Valentine’s Day Bingelist; Lootera, The Lunchbox, Tamasha
Valentine’s Day Bingelist: Underrated Love Stories To Watch On OTT

We celebrate love in its entirety--one that goes beyond the usual song and dance and is not confined to just sweeping grand gestures. These are quieter and poignant love stories that purposefully elude the tag of the ‘great Bollywood romance’ 

A good love story need not always include an open-armed Shah Rukh Khan or a sprawling mustard field or chiffon-saree-clad heroines dancing in sub-zero temperatures. Here a few unconventional, contemporary Bollywood romances you can watch this Valentine’s Day beyond the usual mush.  


The Lunchbox (2013) 

Director: Ritesh Batra 

Available on: Apple TV


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An achingly beautiful love story blossoms between two unusual suspects — a young housewife, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and a widower, Saajan (Irrfan Khan)— through notes passed inside a lunchbox. Much like Wong Kar-wai’s Mood for Love, this is a story of two lonely strangers living in a big city gravitating towards each other after their paths cross serendipitously and there on slowly developing an emotional bond. Much like in Mood for Love it is a quiet and matured love that simmers instead of turning into a raging fire, and Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 movie, food plays an integral part in this epistolary romance between two strangers who never meet. Irrfan Khan is impeccable as the reclusive government employee who is on the verge of retirement, and Nimrat Kaur as Ila, a lonely wife who puts all her love in the tiffin she makes for her philandering husband in a desperate attempt to win him back, is nuanced and on point. 


Lootera (2013) 

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane 

Available on: Disney/Hotstar 




With the second half partially based on O Henry's short story, The Last Leaf, Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha-starrer Lootera is a poetically crafted tragic love story that unfolds in a sepia-tinted world steeped in nostalgia of the 1950s, and does so at a rather languid pace. It is a story of love, longing, betrayal, melancholia, redemption, and giving love a second chance. Sonakshi gives her career-best performance as Pakhi, the asthmatic but strong-willed only child of a wealthy aristocrat, who fall in love with a con-man, Varun. Ranveer as Varun is nuanced —here one can see the flamboyant and often over-the-top actor in a very different avatar where he is gives a restrained performance and especially excels in the quieter moments. Together they create some heartbreakingly beautiful moments that linger on even after the movie gets over. 


October (2018) 

Director: Shoojit Sircar 

Available on: Prime Video 




21-year-old irritable, carefree and even careless Danish ‘Dan’ Walia (Varun Dhawan) is a hotel management trainee and Shiuli Iyer (Banita Sandhu) is his fellow hotel intern, who unlike Dan is caring, efficient and serious about her job. They are colleagues who are poles apart and could hardly be termed as friends. But a disastrous accident at a terrace party on New Year’s Eve turns their lives upside down and sets in motion a poignant story of empathy turning into a deep and pure emotional bond. This is not so much a love story as it is a story about love and its transcendental power—theirs is a relationship beyond any tag. The movie, that sees Varun Dhawan give his career-best performance, sparkles in its sparse dialogues, minimalist approach, and nuanced and layered storytelling; in this slowburn, Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi’s collaboration peaks.  


Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017) 

Director: Akshay Roy 

Available on: Prime Video 


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Abhimanyu (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a successful author of pulp fictions who is going through a writer’s block. To get out of it, he decides to write a love story, and while rummaging through his memories, stumbles upon his own. 

Abhi and Bindu (Parineeti Chopra) are neighbours since childhood and have bonded over their shared love for music. Eventually their friendship turns into romantic love as they grow up. But both are not compatible—while Abhi is steady and down-to-earth, Bindu is whimsical and has sky-high ambitions. They part ways. But their love for each other keeps simmering.  Their entire relationship can be summed up with these beautiful lines penned for the movie by Kausar Munir: Maana ke hum yaar nahin/Lo tay hai ke pyaar nahin/Phir bhi nazrein na tum milaana/Dil ka aitbaar nahi. Theirs is a love they can’t deny but not all love leads to companionship. It is a classic case of two soul mates turning their romantic liaison into a platonic relationship because of compatibility issues. Love, the right kind, is not blind but practical. It is not one of the most brilliantly made films we have seen in recent years but it is a sweet and sad love story coated in nostalgia and topped with some great music told entirely from  Abhi’s perspective leaving the possibility of a very different version of  the same events if told from Bindu’s pov. 

