t there the courage to be real? If My Story isn’t moving or memorable, the prime reason could be this.
The My Story review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie.