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Digital Review: ‘Modern Love Mumbai’ (Amazon Prime)

Indian creatives have been largely unsuccessful at adapting foreign shows for the local audiences. From ‘Call My Agent’ to ‘Luther’, all we get are scene-by-scene replica of the original, word-by-word translations, that make you want to revisit the original. But thankfully, ‘Modern Love Mumbai’ has been able to break this curse.

Adapted from the New York Times ‘Modern Love’ columns, just like the original show, ‘Modern Love Mumbai’ consists of six unique episodes about love in all forms. These stories have been recontextualized to fit in India. They are filled with cultural nuances and elements of Mumbai which form the story, instead of simply accessorizing it. Although the source material is foreign, the stories feel like home.

‘Raat Rani’ – Shonali Bose

Lali’s long, content love marriage with Lutfi comes to a sudden end. Blind-sided and furious, she decides to fight him back into her life. But as the anger simmers down, she starts to rediscover herself as an individual. Lali is a true Shonali Bose heroine – smart, funny, assertive, and a little unhinged. No Indian filmmaker allows women to be openly, uncontrollably vulnerable on screen like she does, and Fatima Sana Shaikh performs Bose’s vision beautifully. Lali’s journey to self-love is a little weak narratively, but the women behind the character keep the episode engaging.

‘Baai’ – Hansal Mehta

Hansal Mehta gives us a lead pair that inspires fan fiction. Nervous, electric, with a beaming potential of a happily ever after gently hidden in the tiniest of moments. Casting Ranveer Brar as chef Rajveer to passionately speak about nihari is the most obvious yet inspired move in the whole series. Coming from him, musings about food and love feel genuine. But ‘Baai’ isn’t about Rajveer and Manzu’s (Pratik Gandhi) love. It’s about the love between Manzu and his doting grandmother Baai. The line between honesty and protection that we carefully tread in intergenerational relationships. And how sometimes, our connection with one another doesn’t adhere to those lines.

‘Mumbai Dragon’ – Vishal Bhardwaj

The star of the show is Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Mumbai Dragon’. It is set in a seldom explored part of Mumbai. Chinese immigrant Sui (Yeo Yann Yann) has dedicated years to the Indo-Chinese community in Mumbai. So when her beloved son Ming (Meiyang Chang) ends up in a live-in relationship with a Gujarati vegetarian(Wamiqa Gabbi), she is hurt. Where did she go wrong? How can this foreigner know what is good for my son? ‘Mumbai Dragon’ carries on the narrative about love and food. It is shot beautifully, acted incredibly, it is funny, poignant, just perfect.

‘My Beautiful Wrinkles’ – Alankrita Shrivastava.

Srivastava embraces the true essence of the NYT columns and shows the weird mess that love sometimes is. A woman stuck in the past, Dilbar (Sarika) is confronted by the attraction of a man much younger than her. This episode is an combination of two essays, which don’t come together as seamlessly as I’d like. Nevertheless, it does make several interesting points about grief, mourning, and the acceptance of love when you get older.

‘I Love Thane’ – Dhruv Sehgal.

This episode has the least complicated story. The story is simple: girl who is racing against time to find her perfect match, meets a man who makes her reevaluate the concept of time completely. The shining gem of this story is the memorable dialogue. It tells you so much about the characters, played exceptionally by Masaba Gupta and Ritwik Bhowmik. The love shown here doesn’t focus on the romantic chemistry between the two, but the instant ease and understanding of their relationship. Like Saiba tells Parth, “I judge myself less around you”. Isn’t that what we all ultimately want?

‘Cutting Chai’ – Nupur Asthana.

The last episode on the series is also the shortest.  Latika (Chitrangda Singh), a writer, is having an existential crisis over her incomplete novel. If she had not married Danny (Arshad Warsi), would her novel be complete? When it started, it felt like a low note to end the series on, but Arshad Warsi is such an effortless star. His presence is the highlight of this sweet story about a couple stuck in a rut.

‘Modern Love Mumbai’, despite its ups and downs, is a delightful series full of hope. The best part about it is that it has managed to create its own identity, instead of being a cheap imitation of the original. Now we have ‘Modern Love: Chennai’ and ‘Modern Love: Hyderabad’ to look forward to.

Rating: 4/5

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