Modern Love Mumbai On Prime Finally Locates The Heart Of A Modern Indian Woman!

Whether it is spunky Lali or wise and profound Baai, overbearing Sui or a gracefully ageing Dilbar, sensitive Saiba or a quietly ambitious Latika, this webseries showcases women characters who are as complex, compassionate and conflicted as real women.

The first short film in the latest Amazon Prime anthology – Modern Love Mumbai( inspired by the much acclaimed Modern love column of New York Times) is titled “Raat Rani” deriving it’s name from the fragrant night-blooming jasmine flower.

*A few spoilers

Do not underestimate a feisty woman

Director Shonali Bose uses this flower as not just a plot point but also a metaphor for her protagonist Lalzari (a fiesty Fatima Sana Shiekh), a Muslim migrant worker from Kashmir who has eloped with her husband Lutfi to the city of dreams, Mumbai. She works as a cook-cum-nanny and her husband as a watchman in a Mumbai high-rise. After work they spend time with each other gazing at the sea, sharing ice-cream and taking a scooter ride back home, to their kholi, on which they have spent all their earnings.

Until their 10 year marriage suddenly falls apart.

Lali wakes up one morning to find that her husband has abandoned her, leaving behind only his old rusty bicycle. He refuses to take her phonecalls and when he does, he complains that he is bored of her. In the next 40 odd minutes, this film traces the journey of Lali, on her shaky old bicycle as she learns to navigate the busy streets of Mumbai and the painful roads of heartbreak with great aplomb. Even when the roof over her head collapses (literally and metaphorically), it can’t break her cheerful spirit as she blossoms in all her glory, amidst the darkness that has descended on her life.

The unlikely supporter

The cheerfulness of Lali in the first short makes way for the wisdom of “Baai“( played by Tanuja), the titular character in the second film. She is a benevolent matriarch who bravely protects her family from an unruly and violet mob in a scene referencing the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. Years later when Manzu, her grandson questions as to how she did it, she comes up with the most impactful dialogue of the entire anthology- “Those who are in the business of spreading hate are usually up for sale” she says with the wit of a woman who has developed her own understanding of the world.

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But this is the story of Manzu (sensitively portrayed by Pratik Gandhi) who finds true love in Rajveer (chef Ranvir Brar). As this gay couple struggles for social acceptance, Manzu also longs to reveal his love story to the woman who has his utmost respect, Baai. This film also traces the arcs of 3 progressive and liberal women of his family, his sister, mother, and grandmother, who have their own journeys towards accepting his reality.

Food and love

The intensity of the second film is followed by comic-tragedy vibe of the third short, titled “Mumbai Dragon” as it takes the oft used trope of girlfriend vs mother and gives it a cultural identity twist.

Here the Chinese migrant mother-son duo, Sui and Ming are at loggerheads over his Gujarati girlfriend, but what is refreshing is the way in which food becomes personification of love; sometimes stifling, at others comforting. This story essentially is about the bond between two women and how they learn to love and care for the same man without trampling into each other’s personal space( a very pertinent topic in Indian society).

Age is just a number, and yet…

From maternal affection the anthology moves to exploring yet another facet of love-physical attraction in the fourth short film titled “My Beautiful Wrinkles“.

A young shy and reticent man can’t help getting drawn to a much older Dilbar (the beautiful Sarika) who outclasses him in charm, confidence and experience. But she also battles loneliness and carries a painful baggage from her past. This film subtly but deftly handles the dynamics of sexual attraction and explores the thin line between fantasy and reality with great maturity.

Truly a modern love

The fifth short titled “I love Thane” is my personal favourite in this anthology. If one has to pick the film which truly explores the idea of Modern Love, it is this one. Saiba (Masaba Gupta with a charming screen presence) is a 34 yr old single woman seeking true love on dating apps, to only end up meeting men who disappoint. Parth (an understated Ritwik Bhowmik), the man who holds her attention finally, is not found on a dating app. He is not even on social media, to her surprise.

This is not filmy pyaar, where sparks fly. Instead here the relationship is built over casual banter and meaningful conversations, much like in real life. Earlier in this story, Saiba wonders how people can’t differentiate between real and fake plants; much in the same vein, this is a story about finding true love in the world of  fake profiles and plastic make-believe emotions people put out on social media and dating apps. This story captures what most women truly seek in real life- a genuine companionship where there is connection, personal space, freedom, respect, understanding and love.

What is love, really?

If the fifth story portrayed the frustrations of finding true love, the sixth titled “Cutting Chai” takes a wistful backward glance at a marriage of nearly two decades and what makes it work.

Latika (Chitrangada Singh) is a writer struggling to complete her first book amidst the never ending demands of domesticity, marriage and motherhood.

This is a character that almost every woman can relate to, with a constant tug-of-war between personal life and professional ambitions and a struggle to find and establish equality and mutual respect in a marriage. Her husband Daniel (the charismatic Arshad Warsi) who keeps her waiting for most part also brings a certain joy in her life. He may not be a perfect partner whom she had in mind but he has enough love for her to last a lifetime. Isn’t this a lived-in reality of most Indian marriages?

Modern Love Mumbai is an emotionally satisfying and uplifting watch because it shows love in its simplest, most raw form. Apart from that, it also (maybe unintentionally) paints a realistic portrait of a modern Indian woman. Whether it is spunky Lali or wise and profound Baai, overbearing Sui or a gracefully ageing Dilbar, sensitive Saiba or a quietly ambitious Latika, this webseries showcases women characters who are as complex, compassionate and conflicted as real women.

And when portrayal on the screen feels authentic, the emotions connect instantly. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear when Lali excitedly says “Maine flyover cross kar liya“. She has finally crossed over to the other side of that most difficult bridge, the one leading to self-love. Can there be a better and more fulfilling form of love for anyone?

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About the Author

Soumya Bharathi

Writer| Poet| Self-published author| Oral Surgeon| A woman who believes that subtlety is strength, feminine is formidable, beauty is in benevolence and vulnerability is validation of strength of character. For more read www.soumyabharathi. read more...

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