Modern Love Mumbai review: Dhruv Sehgal can’t save Amazon Prime video anthology spin-off

Modern Love Mumbai review: Dhruv Sehgal can’t save Amazon Prime video anthology spin-off

Modern Love Mumbai review: Dhruv Sehgal can't save Amazon Prime video anthology spin-off

Modern Love Mumbai – the first Indian spin-off of the rom-com anthology Modern Love, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video – opens with the same words as its US counterpart: “Inspired by personal essays from the Modern Love column from the New York Times. Some elements have been romanticized. But curiously, unlike the original, Modern Love Mumbai does not reveal who wrote the chronicles on which the six episodes are based. Why does he hide the names of the authors? This begs the question: are these Mumbai stories really submitted by Indian NYT readers? Or – allow me my cynical reflections – are these global histories transplanted into an Indian context? It occurred to me sometimes when I saw Modern Love Mumbai, especially since the episodes didn’t appeal to me.

That’s because most of its stories — each episode of Modern Love Mumbai stands on its own, since it’s an anthology — are monotonous. While some episodes start out badly and never get you on their character’s side, others start out promising only to fade. Many do not win over their ideas, consist of awkward dialogues or make superficial observations. And some cram too much into their 40-minute runs. (I imagine some chapters of next week’s Love, Death + Robots Season 3 will deliver more in about a quarter of the time.) than others – it’s hard not to look past the guiding hands. Also.

While The New York Times and Modern Love creator, director and executive producer John Carney are involved to some extent, Modern Love Mumbai is ultimately a Pritish Nandy banner production. And it not only shares some of the same issues as their claim to Prime Video fame, Four More Shots Please!, but also its creators. Pritish’s two daughters, Rangita Pritish Nandy and Ishita Pritish Nandy, serve as executive and co-executive producers here. Four more shots please! The season 2 writer and director also gets the latest episode of Modern Love Mumbai all to himself. Instead of looking for new partners to make its rom-com anthology, Amazon has simply turned to people who are already making a (surface-level frivolous) rom-com. Even the platforms are now indulging in nepotism.

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Masaba Gupta, Ritwik Bhowmik in Modern Love Mumbai “I Love Thane”
Photo credit: Amazon Prime Video

The bar is finally set very low on Modern Love Mumbai, and Little Things creator Dhruv Sehgal – the most inexperienced of his peers here, unlike the aforementioned Bhardwaj, Mehta and Bose – clears it not only easily but correctly. Her short and fifth episode “I Love Thane” looks really good in front of the others, even if it’s only because the comparison is so stark. Through the perspective of a landscape designer in her thirties (Masaba Gupta) who realizes she’s dissatisfied and incompatible with most men – until she comes across a guy from Thane (Ritwik Bhowmik ) who works for the local government council – Sehgal and his co-writer Nupur Pai (Little Things season 3 and 4) approaches online dating in a much more real sense than the superficial level Eternally Confused and Eager for Love.

There’s a wonderful, comedic shot at the start of “I Love Thane,” where two women stare at each other as they walk away from what are clearly two of the worst dates in the world. In seconds, Sehgal not only succinctly reinforces the “men are shit” philosophy that has taken hold in our generation, but also confuses supposed “liberal” and “feminist” men who are arguably worse than their polar opposites. . “I Love Thane” lands in a typical rom-com groove after a while, but it’s the small but deep insights Sehgal pulls out that stand out. Above all, Sehgal is unwilling to compromise on his vision for the benefit of Western audiences – Modern Love Mumbai is as inward-looking as it is outward-looking, I would say – unlike what Hansal Mehta does on his “Baai “, the second episode .

On “Baai”, when a character checks the name of a Bollywood actress, the subtitles translate it to Julia Roberts. But on “I Love Thane,” when characters bring up neighborhoods such as Thane, Bandra, and Naupada, they’re presented as they are in the subtitles. Sehgal expects audiences to follow or read after finishing the episode to fully understand the dialogues where one character complains to another to make him “drive to Thane”. It should be like this. After all, that’s how Hollywood treated the world. New York’s boroughs – at least their names – are now recognized around the world. Not even a Marvel movie gets ruined, when Captain America and Spider-Man trade barbs over Queens and Brooklyn. And neither should we.

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Pratik Gandhi in Modern Love Mumbai “Baai”
Photo credit: Amazon Prime Video

Mehta’s “Baai” has some advantages. The personal highlight for me is a unique foreground in a car – the director reunites with his Scam 1992 cinematographer Pratham Mehta on Modern Love Mumbai – during the Bombay riots, which is truly epic and heartbreaking. It reminded me of the car sequence from Children of Men, and one of the most memorable sequences I’ve seen recently. “Baai”, written by Mehta and debutant Ankur Pathak, starts well, but runs out of steam. Mehta follows a gay Muslim man (Pratik Gandhi), a minority within a minority – not the first LGBTQ+ story for the director, he also directed the Manoj Bajpayee-directed film Aligarh.

