Shades of Modern Love

Netflix anthology Feels Like Ishq has a fresh take on romance


What’s that one theme that sells like hot cake, every single time – in plays, movies, shows or any other medium? It’s love! Romance has been a genre that has been explored on-screen gazillion times. So much so, that whenever there’s a new film or series on love – it needs a unique storyline to stand out, else it’s as good as an old wine in a new bottle.

Netflix’s Feels Like Ishq is an anthology that sets out to explore love, but takes a road less travelled. Helmed by filmmakers Anand Tiwari, Ruchir Arun, Tahira Kashyap, Sachin Kundalkar, Jaydeep Sarkar and Danish Aslam, it offers six different tales.

The first one, Ruchir Arun’s Save The Da(y)te, which stars Radhika Madan and Amol Parashar, is a tale of a bridesmaid (Madan) embarking on a journey with the wedding planner (Parashar) to find the runaway bride. The duo, who seem to have polar opposite views on love and marriage, epitomises the phrase ‘opposites attract.’

Shot in Goa, the film had the potential to stand out – but instead, it falls flat. The narrative, plot and the twists — offers nothing new. Madan acts seamlessly, yet the character comes across as unlikeable. Parashar is subtle and impactful. But the bizarreness of the story leaves little for these two to engage the audience with.

Next short is Tahira Kashyap’s Quaranteen Crush. The film, set in Chandigarh, stars Kajol Chugh and Mihir Ahuja. This story reflects the current global pandemic. A teenage boy’s love/obsession with his neighbour leads the two to become friends, and keeping the ‘social distancing’ norms of recent times in mind – they engage in activities from afar. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder – that’s what happens in the story.

But what starts off as a cute teen love story, soon bores you and the climax leaves you questioning the frivolity of the tale. Thus, just like the first segment, this one too disappoints.

However, the third short Star Host comes as a breather! Directed by Anand Tiwari, and starring Rohit Saraf and Simran Jehani, the film takes you to the scenic hills of Mahabaleshwar. The story at the outset might appear as one of those ‘boy-meets-girl on a trip, and falls in love’ ones – but rather it has a refreshing take on this.

Aditya (Saraf), a 20-something guy, rents out his palatial parental house in the hills (while his parents are away) to earn a quick buck. Tara (Jehani) becomes his first guest. A rich, protected girl, she came on this solo trip to prove to her ex that she can be a tough cookie too.

While Tara discovers a new, bold and free side of her being, she also makes Aditya appreciate the beauty of ‘NOW.’ The camaraderie between the two is well captured, and the scenic beauty in some of the shots might make you want to take a trip somewhere, soon.

Unlike in cliched tales, here in the end (spoilers ahead) we don’t see the two promising each other a ‘forever.’ Instead, they happily go their separate ways – but that doesn’t take away the love they shared, even if it’s for one moment.

The next one in the anthology is a queer love story, which Bollywood often gets wrong. But fortunately, Danish Aslam’s She loves me she loves me not perfectly captures a queer workplace romance between a 23-year-old bisexual woman Muskaan (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) and a lesbian woman Tarasha (Saba Azad).

Told from the perspective of Muskaan, the tale is filled with sweet yet sensitive moments which the duo share. We can also see glimpses of the complications of modern-day love, and that of being a queer in an Indian society. This heart-warming tale comes across as colourful as one would want the worlds of those belonging to the LGBTQ community to be.

Breaking away from the feel-good drama, the next segment – Sachin Kundalkar’s Interview – is a hard-hitting tale, with unemployment as its underlying theme. Starring Zayn Khan and Neeraj Madhav, this love story is set in the most unusual of places – in an interview zone.

These two candidates, who are fighting for the same spot, meet for a sales interview and hit it off. The two, in their brief encounter, share their life struggles, dreams, aspirations and much more. We are even transported to their past in this short span, which helps us better understand the characters. To summarise, the film leaves you with a heavy heart yet puts a smile on your face with a happy ending.

The last, but not the least, is Jaydeep Sarkar’s Ishq Mastana. Starring Tanya Maniktala and Skand Thakur, there’s probably a reason why this one was saved for the last. The story, set in Delhi, is much more than just two people meeting and falling for each other. The two protagonists here – Mehr (Maniktala) and Kabir (Thakur) represent the two sections of youth in our society.

One – the rebels, who embrace the unknown and fight for their rights and second, the so-called ‘privileged’, uninformed or nonchalant ones – who have things easy, and are living in their own ‘sweet bubble’. Mehr being the former, and Kabir the latter. And thus, when such stark personalities come across each other – friction is unavoidable at the beginning.

But soon, we see how the lines between both of their worlds start to blur. These two discover each other beyond the boxes, which society often puts them in. Like Mehr says in this short itself, that the world-famous poet Kabir was both a Sufi saint and a rebel — he had two worlds residing both within him.  Just like how Mehr’s and Kabir’s worlds seem to merge too.

(Cover: Radhika Madan and Amol Parashar in a scene from the film // Credit: IMDB)

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