“Is Love Enough? Sir?” is a Hindi romantic drama released in Cannes Film Festival in 2018 and European countries in the same year. It was then made available on Netflix India in November 2020.
Plot of “Is Love Enough? Sir”
Ratna, in her mid 20s, bids goodbye to her family in the village and returns to work in Mumbai. She works as a live-in maid at Ashwin’s house. Ashwin hails from an affluent family and recently returned from New York after hearing of his brother’s poor health condition. He lives with his girlfriend Sabina in a high-rise building and is an aspiring writer; however, he joined his father’s construction business upon returning to India. After discovering that Sabina has been unfaithful, Ashwin ends their relationship as he no longer feels emotionally invested in her. For days afterwards, he remains quiet and low spirited – not interacting much with anyone or eating much food.
Ratna, on the other hand, wants to be self-sufficient. At 19, she was married off and her husband passed away within a couple of months. The society saw no possibility for Ratna to live a worthy life afterward. But she was resilient and had wanted to study instead of being forced into marriage. After losing her husband, Ratna found work in Mumbai and helped her sister finish her degree too.
Ratna was devoted to her work and never took advantage of any situation. Her dignity, sincerity, and passion for fashion design were evident. After Ashwin’s girlfriend moved out, people questioned Ratna’s living arrangement, but she paid it no mind. Ashwin’s reluctance to life felt unbearable to Ratna; one day, she shared her own story—how she lost her husband at a young age yet still turned her life around and became independent—to make him understand the essence of life: “Life goes on…”
Ratna asked Ashwin for permission to take sewing lessons, but the tailor made her work for free without teaching her anything for a month. On her way home, Ratna admired the boutique and designer dresses, sparking a desire in her to become a fashion designer. One day she mustered up courage and entered the shop to get inspired by the designs. The owner promptly kicked her out.
Ratna felt humiliated when she came home, and was very upset. Ashwin initially thought she was interested in tailoring, to which Ratna corrected: “Fashion designer.” Ashwin was surprised and responded, “It’s tough to make it as a fashion designer…” The memory of the boutique still fresh in Ratna’s mind, she snapped back: “Is it because I’m a maid?”
The movie showed time and again how, unintentionally, we put labels and limits on people’s dreams depending on their socio-economic background. Ashwin couldn’t believe at first that his maid from a remote village in India could dream of becoming a fashion designer. After realizing how serious Ratna was about achieving her dreams, Ashwin gifted her a sewing machine. This time she started tuition at a reputed place where she was learning quickly. Ratna inspired Ashwin to pursue his dream of becoming a writer too: “You can write from anywhere if you want.” Ratna made a dress for her sister, imitating the design she had seen earlier.
For Ashwin’s birthday, Ratna made him a shirt and he happily wore it outside that day. Ratna believed money was the solution to all problems and that life was perfect for rich people. She sympathized with Ashwin, who had no shortage of money but whose life wasn’t perfect. Ratna was upset when she found out her sister wanted to get married and move to Mumbai more than finish her studies. Ashwin reassured her that the husband could encourage the girl to finish her studies and gave her some money as a wedding gift. When Ratna went to her village for the wedding, Aswhin missed her for the first time… He came into her tiny room where she’d built a world of her own. He called, there was an awkward silence as they checked in on each other… Ratna returned with a happy face knowing that now her sister could complete their degree.
Ratna was always professional, never trying to be friendly with her boss. She called him “Sir.” Ashwin respected and trusted Ratna, never letting his friends be disrespectful. Even though their lives were different, they understood each other well. One day Ashwin gave in to his feelings and kissed Ratna, confessing his love for her. Ratna was taken aback but responded to the affection. Ashwin was willing to do anything for them to be together; however, Ratna knew it would not end well.
Ratna was a maid and society would never accept their relationship, no matter how innocent or pure their feelings were. Ratna’s family would lose trust in her and force her to go back to the village if they found out. Ashwin’s parents had just lost a son; another shock from him could break their hearts. Love wasn’t enough for them to stay together.
Ratna took Ashwin to the rooftop of a high-rise building where they could see the entire city. Whenever he asked her not to call him “Sir,” she’d reply, “Then what should I call you?”
Soon after Ashwin shared his situation with his close friend, Ratna quit her job and moved in with her sister. She asked Ashwin not to contact her and forget the kiss. Ashwin also told his father about his feelings and left for New York to pursue his passion.
