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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.