Masaan (2015) 

Director: Neeraj Ghaywan 

Available on: Prime Video 


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At the centre of this poignant take on life, death, redemption, transformation, grief, and most importantly, letting go and finding closure, is the tragic love story between Deepak (Vickey Kaushal), who hails from a dom (a lower Hindu caste considered untouchable who are traditionally engaged in burning corpses on the ghats of Banaras) family, and Shalu (Shweta Tripathi) an upper-class Hindu girl oblivious of the harsh realities of Deepak’s world. As the young lovers slowly start to know each other, their caste difference and the societal pressures weigh heavy on their budding relationship. But before they could fight the world for their love, disaster strikes in a very different form, and with a finality that neither could have foreseen. Steering clear of the small town romcom trope, it is one of the rare contemporary Hindi movies that dares to deal with caste divide-- a subject most filmmakers still find ‘untouchable’ and instead take a ‘safer’ route of transforming it into rich-poor conflict-- and it is done through an insider’s lens. 


Tamasha (2015) 

Director: Imtiaz Ali 

Available on: Netflix 


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Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) and Tara (Deepika Padukone) are two strangers who meet in Corsica while on vacations. They start hanging around but decide to stay strangers and not disclose each other’s real identity. They sing and dance and live an alternate reality--it is a tamasha they create to amuse themselves and each other, and they decide not to ever meet again once the curtain drops on the Corsica chapter.  

But after a few years, the two meet again. But Tara, who is by then in love with Ved, soon realises that the blithe spirit Ved of Corsica is not the one sitting in front of her today—he is just a regular office-going middle-aged man tired of the day-to-day hustle. Is this the real Ved? Can Tara (which means ‘star’) be the guiding star and help Ved find his way to his true self? Tamasha can be termed as just another Bollywood romance where the woman helps a man discover who he truly is, but this movie also becomes a nuanced exploration of mental health, is a way we have seldom seen in Bollywood. The non-linear narrative along with the emotional complexities, makes this a difficult movie but the payoff is immensely satisfying. 


Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) 

Director: Sharat Katariya 

Available on: Prime Video 


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It is the ’90s, Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) is an underachiever who has not managed to pass 10th grade and he can barely speak English. He runs a cassette store in Hardwar and is almost bullied by his lower-middle-class family with limited income to marry the overweight Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar), who according to their calculations, being a B. Ed can land a good job and help the family financially. Although the well-educated Sandhya is otherwise way out of Prem’s league but it is her physical shape, which is not that of a conventional Bollywood heroine, that makes Prem detest her and even mock her behind her back. But it is the indomitable Sandhya, who although feeling let down by her husband’s inability to look beyond her weight let alone find beauty in it, fights for her self-respect, eventually earning that along with her husband’s love and adoration.  In the process, Prem also sheds the burden of his failures that was for so long weighing him down. It is a different take on the Bollywood trope of odd-couple falling in love, but along with the love story, it not only takes a stand against bodyshaming through its story but also by putting a chubby actor as the heroine breaking the Bollywood stereotype.  


Badhaai Do (2022) 

Director: Harshavardhan Kulkarni 

Available on: Netflix 


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Shardul Thakur (Rajkummar Rao), a closeted gay police officer, gets married to Suman "Sumi" Singh (Bhumi Pednekar), a closeted lesbian PT teacher, to fit into the small town they live in and to satisfy their respective family’s need to see them ‘settle down’. This lavender marriage that begins with a web of lies soon develops into a poignant story of an unusual relationship between Shardul and Sumi. Apart from the nuanced performances by the lead pair, Gulshan Devaiah as Guru Narayan, Rao’s romantic partner is a joy to watch. The love stories of Sumi and Rimjhim, and Shardul and Guru and Sumi and Shardul’s mutual love and respect for each other which also eventually extends to their partners, making way for a loving blended family is handled with a rare nuance and honesty. Although laced with humour, the social drama never laughs at the protagonists or their lives. Their sexual preferences are not fetishised, but the writers don’t patronize them either. It is not every day that you see a movie that fronts its LGBTQIA protagonists with such maturity and grace while so brilliantly tackling the stigma associated with homosexuality. 


Barfi! (2012) 

Director: Anurag Basu 

Available on: Netflix 


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It is one of the most simple and pure love stories we have seen in Hindi cinema in recent years, yet when you try to write about it, it seems almost impossible to put in words the layers of complex emotions it contains, and that is when you realise the true talent and skill of the filmmaker.  

Set in the quaint town of Darjeeling of the 1970s, it is a story of the deaf and mute but affable Murphy Johnson (Ranbir Kapoor), aka Barfi, and his two unique love stories—one with the charming Shruti Ghosh (Ileana D'Cruz), who even while in love with him agrees to marry the man of his parents’ choice leaving Barfi heartbroken, and then with his autistic childhood friend, Jhilmil Chatterjee (Priyanka Chopra), who starts trusting him blindly and eventually becoming inseparable. While Shruti sacrifices her love and succumbs to societal pressures, letting her head rule over her heart, Jhilmil’s love, mixed with her childlike innocence, is unconditional and beyond any such confines, she loves freely and is all heart. Both Ranbir and Priyanka give powerhouse performances, while Ranbir had no dialogues to fall back on, Priyanka’s act as an autistic woman could have very easily become stilted. But both were spot on. 

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