How modern is modern love?
Jalebi actors Varun Mitra and Rhea Chakraborty on the everlasting conflicts of love
Love, modernity and ambition come at a conflicting crossroads in debutant Pushpdeep Bhardwaj’s upcoming film Jalebi, starring Varun Mitra and Rhea Chakraborty. The romantic drama follows the story of Dev and Aysha — two lovestruck individuals who get hitched in a rush but fail to reconcile their marriage with their varying outlooks. Years on, the estranged couple meets on a train ride and finds itself tending to old wounds while opening up new ones. “There's a lot of relatability yet an aspiration quality attached to both our characters. A young person falls in love with another young person but things don't work out the way they always do in movies and fairytales. But what happens then? How do you get over your long lost love? And what if you bump into that person seven years later on a train? That is what the film delves into,” says Rhea, last seen in the comedy heist film Bank Chor.
In the trailer of Jalebi, we see Varun’s character Dev rebuking his wife Ayesha for wanting to move out of his ancestral home in pursuit of her career. He dubs his anger as ‘melodramatic’, but insists she stay on. The situation is reflective of the adversarial ways in which Indian modernity struggles with its traditional value systems. Varun, who debuted in the 2015 film Kaash, says, “I think Bhatt Sa’ab (Mahesh Bhatt), our producer, put this beautifully. He called Jalebi the first post-modern love story. My character, Dev, is very traditional — that's why he says all those things. But the modern part of him also understands he’s being melodramatic, and thus admits to it. Dev is a very interesting, perhaps contradictory culmination of modern and traditional values. It's a very common archetype among Indian men.”
Asked if this dreams-vs-emotions discord extends to their personal lives as well, the actors offer some interesting insights. Rhea, 26, says, “I have dealt with it many times. There are certain aspects of our (acting) profession that are not easily understood by our romantic partners. I've been asked questions like, 'Oh, why are rehearsing late into the night?' or, 'Oh, why are you hanging out so much with a co-star?' A lot of people don't get these things. Also, because I am a girl, I've been made to feel more answerable. Today, however, people are more ashamed to ask such questions because they know it's wrong and there's so much noise about it being wrong. I think we are at the brink of this conflict. A balance is slowly coming."
Varun adds, “Personally, my conflict has mostly been internal. My family has always been supportive of my ambitions, thankfully. This is something I've said in my TED Talk, that there are two guys inside me: there's Varun and there's Mitra. Varun is the more shy, scared, safe-playing person while Mitra is the edgy guy who goes after what he wants. My struggle has largely been with Varun, who was not ready to let go of his comforts, his family and his city to come to Mumbai and pursue his dreams. This is what I have brought to my character as well. I think every city-faring Indian youngster will connect with Dev.”
Produced by Vishesh Films and distributed by Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Jalebi is scheduled for release this week. The film also stars Digangana Suryavanshi, Aanya Dureja and Poorti Arya and and Arjun Kanungo.