Abhi (Ayushmann Khurrana) first saw Bindu (Parineeti Chopra) when he was six years old. The year was 1983, India had just won the World Cup, and she was his new neighbour. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight; Abhi was too young to understand love (who isn’t?), but he remembers that as a moment when something clicked, as if two pieces met in a jigsaw puzzle, revealing a pattern and meaning of sorts, promising the others would follow suit, too. The film then follows Abhi, over the next three-and-a-half decades, trying to make sense of the puzzle that refuses to leave him.
Meri Pyaari Bindu, starring Khurrana and Chopra, has a fairly simple story to tell. Boy meets girl. They become close friends, sharing secrets and lunch, childhood and adolescence. And then, they grow up. Bindu falls for a football player. Abhi registers a protest so quiet that Bindu is unaware. Aided by the rush of testosterone, he moves on too, finding a fling here and there. But like his most prized possession, a cassette of old Hindi film songs, Abhi, too, gets stuck at times: on Bindu, his past, the two of them cocooned in a bubble. And then—the film shows it simply and quietly—life happens. They part ways. A few years later, they try to keep in touch, but places, people and jobs keep them occupied; the fondness remains, the e-mails dwindle.
Most Bollywood romantic dramas concentrate on their leads as they’re falling in love. We know what the boy feels about the girl, and vice-versa, but we don’t quite know who they’re, individually, as people. What happens in a love story when the love, or the partner, is absent—or, at least, not present? Meri Pyaari Bindu attempts to disentangle some of that mess. And it does so through smart storytelling, cutting from past to present, from blissful memories to quiet disappointments.