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Modern Love Mumbai Review: Dhruv Sehgal Can’t Save Amazon Prime Video Anthology Spin-Off

Fashionable Love Mumbai — the primary Indian spin-off of rom-com anthology Fashionable Love, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video — opens with the identical phrases as its American counterpart: “Impressed by private essays from The New York Instances column Fashionable Love. Sure parts have been fictionalised.” However curiously, not like the unique, Fashionable Love Mumbai does not reveal who wrote the columns the six episodes are impressed by. Why is it hiding the names of the authors? It begs the query: are these actually Mumbai tales submitted by Indian readers of NYT? Or — enable me my cynical ponderings — are these world tales transplanted to an Indian context? That occurred to me at occasions as I noticed Fashionable Love Mumbai, extra so as a result of the episodes did not pull me in.

That is as a result of most of its tales — every Modern Love Mumbai episode is standalone, because it’s an anthology — are humdrum. Whereas some episodes begin off poorly and by no means get you on their characters’ aspect, others start in a promising method solely to fade out ultimately. Many do not earn their insights, encompass clunky dialogues, or make superficial observations. And a few cram an excessive amount of into their 40-minute runtimes. (I think about some chapters in subsequent week’s Love, Death + Robots season 3 will ship extra in about one-fourth the time.) Although there are individualistic failures — even famend fingers in Vishal Bhardwaj, Hansal Mehta, and Shonali Bose falter, some greater than others — it is arduous to not look previous the guiding fingers too.

Whereas The New York Times, and Fashionable Love creator, director and govt producer John Carney are concerned in some capability, Fashionable Love Mumbai is in the end a manufacturing of Pritish Nandy’s banner. And it shares not simply among the similar issues as their Prime Video declare to fame, Four More Shots Please!, but in addition their makers. Pritish’s two daughters, Rangita Pritish Nandy and Ishita Pritish Nandy, are govt producer and co-executive producer right here. 4 Extra Photographs Please! season 2’s author and director additionally get the ultimate Fashionable Love Mumbai episode to themselves. As a substitute of on the lookout for new companions to make its rom-com anthology, Amazon merely turned to the oldsters already making a (frivolous surface-level) rom-com for it. Even platforms are participating in nepotism now.

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Masaba Gupta, Ritwik Bhowmik in Fashionable Love Mumbai “I Love Thane”
Picture Credit score: Amazon Prime Video

The bar is in the end set very low on Fashionable Love Mumbai, and Little Things creator Dhruv Sehgal — probably the most inexperienced of his friends right here, in distinction to the aforementioned Bhardwaj, Mehta, and Bose — clears it not simply simply however correctly. His quick and the fifth episode “I Love Thane” seems to be actually good in entrance of the others, although it is solely as a result of the comparability is so stark. Via the perspective of a panorama designer in her mid-30s (Masaba Gupta) who’s realising she’s unfulfilled and incompatible with most males — till she possibilities upon a man from Thane (Ritwik Bhowmik) who works for the native authorities council — Sehgal and his co-writer Nupur Pai (Little Things season 3 and 4) contact upon what on-line courting is like in a a lot more true sense than the surface-level Eternally Confused and Eager for Love.

There is a great and comical shot early into “I Love Thane”, the place two ladies lock eyes as they drift off what are demonstrably two of the world’s worst dates. In a few seconds, Sehgal not solely succinctly reinforces the “males are s**t” philosophy that is taken maintain in our technology, but in addition skewers the supposed “liberal” and “feminist” males who’re arguably worse than their polar opposites. “I Love Thane” does land in a typical rom-com groove after some extent, however it’s the small however deep insights Sehgal attracts that stand out. And importantly, Sehgal is unwilling to compromise on his imaginative and prescient for the sake of Western audiences — Fashionable Love Mumbai is as Indian dealing with, as it’s outward dealing with, I’d argue — not like what Hansal Mehta does on his “Baai”, the second episode.

On “Baai”, when a personality namechecks a Bollywood actress, the subtitles translate it into Julia Roberts. However on “I Love Thane”, when characters convey up neighbourhoods akin to Thane, Bandra, and Naupada — they’re introduced as is within the subtitles. Sehgal expects audiences to comply with alongside, or learn up after they end the episode to completely perceive dialogues the place a personality complains to a different about making them “drive all the way in which to Thane.” That is the way it must be. In any case, that is how Hollywood has handled the world. New York’s boroughs — at the very least their names — are actually recognised globally. Even a Marvel film does not dumb itself down, when Captain America and Spider-Man commerce barbs over Queens and Brooklyn. And we should not be doing it both.

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Pratik Gandhi in Fashionable Love Mumbai “Baai”
Picture Credit score: Amazon Prime Video

Mehta’s “Baai” does have just a few issues going for it. The non-public spotlight for me is an early one-shot in a automotive — the director reunites along with his Scam 1992 cinematographer Pratham Mehta on Fashionable Love Mumbai — in the course of the Bombay riots, which is really epic and harrowing. It jogged my memory of Youngsters of Males’s automotive sequence, and one of the memorable sequences I’ve seen not too long ago. “Baai”, written by Mehta and debutant Ankur Pathak, will get off to a pleasant begin, however it runs out of steam. Mehta follows a homosexual Muslim man (Pratik Gandhi), a minority in a minority — not the primary LGBTQ+ story for the director, he additionally made the Manoj Bajpayee-led Aligarh.

