Rohena Gera’s Sir plays with your rom-com expectations

Rohena Gera’s Sir plays with your rom-com expectations
This low-key romance from Indian writer/director Rohena Gera feels at first like a throwback to an American rom-com of the ’80s, with even less skin than in that time period. In a key scene, the male love interest comes upon his maid not in a state of undress, but of dress!

But stick with Sir through its modest hour-and-40-minute runtime and you’ll see that Gera is actually playing with our expectations of the genre. Without giving away the ending, I can reveal that it’s somewhat open-ended. Happily ever after? Maybe.

Ratna has a far more interesting story. She was widowed at age 19, two months into marriage, and moved to Mumbai because in her small town she’s effectively barred from further romance. But she’s not actively looking for a man; she has aspirations to be a clothing designer. In a nice rom-com reversal, the obligatory dress montage is not trying-on-and-buying but shopping for materials.

Gomber viciously under-emotes as Ashwin, but eventually the sad bachelor starts to develop feelings for the servant. (Duh; she’s there to bring him food and screen calls from his ex-fiancée. What’s not to love?) His best buddy and even Ratna point out that this is just not done in Indian society, but since when did the heart heed such warnings?

Gera’s previous directing work includes the 2013 arranged-marriage documentary What’s Love Got To Do With It? And like her main character, she’s got more on her mind here than romance; worked into the plot are comments about job inequity between the sexes, and recognizing the importance of education for women, two areas where India is even further behind than North America.

There’s still entertainment behind the finger-wagging, although audiences in (relatively) more enlightened markets may have a hard time connecting with the foreign cultural standards on display. Though some references are universal. When Ratna’s sister notes that “Sir” reminds her of Brad Pitt – well, you wouldn’t confuse the two on the street, but you still know what she means.

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