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Netflix’s Krishna And His Leela Beautifully Portrays That Polyamory Is Not ‘Playful Philandering’

Posted: June 29, 2020

Netflix’s Krishna And His Leela is a modern and interesting take on polyamory. Without making a joke or moral preaching, it shows what polyamory can mean.

Rarely have polyamorous relationships been treated with dignity in Indian cinema. Polyamory is not same as philandering, it is about being in love and seriously involved with more than one person at the same time. However mainstream Indian movies have mostly treated this situation as a joke.

For that matter, polyamory has hardly been represented in the Indian mainstream cinema. Rarely has there been a man in movies who is truly in love with both the women for their essence and not just looks and the thrill of variety.

You may recollect movies like Saajan Chale Sasural, and Biwi No. 1 in Bollywood. Even a sensible film maker like Bahu Mahendra made joke of the subject in his Rettai Val Kuruvi back in 1980’s. In my recollection, two departures from this mould were Gulzaar’s Ijazat and Balachander’s Sindhu Bhairavi.

Krishna is intense yet imperfect!

Krishna and His Leela attempts a modern and non-sexist take on polyamory sans melodrama or slapstick. The protagonist, Krishna, is a refreshing deviation from how Lord Krishna and his playful philandering is understood in Indian context.

Krishna, in the movie, is a decent bloke who falls in love for the right reasons. He waits for the consent of his girl before making physical overtures and respects her needs in a relationship. Krishna is intense, tender and vulnerable. His imperfections, indecisiveness and lack of clarity add an authentic touch to his character.

The movie revolves around Krishna who genuinely falls in love with two women at different points of time with an intention of a monogamous commitment. But due to some twists and turns, he finds himself caught in a web of attachment with both of them simultaneously. His dilemma doesn’t arise from having a pressure to be faithful to any one of them. But he equally adores and values both of them for different reasons and is not willing to let go of either of them.

The women are refreshing and add their own flavour

The female characters are equally fresh and fleshed out. We have Satya, who is more self-actualised and wants a relationship that can compliment her and not define her. Radha, on the other hand finds completeness in her relationship with Krishna. Irrespective of their differences, both women are strong, opinionated and have the courage to stand up for themselves.

Radha takes an unanimous decision to abort her child when she is in a breakup phase with Krishna. And she tells Krishna about it much later. In another instance, Satya tells Krishna she is going for a weekend trip on her own. This is not for lack of company but because she wants time for herself when she senses that he might offer to tag along.

The women are more self-aware than Krishna could ever be!

And then we have Ruksaar, Krishna’s sister’s friend who eventually becomes a good friend of his. Ruksaar runs her own café and believes in love but not in relationship. She believes love is a spontaneous feeling, whereas relationship involves compatibility and friendship that might not go hand in hand with the spontaneity of love.

When Krishna asks her what she does for sex, she replies that she calls it making love and she has a lot of it. Ruksaar is the only person in the movie who understands his plight of being in love with two women. Throughout the movie, she shares a platonic bond with Krishna.

We also have Krishna’s independent single mother, who runs her boutique and his sister, working in Bangalore and set to marry her Sikh boyfriend.

All these women have an air of self-awareness and clarity about them, that Krishna lacks. He is a creature guided by his feelings with no sense of direction. Krishna seeks peace on a hand to mouth level and doesn’t have the bandwidth to think beyond that.

The movie raises some questions while giving some right messages

The movie neither justifies or judges Krishna’s actions nor does it take the “men will be men” trajectory.  Polyamory is an ambiguous territory. None of us know if monogamy is the natural state of love or a conditioned convenience and the only workable alternative in the arena of relationships. This movie doesn’t attempt to answer these questions but peripherally raises them in this otherwise light hearted narrative.

The story is definitely told from man’s point of view but the story telling doesn’t abandon feminist sensibilities. It gives right message about consent, and men taking break-ups in stride. This is a pleasant contrast to the two contemptible Telugu movies of recent times – Arjun Reddy and World-Famous Lover. I do hope Indian cinema further matures to bring some nuanced narratives of polyamorous women protagonists as well.

It’s a must-watch if you want something feel good and sensible

The lead actor, Sidhu Jonnalagadda has co-written the film with the director, Ravikanth Perepu, and is natural and charming with his unique style of dialogue delivery.  Shraddha Srinath is impressive in her carriage as an independent and assertive woman. Seerat Kapoor as Ruksasar and Shalini Vadnikatti as Radha deliver what is expected of them. Dialogues are well written and quite funny at places, especially the conversations between Krishna and his best friend.

Overall the movie is an interesting watch and would work perfectly if you are in mood for something light and sensible. The movie is streaming on Netflix.

Picture credits: Still from the movie Krishna And His Leela

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Gnanapriya is a Bangalore based Banker, a passionate feminist with a keen interest in philosophy,

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