Asian Movies to Make Your Heart Hum Happily This Valentine’s Day
A love story is like a hot soup on a rainy day – it engulfs your soul with some much-needed warmth. While it may not necessarily be the most intelligent or thought-provoking genre of cinema out there, it has stood the test of time and continues to enthrall us with its heart-tugging narratives. A good romance movie has the power to fill voids or amplify joy. Depending on what you need this Valentine’s day, there is a love story out there for everyone to enjoy.
For years, movies like Titanic or The Notebook have ruled the top of the romance genre and for good reason. These films are iconic in their own right and remain classics. However, I believe that while Hollywood films have legendary romances, they arguably lack the most important element in a romance film – familiarity. Regional Asian films have billion dollar industries and have been changing the face of films in the recent past. With Valentine’s Day here, here is a look at three romance films from right around our neighborhood.
There are many different “woods” that fall under the Indian cinema. These include Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood and even Mollywood. As India is home to many languages, each region has its industry based on its local dialect. However, the premises for these films are largely similar, focusing strongly on theatrics, hero-worship and music.
Indian films, like its audience, are generally conservative and traditional. It is extremely rare to see raunchy scenes, with even sights of openly kissing only introduced a few years ago. As such, the genre employs other means such as music and dialogue to establish intimacy and develop romance between the characters.
One stellar example of this is the recent 2019 hit, Kabir Singh. Falling under the Bollywood umbrella, Kabir Singh is a remake from blockbuster Tollywood movie Arjun Reddy. This movie is a painful exploration of love and love lost. Shahid Kapoor is a phenomenal actor and flawlessly nails the role of Kabir Singh. Kiara Advani plays Preeti Sikka, the timid damsel in distress, waiting to be swept off her feet.
The uncensored pain portrayed in this film may be all too familiar for some, which is what makes this film a success. A large flaw in the Indian cinema genre, however, is its hero-worship tendencies and shades of misogyny. In Kabir Singh, Kabir is shown as overbearing and aggressive, making Preeti fall head over heels in love with him which may not fly outside of Indian cinema but is the narrative that the Indian audience is familiar with.
Unique Selling Point: Indian cinema is a riot of colours and grandeur, a factor unique to this genre. Each film easily has five original songs with music being such a crucial part of the film. If you enjoy dramatics and understated intimacy, this genre is for you.Watch this movie on Netflix here>>
I don’t claim to be an expert in Filipino films at all. Having been to the Philippines only thrice in my life, I can gauge the film culture as a layman would. Filipino movies place a huge emphasis on couple chemistry. More often than not, movies rely on the lead pair to carry the film forward, usually by being together in real-life as well. The movies themselves are sappy and soapy – a formula that is proven time and again to be a huge hit with the Filipino audience.
A movie I would urge you to watch is A Second Chance. It revolves around the marriage of Popoy (John Lloyd Cruz) and Basha (Bea Alonzo). It is an honest window into the hardships of marriage, the reality of temptation and the power of support, proving a balanced view of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Cruz and Alonzo do a wonderful job of portraying an authentic marriage, with many of their fights being extremely raw. This movie proves why clichés are clichés in Filipino cinema because they resonate so strongly with the audience. Unlike Indian cinema, there is less emphasis on music and greater focus on character development.
Unique Selling Point: Filipino films repackage emotions and melodrama to suit all. If you enjoy no-frills storytelling with strong emphasis on character arcs and development, this genre is definitely for you.
The most striking thing about Chinese cinema for me is how it’s a universe in itself. Each genre of film has so many sub-genres that it is easy to be overwhelmed. In that sense, it is very similar to the Indian movie scene. Even its romance genre ranges from historical epics to modern-day romantic comedies. While experts predict that the Chinese film market will become the largest in the world in 2020, many may still find the world of Chinese cinema daunting to explore.
I am a strong proponent that love is an international language. The same applies to romance movies. If you are looking to venture into the universe of Chinese films, romance movies are a great place to start because capturing the essence of love is far beyond language.
Us and Them 后来的我们 is a movie about two lovers, Jian Qing (Jing Boran) and Xiao Xiao (Zhou Dongyu), that shuffles between the past and present over a period of 11 years. What starts out as a cute and quirky romance at a tender age soon grows into a mature and practical endearment for each other, while life inevitably gets in the way. Us and Them is a movie that explores one of life’s biggest questions – what if?
Zhou and Jing have an effortless chemistry that starts off explosive but grows to be more understated and retrained. The actors successfully show this transition on the screen. The most prominent part of the film is the cinematography to distinguish between past and present. While the past is painted in rich and vibrant hues, the present is a dull monochrome. The audience is left hoping colour returns to the present, too.
Unique Selling Point: Like its Filipino counterpart, Chinese movies are mostly character-driven. It seemed the least melodramatic and theatrical of the three cinema cultures I dipped my toe into for this piece. But ultimately, Chinese cinema has every variation of romance that one could possibly want, regardless of what type of romance movies you prefer.
Ultimately, Asian cinema is a melting pot of different cultures and norms. No two regions produce similar cinema. While the content may be love, there are many cultural and traditional values that impact the portrayal of it. This Valentine’s Day, grab your loved ones and venture out of mainstream romance films. While the premise may be unfamiliar at first, you just might be surprised by how familiar it ends up being after all.
Photo Credits: Netflix