An Ode to K-Dramas and Why Bollywood Should Bring Back Authentic Feel-Good Romance

K-drama and Bollywood

Lately, I have ventured into watching Korean dramas. I have to admit I am completely hooked. I tried to stay away from K-dramas for the longest time, assuming it would be too cheesy for my liking. And honestly, the titles did not help.

But after watching just a few K-dramas over the past few months, I can confidently say – don’t judge a series by its name!

K-drama is anything but corny, cheesy, or cringe. It has well-crafted plots with impeccable, high quality writing. It’s admirable how much importance they place on everyday emotions. I now find it so wholesome, engaging, and fulfilling that I would advise anyone to watch at least one episode every day, especially if you’ve had a particularly draining day. A K-drama episode a day might just keep the doctor away.

The Korean dramas I tend to choose are solely focused on relationships because that is what I am craving at the moment. Over the past decade, I binge-watched several serious, abstract, intellectual, gory, and violent movies. The types that movie critics couldn’t stop raving about. And now I’ve had enough. I have reached a saturation point when it comes to reality-based cinema. Bring on the whimsical, captivating, addictive world of romance! I want to leave my troubles behind, I want to dream of a better world and romanticize about it.

As an Indian, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the quintessential feel-good romantic Yash Raj-esque movies? Why have we stopped making them? They used to perform incredibly well at the box office and are still cherished. DDLJ has been on a running spree for decades in Mumbai, with no end in sight. Which other genre can boast of having a similar impact on the audience? We can’t get enough of the charming Raj or the dreamy-eyed Simran. My friends reminisce about the etherealness of Chandni and the intoxicating love of Veer Zara. Forget Yash Chopra movies. Even a dark project like Dil Se had its share of aesthetically pleasing love-packed moments. Not to forget the playful mischief enacted by the lead actors with full gusto. A quirky Preeti (played by Preity Zinta) asks Amar (portrayed by the king of romance Shah Rukh Khan), “Are you a virgin?” which catches him off-guard, like the rest of us. We loved the dialogue, the crackling chemistry, and the freshness of it all.

Personally, my favorite Bollywood pair is Konkona and Ranbir in Wake Up Sid. The romantic angle was offbeat – a young guy in his 20s falling for an older working woman. You might think this unconventional pairing might not work, but they proved their detractors wrong. The chemistry was bang-on, scenes were memorable, dialogues were fun and thoughtful, and it boasted of the right mix of profoundness and escapism. You fell in love with the characters. It was difficult not to.

Romantic stories used to sell big in Bollywood. So this sudden shift from romance to violence and trauma-inducing reality cinema is unreasonable. The ones that Bollywood does end up making nowadays have no soul and are almost, for the lack of a better word – “cringe.” They lack emotional intensity and nuance. It is difficult to connect with the characters and delve into their world. A sign of a compelling romantic story is when you find yourself developing an emotional connection with the characters. Their love feels like your love. You want to hug them when they are sad, cheer for them when their passion gets reciprocated, or blush when romance is in the air. This holds true whether you are reading a book or watching a movie. If this feeling is missing, the story fails to make a mark.

It is not that India has stopped indulging in romantic stories entirely. We get to witness some well-made series on OTT, such as Mismatched and Little Things. They have done well, proving that there is an audience out there for authentic Hindi romantic sagas.

I thought I would have to resort to books for my kind of romance. Still, lo and behold, I was introduced to the world of K-drama, where everything is just as mushy and glossy as it used to be in Bollywood.

What makes K-drama so different from regular Bollywood movies released nowadays?

Focus is on emotions and feelings

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha Romance
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

Those stolen glances, broad smiles, and yearning looks are what makes K-drama so swoon-worthy. While Bollywood has moved to a more lusty “fast food” kind of romance, Korean drama still hangs on to the original slow-cooked YRF magic with a tight leash. Why stop making something that is doing well?

Stories for the soul

Crash Landing On You Romance
Crash Landing On You

We all know romantic movies are a world of make-believe, and we can’t possibly expect all of that sweet idealism to seamlessly transfer into our everyday lives. It’s not practical. But that’s what movies should do, if not regularly, then at least occasionally, offer a form of escapism to its audience from real-life issues.

The cute playfulness, heart-warming dialogues, gestures, and scenes that revolve around emotions are what make K-drama so sinfully good and make anyone forget their worries.