“Baai” does everything we expect from stories about LGBTQ+ people in repressed societies – there is a very real inclusion of how violence is more prevalent among gay men – but it drifts due to its tangents . This is evident from its title, which refers to the protagonist’s grandmother. But the biggest problem with Episode 2 of Modern Love Mumbai is that the actors – celebrity chef and restaurateur Ranveer Brar plays Gandhi’s boyfriend and future husband – aren’t believable as gay people. The wedding scene is 👎🏼 and the intimacy scenes are downright laughable. It’s as if they are crashing their faces and bodies against each other, rather than kissing and kissing.

Mehta also tries to put food at the center of her story – the grandmother is known for her cooking and Brar’s character is a chef – but she gets lost in the middle of everything else and never really comes into its own. Vishal Bhardwaj does much better by centering his story, “Mumbai Dragon,” around food. Like Mehta, Episode 3 of Modern Love Mumbai – written by Bhardwaj and newbie Jyotsna Hariharan – focuses on foreigners. In his case, Indians of Chinese descent who continue to be treated like others, although they suffer more than most Indians. (So ​​the story is a mixture of Hindi, Cantonese, Punjabi and English.)

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Although Meiyang Chang’s budding playback singer gets more of the plot, it’s his mother (Yeo Yann Yann) who shines on Modern Love Mumbai. Kudos to her for taking on a role that’s largely in Hindi – she may not sound natural, but she’s doing her best. Yann’s mother holds her adult son by food, because that is how she expresses her love. While “Baai” is partly about how food is really about love, “Mumbai Dragon” does a better job of conveying that. In Mehta’s Tale, it fades into the background. Baai is supposed to be a killer boss, but that’s not part of the picture – it’s in the past. Bhardwaj ends his with a perfect food shot, which conveys more than dialogue or action.

There are also generic parts of Bhardwaj’s Modern Love Mumbai episode. Not only does it meander through the middle, but it fuels an overly optimistic self-fulfilling image. Bollywood, the dream machine, has always enjoyed fueling its own mythos, although I expected more from someone like Bhardwaj. I wasn’t expecting much from Shonali Bose (The Sky Is Pink) and Alankrita Shrivastava (Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare), and despite that, their stories are grossly underdelivered.

‘Raat Rani’ – Episode 1 of Modern Love Mumbai, written by Nilesh Maniyar (The Sky Is Pink) and first feature John Belanger – is the only one about people falling in love, not into it. The big stumbling block of the Bose episode is that Fatima Sana Shaikh’s Kashmiri accent is downright hilarious. On top of that, you can’t identify with the characters from the beginning because the beginning is so abrupt. But more importantly, “Raat Rani” doesn’t win any of his scenes. Completely disjointed, he simply jumps from one thing to another. Bose wants “Raat Rani” to be a story of female empowerment at its heart, but major moments of growth occur off-screen.

This is also a problem with “My Beautiful Wrinkles” – written by Shrivastava, its title and the geography of Mumbai are also irrelevant – where an estranged grandmother (Sarika) is proposed, by a young man (Danesh Razvi) of which she is a guardian, in a manner that should constitute sexual harassment. Despite the racy opening, Episode 4 of Modern Love Mumbai is childish throughout, almost as if it’s ashamed to delve into what it’s all about. “My Beautiful Wrinkles” fades very quickly and ends in a cheesy, cop out manner, which betrays that it had nothing of value to say. It also has the goofiest dialogue of any episode in this Prime Video anthology, with its characters saying things found on coasters and t-shirts. It is a case of short Shrivastava in every department.

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Arshad Warsi, Chitrangda Singh in Modern Love Mumbai “Cutting Chai”
Photo credit: Amazon Prime Video

There remains what I called the history of nepotism, since it is that of Four More Shots Please! season 2 director Nupur Asthana and writer Devika Bhagat. “Cutting Chai”, featuring Chitrangda Singh and Arshad Warsi as a couple in their 40s, romanticizes the problematic aspects of Indian men. I don’t have anything more to say, because that’s basically the whole episode. Except the sixth and final episode of Modern Love Mumbai turns around in the final nine minutes, as it attempts to pull it all together and ascribe meaning to the entire series in a cheesy way.

Out of nowhere, Modern Love Mumbai destroys its anthology aesthetic on “Cutting Chai,” with characters from the first five episodes temporarily taking over. It’s not as weird to anyone who’s seen Modern Love, as the original did the same thing, as a friend told me. That doesn’t make it any less abrupt though. Some scenes bring back past resolutions, but with others it’s like revisiting past trauma. It’s a rather fitting conclusion and, in a way, the worst possible ending, because by recapping and giving us tiny epilogues, Modern Love Mumbai only serves to remind us how poor the anthology really is.

All six episodes of Modern Love Mumbai air Friday, May 13 at 12 PM IST on Amazon Prime Video in India and globally.

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