A few days later, Ratna got a job offer as a fashion designer from Ashwin’s friend (likely due to his recommendation). When she returned to Ashwin’s place, she found he had left. Feeling lonely and crying, Ratna went to the rooftop where she often visited. Right then, her phone rang — it was Ashwin.
“Ratna…”, he said.
“Ashwin!!” all her emotions came right through the single word that she had never uttered before.
My thoughts on the plot of “Is Love Enough? Sir”:
The movie has no dance sequences or romantic songs, and its plot is straightforward.
Rohena Gera, the writer and director of the film, tried to imagine a situation where two opposite worlds collide. Nevertheless, the story remained realistic. Tilottama Shome as Ratna did an amazing job. Her body language and her ability to speak Marathi with her sister, Hindi with her boss, and a little bit of English with her companion in the next apartment showed different dimensions of her character. Years of observation have perfected her craft.
Ratna stopped dancing in the Ganapati immersion procession when Ashwin returned from work and joined him in the lift. She was sweating and panting heavily, as the dance and lift scenes were shot on separate days. To ensure accuracy, Tilottama ran a few times before shooting the lift scene—the sweat and panting were all her own doing, showing her perfectionism.
Vivek Gomber played Ashwin, a character unlike the typical alpha male Bollywood hero. He was sober and respectful; never forcing himself on Ratna or looking at her with lust. Though he wanted to make an impulsive decision for Ratna, he respected her choice.
The movie effortlessly contrasts Ashwin’s and Ratna’s lifestyles. Ashwin lives in a luxurious apartment right by the sea, complete with stylish furnishings. Ratna has only a tiny room with a yellow bulb. It doesn’t match the rest of the building at all.
Ratna served food to Ashwin on the table with nice plates and cutlery, but she ate from a steel plate on the kitchen floor by herself. Ratna, our maid who does all the household chores and takes care of the family, never feels at home. I noticed Ratna’s dedication to her work was a bit unrealistic; perhaps it was because she genuinely wanted to take care of Ashwin.
I’ve encountered many live-in maids in my life, and in most cases they have been reluctant to do extra work. With respect to all, finding reliable maids is a major issue—whether it’s due to trustworthiness or their job performance. Maids are always in high demand and nobody wants to displease them since working couples rarely have time at home…Maids understand this demand well enough to get as much out of their work as possible. The same goes for bachelors; they won’t complain about the food unless there’s something on the table!
My colleagues often tell me how particular their maids are about their service—one who is hired to wash dishes won’t clean the kitchen counter. The live-in maids will only do what they’re asked and won’t go above and beyond. This is based on my personal experience.
There was one maid who lived with us for more than a decade, an exception to the others I’ve mentioned. When she started working at our house, I was very young. I used to call her “Aunty” and she would make me tiffins, tell me stories, and go on walks with me. She never said no to any task. Though she may have caused some drama here and there or been negligent occasionally, Aunty did so much for us without ever asking for a raise. She had lived with us like family.
The alternative endings of “Is love enough? Sir”:
I can’t deny the movie ended on a good note, but my mind, influenced by two decades of Bollywood-style romance, thought of some alternative endings.
Alternative ending #1: If Ratna had agreed to be with Ashwin, a few days would have been full of love and happiness. But that wouldn’t last long. Ratna’s family would have disowned her or taken her home. She wouldn’t get the chance to pursue her dream.
When Ashwin’s family found out about the affair, they shamed Ratna more than Ashwin. They may have even forced him to marry someone else. Otherwise, their relationship with their son would have been strained. Ashwin’s friends would have laughed at him behind his back.
Love wouldn’t have been enough, so Ashwin and Ratna would have regretfully ended their relationship.
Alternative ending #2: Ratna and Ashwin agreed to pursue their passions–Ratna as a fashion designer and Ashwin with his novels. She could become successful and wealthy, while he could make a place for himself in the literary world. They stayed friends throughout the years and eventually reunited when class differences were no longer an issue. Happier than ever, they had taken time to work on themselves and mature before entering into a relationship.
This ending was similar to the last one, except Ratna and Ashwin never reunited. They stayed good friends, supporting each other through highs and lows. They married different people but always had respect, affection, and trust in each other’s hearts.
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