Twenty Five Twenty One Romance
Twenty Five Twenty One

One thing I dread nowadays is watching a movie or a TV series with family. You never know what kind of provocative scene will jump out of nowhere, leaving you and your family overwhelmed with embarrassment and a sense of existential crisis.

Most of the K-dramas I have seen are family-oriented. You can sit and watch the shows in the open, reassured that nothing awkward will unexpectedly appear on your screen.


What's Wrong With Secretary Kim Romance
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim

Each episode in Korean dramas tends to be lengthy! It can be over an hour long. But since the focus is on everyday relationships, you don’t end up getting bored.

The right amount of playfulness and romance

Love To Hate You Romance
Love To Hate You

The couples in K-dramas tease each other, have healthy banter, crack jokes, and are playful. Contrary to the common belief held by those who haven’t yet watched K-dramas, the shows are not all about soppy dialogues. The noteworthy part is that it all looks organic, not forced, adding to the authenticity of the experience.

Catchy music

Business Proposal Romance
Business Proposal

The music and background score in K-drama blends in with the situations, and in no time, you find yourself humming the tunes while doing your everyday chores. It exudes a gentle yet addictive vibe.

More relatability for 30+-year-olds

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha Romance

While many romantic movies in India cater to a younger audience, I have noticed that most of the K-dramas I have watched feature older and more mature characters. This offers more relatability for people in my age group who want to see people their age romance on-screen as well.

It’s Your Turn Bollywood

In the 80s and 90s, Bollywood films incorporated many of these points I listed above, except maybe featuring characters in their 30s and older. However, the current landscape of Bollywood movies doesn’t provide the same enjoyment as those classic films.

A look into the popularity of K-drama proves that romantic stories still sell. It is well-liked world-over across all nationalities. In India, I am surrounded by K-drama enthusiasts. It’s safe to say there is still a broad audience for the romantic genre in India, but they are forced to venture beyond the confines of the Indian movie industry as there’s a scarcity of feel-good, wholesome cinema here.

Hindi filmmakers should seriously consider creating good ol’ romantic movies again infused with emotions, aesthetics, endearing chemistry, and romantic dialogues. Maybe then, they may witness the box office numbers soar, finally putting an end to complaints about the underperformance of Hindi movies in recent times.

Is Comfort Zone a Place or an Emotion?

Is comfort zone a place or an emotion?
Photo by Pixabay

We are often encouraged to venture out of our comfort zones, push our boundaries and limits, and embrace the unknown. People say that’s where the real growth happens. I concur. Subjecting ourselves to new experiences is a sure-shot way to fuel personal development. Having a routine in place may or may not be detrimental, depending on the kind of person you are. Some people crave a time-tabled life, whereas others need a change every minute of the day.

We often try to stretch our comfort zones by altering our lives, such as starting a new job, relocating, trying novel exercises, or exploring new locations. These are primarily physical adjustments — you cajole your body into taking up these unaccustomed, exciting external goals to nourish your soul. But what about internal comfort zones? Are we open-minded enough to set aside the prejudices we have collected subconsciously over the years?

Mental transformation is unarguably more challenging than physical. Any change starts with the mind, even the physical. Encouraging yourself to expand your corporeal boundaries is often more fruitful than attempting to alter your thought process. It takes determination to discard years of conditioning, escape the chains of our preconceived notions, and declare, “Okay, I see and acknowledge this new way of living, even if it’s unfamiliar territory.” Personally, I find such people incredibly attractive. Their willingness to listen is commendable and praise-worthy. Yet, we don’t see it happen much.

Why are some people more flexible than others when it comes to accepting new ideas and ways of life, welcoming them wholeheartedly as if they were privy to this knowledge all along?

I would like to highlight one sector in particular to make my point: the Hindi movie industry. It is intriguing to observe how professionals evolve to keep up with the changing times. In the Indian series Gulmohar, an effervescent Sharmila Tagore, a senior citizen, plays a character that most in her cohort would have found blasphemous. Similarly, the iconic Madhuri Dixit portrays a determined mother in Maja Ma, traditional in some facets yet unconventional in others. A role many of her peers would have been unwilling to take on. Among the male actors, we have the young multifaceted Ayushmann Khurrana, renowned for taking up any daring character that comes his way. We have actors and actresses across age groups willing to change with the times. But these are just the minority. Most are reluctant to play characters who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. Ranbir Kapoor, who’s within my age demographic, admitted in an interview a while back, during Shamshera‘s promotions, that he’s not brave enough to take up such roles.

