A bunch of celebrated directors, a bevy of gifted actors, new as well as veterans and an adaption of The New York Times bestselling column and the Amazon series Modern Love. So, what do you get? As expected a mixed bag and many shades of love, from taboo to those within the grand institution of marriage, but one in which each take on love and relationship makes a heartfelt connection.
Six one-hour long stories seem to have a common thread that of bonding of hearts, a few amidst loneliness. So, My Beautiful Wrinkles has Sarika as Dilbar and Danesh Razvi as Kunal connecting, yes sexually too, despite an obvious rather humungous 30 year age gap. Trust director Alankrita Shrivastava, to talk of women’s sexuality, yes of senior citizens too. As the elderly yet still so beautiful Sarika and handsome Danesh Razvi meet over a tutorial session during which she gives tips on how to crack an interview, the chemistry between the two is palpable. Alankrita, however, does not cross the line and plays safe and leaves the relationship in the area of fantasy. As Richard Bach would say, “True love stories never have endings.”
But some do as in Hansal Mehta’s Baai. Same sex love surfaces and can easily be counted as one of those rare stories that not only normalises the gay relationship but touches more than one emotional chord. Malleable face of Pratik Gandhi as Manzu whose family believes “being gay is one way ticket to hell” mirrors all the emotions there are to love, forbidden by the society. His partner in love is played by Chef Ranveer Singh Brar who makes an endearing presence in the acting world. Tanuja as the grand matriarch of the family is impressive, though the episode has an unwanted reference to communal riots. Since Manzu happens to be a singer, we have a waft of a beautiful song Kaisi Baatein Karte Ho – composed by Jeet Gannguli, heightening the beauty of same-sex romance that is slowly finding acceptance in India.
Love stories and how can music not elevate the story telling? Here, we have lilting ones composed by the likes of Nikhil D’Souza, Ram Sampath, Vishal Bhardwaj, Jeet Gannguli, Neel Adhikari and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. If music be the food of life, love and food are interconnected in Vishal Bhardwaj’s segment Mumbai Dragon. It brings to life Indo-Chinese community in Mumbai in a flavourful (and we just don’t meant the aroma of Chinese food) story in which local talent Wamiqa Gabbi makes an impression apart from superb Meiyang Chang and competent Yeo Yann Yann.
The microcosm that Mumbai the maximum city is unfolds in myriad ways. Cycling down a flyover in Mumbai becomes a symbol of freedom for a Kashmiri girl in Raat Rani. Fatima Sana Sheikh is a breath of fresh air as the Kashmiri girl Lalzari, jilted by her husband after ten years of marriage. The crux lies in how she learns to be independent. Not a new thought but the manner in which she finds love in her own being and emancipation in Mumbai is portrayed adeptly by the directorial aptitude of Shonali Bose.
The broken roof over head is not just mended but transforms into realisation of a dream in a definitive yet allegorical representation of self-love. Fatima is a delight to watch, both when she is pining for her husband and more so when she learns to live life on her own terms sans him.
If Mumbai is a character, stories have a quintessential Indian feel and do not appear transposed from another environment. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the six-hour series may not qualify as binge watch. Rather to be savoured at your own pace, these make you believe in love and as in Masaba Gupta and Ritwik Bhowmik-starrer I love Thane (Dhruv Sehgal’s directorial signature), it offers many definitions of love like ‘I judge myself less around you.’
And rising above the humdrum of married life floats Cutting Chai, directed by Nupur Asthana, where Arshad Warsi and Chitrangda Singh take us into the married lanes of love leaving us with a fuzzy feeling. “If life is as complicated or simple as you make it,” so is love whose magic echoes in the Shankar-Ehsaan- Loy song Shuru se shuru karte hai. Only don’t miss the epilogue which describes Mumbai above all as the city of hope which we dare say is another name for love. Find its glow here.