Indian cities throb with an estimated population of 700 million under the age of 35. This young India aspires for a liberal society that gives them the freedom to be themselves. When they find the society cold and unwelcoming, they turn to the warm embraces of their respective cities. They trust cities to give wings to their dreams, to be a witness to their most cherished moments and to keep their desires safe. Indian metros right now stand like the mythological Titan, Atlas, bearing the weight of a collective million.
A city like Mumbai or Bengaluru supports millions of lives who have arrived in search of a dream. Alongside dreams of leaving their mark in the larger scheme of the world – each person also harbours the dream to love and be loved deeply.
Such similar dreams of intimacy and romance find their voice in national award winning director Hardik Mehtas’s short film “The Affair”. Hardik selects Mumbai’s giant stretch as his canvas, but uses only one corner of it; he selects Marine Drive as his muse, and one of the countless high rises as his medium to convey this tale of love, separation, urban pangs and lack of privacy.
The film opens with the Marine Drive couples sharing stolen kisses, drunk in love –exuding the typical Mumbai candour, with much openness & complete nonchalance in the air.
However, what the film points at is a pertinent and persistent problem within urban India. With a burgeoning population, and the city bursting at its seams, privacy is an issue. Be it the tight work schedule, the insane travelling ordeals, or the cramped up houses that would even put pigeons to shame, privacy for couples is a luxury in Mumbai.
With the rise of residential complexes in the interiors of the city, families are crammed into smaller living spaces. Especially in case of joint families, finding opportunity for romance becomes a challenge for the young Indian couple. Given the circumstances, most of them end up choosing the public parks, marine drives and theatres as places where they can spend some passionate moments together. For those who have not yet tied the nuptial knot, lies and trickery is the last resort to obtaining privacy, which is otherwise impossible to attain given the familial ideals and lack of space in the city. Add to this overeager aunties, and voyeuristic men around, couples rarely get a breathing space to even lean on to each other, let alone a surreptitious kiss or a coy peck.
What do you do when you start working in a different city and your landlord does not let your girlfriend in, even for an evening? What do you do when you are married and living with your parents along with your two siblings in a two room flat? You are bound to end up in a crisis for emotional and physical space.
New-age services like an OYO or a StayUncle has captured this exact need-gap where they are not just offering a tangible space for a couple, they are offering a peace of mind which is meant only for the two of them.
Nuanced handling of such a deeply ingrained problem that plagues the society & the light brush strokes with which the director has painted his characters make The Affair a must watch. It’s as much a love story between two people as it is a love story between us and our cities.
The best part, The Affair, does not offer a solution, but it does offer hope.