Moving out of our emotional comfort zones is not age-dependent, as you can see. It requires a willingness to listen, understand, and acknowledge.

It is common to find friends and relatives who struggle to accept new ways of the world with its pressing issues simply because they find them unrelatable. They deny support despite knowing our backing may prove meaningful or pertinent to the intended group.

The most humane thing one can do is listen to the experiences and feelings of others and try to see things from their perspective without being judgmental. To sit with others’ thoughts for a while takes courage.

Sexuality is only one example. This rigidity in perceptions can be observed in a variety of scenarios. Conservatives look down upon women who wear clothes they consider vulgar. Feminists are thrashed because they are non-conformists. Men who display their emotions openly are often criticized by their peers and seen as inadequate to cope with daily tasks. Husbands who love PDA are called “hen-pecked.” We just have to take a look around to see the plethora of preconceived notions everyone, including you and I, are harboring.

The morality or behavioral police who preach righteousness are often people who have achieved much professional success in their respective fields by taking risks and boldly venturing beyond the boundaries of their concisely defined comfort zones. However, many refuse to embrace new lifestyles or cultural norms that challenge their convictions and emotional comfort. It is ironic to see them share inspirational videos about exceeding boundaries on social media when they themselves are not entirely free from the clutches of their comfort zones.

Sometimes it’s difficult to move away from what we have accepted so far as it’s an emotional state that we don’t want to let go of. Humans love their comfort zones — whether they be emotional or physical. An object at rest wants to continue being at rest. This theory is not just applicable physically but mentally as well. The discomfort of new fights, marches, debates, terminologies, laws, thoughts, and social media agitations build up our rage and make us criticize how the world is over-sensitive nowadays. Things are changing way too fast, and we can’t seem to keep up. It is overwhelmingly complex, and understandably so.

But whoever said we should accept the new all at once? Take it one at a time. Baby steps. Sit with the new, try to detach from the old, get acquainted with unfamiliar thoughts, ask questions (but kindly), and ruminate for a while. Give yourself time, as you deserve kindness too, to slowly break away from things you have treated as “home” until now.

But accept we should, if not immediately, maybe sometime in the future. To be a kinder person, less judgmental, and empathetic — traits that highlight growth as well. Acknowledging that change is a constant part of life and adapting to new ideas, beliefs, and perspectives is essential to becoming a well-rounded individual.

Shouldn’t we make a concerted effort to step outside our familiar settings, both in terms of our mindset and physical actions? Something to ponder as we continue to navigate the ever-changing world around us.

An Ode to the Non-Nepo Actors in Class (Netflix) and What Bollywood Should Learn From the Show’s Success

Netflix Series Class

Class is the official Indian adaptation of the popular Netflix series Elite. But I am not here to talk about how good the show is or how different it is from the original. There are enough online reviews for that. I am here to stress the impact the actors had on me.

I was totally involved and immersed in the entire universe of Hampton International School. A big credit for that goes to the actors in the show. How often do you get to experience this engagement in Hindi movies nowadays? There are many reasons why it is not happening as much as you would like, but the predominant one is: most lead actors in Bollywood tend to look like they are acting. You see the actor, not their performance, which stops you from entirely immersing in their world, being one with them, feeling what they are feeling, and making you react to their scenes. You only observe them and see them as a part of the story. It’s difficult to connect with them because their star power often tends to overshadow their acting prowess.

This is where Class and its cast of actors come in. I see them as the torchbearers of hope in the industry and an example of how you could make a show or movie with non-famous faces and still have a successful project. These actors do not have a mainstream Bollywood filmy background and had to work hard to get where they were. And that effort is reflected in their performances. There is so much conviction and a feeling of realism so strong that you can relate to them.

When you see a show like Class with a talented set of actors, you immediately tag along with them on their journey without any effort. You become fully involved and feel intense hatred for some characters and love and sympathy for others. This is what good acting does. This is what immersive cinema is. You want more of these.

I was taken aback by how the young actors and actresses in Class had to wait years (some even 7-8 years) to get their first big break. By their age, star kids like Alia Bhatt had already become superstars. Celeb kids get a head start in their teens or early 20s, obtain enough time to star in good movies, and make a mark. By the time they are in the Class actors’ age group, they are financially stable enough to move to the next phase (marriage, parenthood, etc.). This is okay if you are a male actor. Still, in the case of a female actor, this can prove detrimental in a male-dominated movie industry like Bollywood. It is astonishing to see how middle-aged Indian actors are often paired with young women while their female counterparts of the same age are cast to play their mothers.

