DUBR: Modern Love Mumbai, a Love Letter for the Lovelorn

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Love stories can never really be picture-perfect fairytales and not all love needs to be romantic. In a series of just six episodes, Modern Love Mumbai makes you believe in love, and not just in a traditional way. The only question that remains– when do we get a Delhi version?

Watching a show about romances in the city where the greatest romances of Bollywood took shape, you might expect grand settings and soft violins playing in the background (and Shahrukh Khan asking you to “palat”). But what does happen is stories in the Mumbai local and conversations about Misal Pav, the harmony that comes with music and food coinciding, and the infamous Bandra-Worli Sea Link being the ultimate Mt. Everest of self-love, the acceptance of that chasm between the differences in our cultures and the self-acceptance that you struggle with at 60 or in your late 20s. 

Keeping in with the tradition of Modern Love, Modern Love Mumbai doesn’t make it feel as if you are watching all these stories from far away, an ethereal figment of someone’s imagination that will never be yours. It makes it all so real that in every story you find a part of yourself, some parts being the ones you knew about and some being the ones you didn’t. And if that wasn’t enough, the intro segment with photos of real people and real stories will definitely force your overly-cynical self to realise how real all this love is and can be.


Raat Rani

With that Kashmiri accent putting an other-worldly beauty in the scenes of the first episode and Lali’s passion and energy and optimism staining every word that was uttered, we saw a tale of dependency and a journey of self-exploration unfold on the black screen that came after the Amazon logo. From closure coming in in the form of one spoon, one scoop ice-cream (not that sad tub you might eat in one sitting) to the realisation that “mujhe apne aap ke liye maintain krna h”, we see Lali going through everything alone for the first time since she left Kashmir and her shikaras. We see the curious brightness of a kid’s eyes and we see the brokenness of loss seeping in on the sides. Lali and Lutfi give us a dynamic we really needed to see, the dynamic of the one who stays and the one who leaves– the power they might hold over you, the hope that you might be clinging on, the control they will feel every time they say I might come back if I want to; and there is our lesson in what breadcrumbing is. You might change the settings and the context the story exists in, but all of us have lived this story at one point or another. The story of loving too much, loving too passionately, a sort of mad love. So when Lali “crosses the highway”, when she dances on the Sea Link as if it’s a two-year-old on their birthday, when she gobbles up the ice cream alone, when she sets up the raat rani stall, when she puts on her headphones and cycles on the same route that earlier wouldn’t let her cycle alone, when she questions the world and this society for everything that is “not allowed”, when her lips utter “uss se raat rani ki khusbhu toh kam nhi hogi na”, she spins our stories of desperation and loss into something that can no longer be categorised as broken or unbroken and all she does is that she gives us hope.



Moving to a whole different area and a whole different story, we find what seems like the love story of Manzu, presented to us in a flashback of lingering hands and longing glances with Chandni Raat playing in the background (as if right on cue). But then there’s a slap, a confrontation, the tears of “humse kya galti ho gyi?” and “tu yeh kyun nhi chhod deta?” replacing that soulfulness of Chandni Raat and fast forwarding us to Manzu singing ‘Kaisi Baatein Karte Ho’, taking away your breath and your heart and everything in between, a story being told in the language of food and music. Enter Rajveer to fulfill the former with his Nihari, the first overlap we see between him and Baai– Baai who stood at the door undauntingly during the riots and the one for whom they were willing to twist their heart’s desires– but how could Manzu even expect acceptance from her when his own parents couldn’t give him that? How could he do anything but nod at her mentions of Nikah, hiding from her his wedding band? While Manzu hides his beloved from Baai, we see a subtle overlap in characters, a realisation that Baai might have loved Rajveer as we hear them both say the only ingredient food needs is love. From Baai’s sheer korma and yakhani pulao to Rajveer’s Nihari and Manzu’s wedding vows, we see the language of love breathing through its different forms. But no, this story wasn’t Manzu’s love story as you would have thought it to be. It was the story of the unconditional love of Baai that none of them realised was actually, truly unconditional; it was the story of acceptance, acceptance that came too late but also not too late as we see Rajveer and Manzu carrying their rings on their fingers during her funeral procession.


Mumbai Dragon

‘Mumbai Dragon’ might be that story that speaks out to our most feral and deeply-embedded fear, the fear of sharing someone and the fear of not being loved by the same someone we love. When we see Sui’s possessiveness towards Ming and her calling Megha a “vegetarian dayaan”, it is the fear of her son forgetting his culture, but more than that it is the fear of a mother losing her son, a woman who fears losing another person. Her stubbornness and her fixation with getting Ming married to someone from their own community seem more about keeping Ming close to her than bigotry. Cue a Bollywood style, tadakta-bhadakta melodramatic scene of taking a shapath that “ab kabhi hindi mein baat nhi krungi” which ends up giving us major mere Karan Arjuna aayenge vibes. Her love that can be found in those dabbas filled with food are part of a universal tradition of the holy intermixing of love and food in a single breath and when one dabba comes with baingan ki sabzi, we find that even though love can be all-consuming but love can also be as giving.


