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Weekend Watch: Feels Like Ishq, When “All You Need Is Love!”

Netflix’s Feels Like Ishq could be the light, yet just deep enough connect you might need to feel good despite the still continuing pandemic. *Spoiler Free Feels Like Ishq, Netflix’s latest offering, is a set of short films that outline the beginnings of six separate love stories, all tentative explorations of the earliest stages of […]

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Netflix’s Feels Like Ishq could be the light, yet just deep enough connect you might need to feel good despite the still continuing pandemic.

*Spoiler Free

Feels Like Ishq, Netflix’s latest offering, is a set of short films that outline the beginnings of six separate love stories, all tentative explorations of the earliest stages of romance.

I’m imagining the writers’ room when this anthology was being created. Every scenario has diametrically opposite personalities thrown together against somebody playing Backdrop Bingo– the poor little rich girl story, the LGBTQIA+ story, the immigrant to Mumbai story, the shaadi story ….you get the picture. And yet, the tales flow, true to their spirit as light, frothy entertainment.

Star Host

In Star Host, a young man rents out his parents’ home to weekend guests. We’ve seen what happens next a thousand times. A near-accident, an argument, a toxic ex who doesn’t realize he’s an ex—and boom, we have a couple at odds—coupledom yet to come, but they don’t know it yet.  Every new-age mantra of “living life” by “doing the unexpected” and “taking risks” is served up on a platter, and our pandemic-weary souls are nudged to live vicariously through our screens.  Mercifully, it has a realistic ending.

It would be helpful to extricate women’s narratives from this cycle of first sheltering them to the point of utter naivete, and then applauding their stunted selves for finally dipping their little toe into the world. But if this messaging of being true to ourselves and choosing our growth over others’ comfort nudges viewers in that direction, it will redeem the precarious stack of stereotypes this film is saddled with.

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

In She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, we have the now-staple LGBTQIA+ story, that starts off with laughing about suicide. Gay rights 1, mental health 0.

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My chief gripe in this film is, why do sexualities other than cis-het have to be made visibly distinguishable to viewers? The septum ring and cigarette, as in the case of Tarasha. Like an extension of our caste and class descriptors, we slot LGBTQIA+ persons into visual boxes too, merely for our ease of identification. Thankfully, one of the two protagonists was freed from this caricaturing, but the other checked nearly every box in the list.

Other than this, it’s a freewheeling workplace romance about finding your way around another person, with arms precariously full of baggage and a hopeful heart, to arrive at what so many of us seek—home in another person.

Interview

With Interview, we come face to face with uncurated India. And here we meet a female protagonist with ambition. In coaching a new immigrant to Mumbai for an interview they are both hoping to ace, we see a woman permitted by the narrative to unreservedly show the fire in her belly and professional strengths without apologising for either.

In what is a relatable and heartwarming film, with characters from everyday life, we see the age-old tale of immigrants to the big bad behemoth that is Mumbai, and how to survive it, and characters that leave you rooting for their happiness.

Isha Mastana

In Ishq Mastana, we venture into social justice territory. Firmly back in the westernized strata of Mumbai, a potential love story blossoms against the backdrop of a protest gone wrong.

This film, ably nudged along by two easy-on-the-eyes protagonists, is an invitation of sorts. It gently pushes us to challenge the possibility that people may be more than the boxes they choose to define themselves by. Here, as in with the previous short, we have a young woman who knows what she wants and gladly leads the way. It does make me question, though: are men more amenable to learning from women when they see them as a potential romantic interest?

Save the Da(y)te

Save the Da(y)te, begins with, surprise surprise, the big fat desi shaadi. Cue the band baaja and Sabyasachi lookalikes. In what comes as a further surprise to nobody, it’s a shaadi story with a runaway bride. The sprinting dulhan’s childhood bestie, an influencer toting a hip flask as her security blanket, recruits the couple’s wedding planner to hunt for her.

Along the way, they trade entirely opposite views on the core values of love and commitment. While it is typically recommended to share important beliefs with a potential partner, no such setbacks affect our sparring pair, who set out to convince each other, but then just decide personal convictions can go take a long stroll until they’re more convenient. But we know just the word for that– “compromise”! The most amusing short of them all, with humor and physical comedy, this film is redeemed by its ability to poke fun at itself and a bridegroom who is mercifully supportive of his fiancée’s dreams.

Quaranteen Crush

Quaranteen Crush made me think the best was saved for the last. A charming, coming-of-age story about a teenage boy’s infatuation with his quarantining neighbor from Canada, it was sweet and relatable in equal parts. With the first pandemic lockdown as a background, it had enough elements to keep it relevant with a dash of old-school feels, reminiscent of our own earliest crushes. Watching an awkward young boy trying to gain the attention of his love interest among narratives saturated with brash, demanding men made for a refreshing change. This story warms your heart and makes you smile with its simplicity. Props to the lead pair for their freshness and authenticity, minus the Gen Z tadka that is so liberally sprinkled on every story these days.

If, like The Beatles, “all you need is love”, go forth and get warm and fuzzy. Feels Like Ishq feels like a Friday night watch—fun, forgettable, and temporarily feel-good.

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