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anuja iyer


Prospective candidates during interviews are often tested for their LQ – Lateral Quotient – to gauge their problem solving ability from a different perspective. Sample a simple one as this: Dr. Daniel accompanied by his nurse enters a lift on the second floor of the hospital with the lift coming down from the 3rd floor already filled with three women inside. With no one else getting on/off the lift on that floor, with no lift operator and with nobody getting on/off the lift in the subsequent first floor as well, how many women get off the lift finally when they reach the ground floor? The most common answer is to count the three women plus the nurse totalling 4. But the other answer could also be 3 women because the nurse happens to be a ‘male’. Lateral thinking as we call it is the very basis of creativity in any field we’re part of as it gives a new dimension to the way we look at things. The most obvious approach to a riddle or problem makes it boring and predictable. What makes it interesting is to think differently or ‘hatke’ as they say in Hindi. The moment someone asks you to imagine or draw the shape of a triangle, the immediate picturisation or drawing would be an even sided symmetrical triangle that meets all three points with equidistant lengths. Just as a line need not necessarily be straight and can be any crooked curve with just two points to it, so can a triangle have disproportionate sides with non-equidistant length.

In cinema too, the triangular love story is so done to death and yet the triangular plots refuse to die in the creator’s attempts at making love-based films. The reason could be the volatile nature of relationships and the drama that comes out of complications when all three of them deserve the love that they desire. In a film where you have just the ‘boy meets girl’ situation, falling in love or persuading to love after much courtship and finally getting together after all oppositions from the families and villains in the plot, we still know that it has to happily end with both of them getting married or tragic with both of them dying. But when you introduce a third person into the plot, it gets an extension of excitement in the plot provided the climax is an unexpected one.

When three people are involved, two women loving the same guy or two guys fighting for one girl, one of them has to lose and the other gets his / her love. But the challenge is to keep the audience guessing as to who will pair up in the end. Something that director Woody Allen, for example, plays with our minds in most of his films. Usually in our films, the guy who plays a second hero ends up losing the girl and even before the film starts, you know which hero will get the girl like in the film ‘Ullaasam’ where Vikram’s character, despite having all the stable qualities of a man you would take home to introduce to your parents, loses out to the main ruffian hero as played by Ajith. And when there are two women vying for one man, it’s usually the traditionally dressed saree clad woman who gets the guy as against the more glamorous woman who dresses in western styled outfits. Or one of them sacrifices for the other person despite their love being mutual for reasons of gratitude or friendship or sibling love. What works for a film, assuming all other technicalities and the making are good, is when you go beyond such clichéd treatments, predictable storylines and yawning screenplays.

Films like ‘Kadhal Kondein’ got a thunderous response because it drifted away from the usual triangle of the main hero getting the girl. You end up rooting for Dhanush despite his obsessive love and shed a tear for the life that he gives up in the end while hanging atop the cliff just so that his much-loved woman as played by Sonia doesn’t have to go through the pain of choosing between love and friendship. Tabu refuses to choose between Abbaas and Vineeth in the film ‘Kaadhal Desam’ and goes for neither of them because of her fondness for both her friends. Despite Shah Rukh being in love with Preity Zinta in the film ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, he guides her to go for another man as played by Saif with whom she can spend the rest of her life with. Shah Rukh’s illness, limited time to live and the resultant inability to give her the love that she desires from him pushes him to ensure that the woman he so loves has a life even after he is gone. Though the premise in the film ‘Pearl Harbour’ was the surprise attack by the Japanese and the massacre that happened on one of the most guarded coastal areas of US, the element of interest was more in the triangular love and the unpredictable twists and turns among the three lead actors with two best friends falling for the same girl and the girl too loves both of them at different points. The more recent ‘Cocktail’ had an interesting side to Deepika’s change of mind and her stubbornness thereafter in giving up the guy after she meets  Saif’s family and wants one of her own. The moment a physical relationship is involved by consent or by force, by Indian culture norms and umpteen other films of the 70s and 80s, the guy has to marry the girl he was involved with whether he loves her or not. But this film’s take on love was different in the sense that any love unless it’s mutual and agrees with the heart cannot work despite two willing adults being physically involved.

So how much more can we explore given the restricted canvas of three key people being  intrinsic to the plot where no two men or two women can be shared at any cost? Can the woman not love either of the men pining for her and go for someone else altogether? Can the woman fall out of love with the same man whom she thought was her Mr. Right and then fall in love with the other guy whom she didn’t love earlier?  Can the first hero realise much too late that the love he feels for his gorgeous girlfriend is purely out of jealousy and not love after-all and purely because his best friend too feels for the same girl? Can a man sincerely stay in love with one and fall for another person too with the same intensity simultaneously? Human emotions are so complex that any outcome is possible for the same madly-in-love couple at a different time point. We are made to evolve as time goes by and when the partner doesn’t keep pace with that development only to find that the initial euphoria of being in love is not there anymore, they could seek love from the third person. So can there be a sincere made-for-each other couple that separates simply because they don’t feel that love anymore and be open to find love again in someone else? While more movies with triangular sides should continue to evolve with time and explore other possible outcomes, when you find true mutual love in real life, hold on to it tight and make it work come what may. And if you fall out of it, let go of the other person to give love a chance to survive elsewhere.

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