“Baai” does all the pieces we have come to anticipate from tales about LGBTQ+ people in repressed societies — there is a very actual inclusion of how violence is extra prevalent in homosexual males — however it drifts off owing to its tangents. That is clear from its title, which refers back to the protagonist’s grandmother. However the greater downside for Fashionable Love Mumbai episode 2 is that the actors — celeb chef and restaurateur Ranveer Brar performs Gandhi’s boyfriend and future husband — aren’t plausible as homosexual males. The marriage scene is 👎🏼 and the intimacy scenes are downright laughable. It is like they’re smushing their faces and our bodies in opposition to one another, somewhat than truly embracing and kissing each other.

Mehta additionally tries to position meals on the centre of his story — the grandmother is thought for her cooking, and Brar’s character is a chef — however it’s misplaced in the course of all the pieces else and by no means comes into its personal. Vishal Bhardwaj does a lot better in centring his story, “Mumbai Dragon”, round meals. Like Mehta, Fashionable Love Mumbai episode 3 — written by Bhardwaj and debutant Jyotsna Hariharan — focuses on outsiders. In his case, Chinese language-origin Indians who proceed to be handled as the opposite, regardless of struggling via greater than most Indians. (The story is therefore a mixture of Hindi, Cantonese, Punjabi, and English.)

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Although Meiyang Chang’s wannabe playback singer will get extra of the plot, it is his mom (Yeo Yann Yann) who will get to shine on Fashionable Love Mumbai. Kudos to her for taking over position that is largely in Hindi — she will’t sound like a pure, however she does her finest. Yann’s mom is holding onto her grownup son via meals, as that is how she expresses her love. Whereas “Baai” is partly about how meals is actually about love, “Mumbai Dragon” does a greater job of conveying that. In Mehta’s story, it fades into the background. Baai is meant to be a killer chef, however it’s not a part of the image — it is previous. Bhardwaj ends his with an ideal meals shot, which conveys greater than dialogues or actions may.

There are generic components to Bhardwaj’s Fashionable Love Mumbai episode as nicely. Not solely does it meander within the center, it is feeding into an overly-optimistic self-fulfilling picture. Bollywood the dream machine has all the time appreciated to gasoline its personal mythos, although I anticipated extra from somebody like Bhardwaj. I wasn’t anticipating a lot from Shonali Bose (The Sky Is Pink) and Alankrita Shrivastava (Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare), and regardless of that, their tales closely under-deliver.

“Raat Rani” — Fashionable Love Mumbai episode 1, written by Nilesh Maniyar (The Sky Is Pink) and have debutant John Belanger — is the one one which’s about folks falling out of affection, not in it. The large stumbling block for Bose’s episode is that Fatima Sana Shaikh’s Kashmiri accent is outright hilarious. On high of that, you may’t relate to the characters from the start as a result of the beginning is so abrupt. However extra importantly, “Raat Rani” does not earn any of its scenes. Wholly disjointed, it merely jumps from one factor to the opposite. Bose needs “Raat Rani” to be a ladies empowerment story at its coronary heart, however main moments of progress occur off display.

That is additionally a difficulty with “My Lovely Wrinkles” — written by Shrivastava, its title and Mumbai geography can be misplaced — the place a separated grandmother (Sarika) is propositioned, by a younger man (Danesh Razvi) she’s tutoring, in a means that ought to represent sexual harassment. Regardless of the racy overture, Fashionable Love Mumbai episode 4 is puerile all through, virtually as if it is ashamed to really dive into what it is about. “My Lovely Wrinkles” fizzles out in a short time, and ends in a tacky, cop out style, which betrays that it had nothing to say of worth. It additionally has the clunkiest dialogues of any episode on this Prime Video anthology, with its characters saying issues which can be discovered on coasters and t-shirts. It is a case of Shrivastava developing quick in each division.

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Arshad Warsi, Chitrangda Singh in Fashionable Love Mumbai “Chopping Chai”
Picture Credit score: Amazon Prime Video

That leaves what I known as the nepotism story, as it is the one made by Four More Shots Please! season 2 director Nupur Asthana and author Devika Bhagat. “Chopping Chai”, starring Chitrangda Singh and Arshad Warsi as a pair of their forties, romanticises problematic elements of Indian males. I’ve nothing extra to say, as a result of that is mainly your entire episode. Besides the sixth and last Fashionable Love Mumbai episode flips within the last 9 minutes, because it makes an attempt to convey all of it collectively and ascribe which means to your entire sequence in a corny style.

Out of nowhere, Fashionable Love Mumbai destroys its anthology aesthetic on “Chopping Chai”, with characters from the primary 5 episodes briefly taking on. It is not as weird for many who’ve seen Fashionable Love, as a result of the unique did the identical, as a good friend knowledgeable me. That does not make it any much less abrupt although. Some scenes repay on earlier resolutions, however with others, it is like revisiting previous trauma. It is a considerably becoming conclusion and, in a means, the worst doable finish, as a result of by recapping and giving us tiny epilogues, Fashionable Love Mumbai solely serves to remind us how poor the anthology is.

All six episodes of Fashionable Love Mumbai are launched Friday, May 13 at 12am IST on Amazon Prime Video in India and world wide.

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