My Beautiful Wrinkles

Our mind has been trained to look for love in couples, so much so that sometimes we forget about all the love that exists beyond romance and beyond the bond of two. We open to Dilbar, an apparently aged lady, who doesn’t in fact look like your stereotypical old person at all (I aspire to be her). She is cold, cynical about love, giving advice left, right, and centre, but somehow, we see a crack in the hardened, pretentious exterior. An invitation to a reunion opens up a bundle of questions– what did I achieve in my life? What difference did I make? But then we move to Kunal, a scene bursting with tension and then a subtle nudge that it could become something more. All attention diverts to this story of two people with “too huge of an age gap”, and then the apparently shy Kunal comes in (and Dilbar) with a suggestive portrait of her. She might have been offended, angry, but behind closed doors, his attention maybe helped her find her deeply buried confidence. That is when we get a glimpse inside Dilbar’s heart– one that wants to be held at night, one that craves love, one that is burdened with guilt, one that is still tied to not a person but more so his things. Letting go of his car, making a choice to let go of the burden but not the memory, made her open her heart– not to Kunal or someone else, but to herself, a self that was free from being tied to a past she could only watch without colours.


I Love Thane

Saiba, like any of us, is looking for love, but what isn’t clear is that is the love she’s looking for something that she wants or just something that the society wants. We see her going on dates, meeting people (jerks), and feeling the hopelessness that comes with the hope of love weighing her down. She has an appreciation for all things real (as in the plants she uses in her landscape designing) but how much real can you find in love that works on a left swipe and a right swipe? Enter Parth. Not on social media, isn’t boastful or unnecessarily “cool”, just a simple person with simple interests and a thing for Thane. This story might be the most ordinary out of them all– they don’t know when their feelings actually start, they don’t go to romantic getaways, they don’t call all the time or chat all the time to show a progressing interest in each other and in them– all they do is all the things we would. They work together, they go to different places, they have lunch, they talk about the things that come up. A complete opposite of a Bollywood-style, big, romantic, splashy story if you will. And that is exactly how the story remains. Simple like Parth. Simple like Saiba wanted it. Because life is only as complicated as you make it (a next episode reference. Kudos to me.)


Cutting Chai

Onscreen writers are those characters that take away any writer’s heart in a single second; the glimpses of yourself through someone else’s eyes does that to you. Latika, who is the writer in this story, is a married woman with kids. The irony is that there is no need to explain how and why that is a problem. In a society that preaches feminism but still empties its workload on women, Latika feels estranged from her own writing– never being able to finish that one book she had started. “Agar tumhe Likhna hota toh abhi tak likh chuki hoti” is what her husband Dan said and that is exactly where her brain dropped her from. Apart from having an absolutely amazing Arshad Warsi as Dan, we get to see Chitrangda Singh looking stunningly beautiful as Latika in a curly, messy bun, jhumkas, and saree. Every single moment she spends is a moment she spends questioning the path her life took and the creepy shouting in unison by the crowd is a manifestation of all the things her brain is thinking about. With her, we travel across all the ‘what ifs’, seeing her drowning in a swirling mess of something that seems like regret. From the what-ifs of her career, we jump to a sore spot in her marriage– Dan never being on time. Making her wait, making her anxious, making her lose hope, but then turning up at the absolute last moment. Is that something she had wanted? Or were we only seeing glimpses of a waning marriage? But these flashbacks weren’t complete pictures. They were the perspectives of someone who was seeing only what they wanted to, all the shortcomings and the problems. But when you have someone who makes up for something that they know is a habit they just got wrong, do you berate them or do you hold them close? How do you measure mistakes in proportion to love, and how do you say that no, this isn’t enough?


Modern Love Mumbai properly takes away your heart and like Modern Love does, leaves you swooning and crying and sitting there with a stupid smile on your face. But the ending was the one thing that was definitely forced. We did not need to see every single character of every single episode come across one another in this huge sea of people, but maybe what they wanted to do was show that this, right here, is what Mumbai is made of.


Read Also: “Golden Trivia: Curious Things About the Gilded Age”

Featured Image: Times of India


Manasvi Kadian

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Obsessed with everything art, literature, and history, Manasvi (also identified as "that feminist type") is someone who WILL annoy you to death talking (whenever her anxious brain allows her to). Never says no to food and always says yes to museums, if you want someone who will rarely let you read her poetry, but will always (exaggeratingly so) recite it to you, you're most welcome.

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