There’s nothing we can do about the nepotism prevalent in the Hindi movie industry except contemplate the unfairness of it all. It happens in all sectors and is not just restricted to Bollywood. But, in other industries, there are people to help the new kids in case they are not adept at their job. In movies, you can’t really make anyone perform for you. You have to do it yourself. So to compare it to other industries is not fair because such biases in the movie industry directly affect the experience you and I have, the actual consumers of entertainment. All viewers covet an immersive experience. It’s what we watch movies for. To escape reality for a while and to merge with another world cut off from your own. We have nothing to do with where the actors come from. But it is infuriating when the filmmakers take on celeb kids who have failed to impress even after a couple of chances, as it stops us, the viewers, from an immersive cinematic experience. There are exceptions, like Abhay Deol, who fit into any type of role you give him and make you connect with him.

I would love to see the cast of Class in more projects. I would love more casting directors to be like Sanjeev Maurya, who take actual effort to dig out talent, instead of going the lazy-ass way of trying the already-tested, the already-famous, who contribute nothing extra to the project, except maybe popularity and glamour. But we don’t need cinema that’s only about glamour, celebs with the perfect body and model-like features, or famous celebrities. People like me would love more relatability, good stories, and acting.

Until Bollywood learns its lessons, most of its movies will continue bombing at the box office, and people will continue to prefer OTT entertainment. OTTs have ensured all talented people get a platform to perform, which might be one reason why more people prefer to skip the theatres to watch content at home. Why pay to watch mediocre content when you can get quality entertainment at home?

An Ode to Rewatching Movies

A still from Wake Up Sid

It was an irregular day in my life. I had not watched any new movies or tv series in the last 4-5 days on any of the OTT platforms I had religiously subscribed to. This is huge, considering I never went a day without new content.

I realized the moment you subscribe to something, your mentality shifts in that direction of wanting to make the most out of it. You want to get your money’s worth. And once things turn into a habit, there’s no looking back. OTT platforms had become a habit. Not watching new movies or series in the last few days didn’t stop me from zealously adding new items to my watchlist, but I wasn’t tempted to start any. Was it saturation? Was I tired of the new?

Out of the blue last night, I felt like rewatching a 2009 Hindi movie – Wake Up Sid. I remember loving it the first time I watched it. I did not remember any of the dialogues. I only vaguely remembered the feeling it gave me back then – the mushy, soft, warm kind. I was curious whether I would feel the same way again. So rewatch the movie, I did.

It’s a rarity nowadays to watch a movie twice, mainly because you are subjected to many choices. Why go for the old when you can make way for the new? With the rise of OTT platforms, we have more on our platter. We add items to our watchlist, just like a shopping cart. We start multiple movies or tv shows and taste a bit of each, just like a buffet. Movie watching is no longer an immersive experience. It feels like a chore we need to finish quickly because we are already eyeing another.

There was a time when we used to watch and rewatch our favorite stories. By the time we were done, we were able to crack dialogues in the movie as effortlessly as the actors themselves. I do not remember lyrics or movie dialogues nowadays, but that’s understandable. Things stick only when there’s repetition.

I feel when we have more choices, we tend to become confused. Human nature is such that we are tempted to try everything readily available. Nowadays, surrendering yourself to one experience has become rare. There’s a mishmash of multiple experiences that you are driven to partake in simultaneously.

I couldn’t stop smiling while watching Wake Up Sid. The emotions are all contemporary, very now. It has aged like fine wine. Everything in the movie from 13 years back is still relevant today – the angst of a man who’s disinterested in regular office work, his journey to understand himself and his goals, and gradually falling in love with a passionate, ambitious woman. A woman who says with conviction that she’s not interested in him but her actions and expressions prove otherwise. Sid is very relatable, and so is Aisha. When the characters fall in love, you end up falling for them too. Their charm is such. The magic of good storytelling is such.

We don’t make such movies anymore. Is it because love stories are nowadays made with the male gaze in mind, or is the female gaze less fashionable? I doubt it’s the latter.

Would I get back to any of the movies released nowadays ten years or maybe twenty years from now? Would I sit and rewatch with a smile or cringe at the corniness of it all? Only time can tell. I think it’s about time our Hindi filmmakers resumed making feel-good movies again — so that the romantics, like me, have a decent movie to cuddle up to on a dreary, overworked weekday night.