Ever since the web series concept came to India, anthologies have taken a back seat. The last I remember watching is Unpaused: Naya Safar, released on Amazon Prime Video. It was way back in January 2022.
But, hold your breath, for we have another anthology occupying our screens. Modern Love Mumbai is a six-part series revolving around uncanny yet adorable love stories. All of them are different from one another.
The series is inspired by personal essays from The New York Times column, Modern Love. Obviously, they have taken creative liberty to make the pieces more screen-worthy.
Let’s ride along my review to know how well or poorly the show performs (obviously, you have an idea reading the title).
I usually have a specific format for affecting my reviews, but this time around, there are six episodes, each of them unrelated. So, initially, I thought of ranking all the stories to make it easier for the readers but realized that wasn’t a good idea.
Although the format might differ slightly, I have tried keeping it as simple as possible.
Modern Love Mumbai Review Summary
For centuries, we have been following a particular definition of love. But can the feeling be really confined within the realm of a few sentences? That’s a clear NO! What Modern Love Mumbai aces the best is the unorthodox celebration of love.
Six Indian storytellers proficiently indulge in creating moments of inner conflicts, self-doubt, societal pressure, personal struggles, and more out of a simple word called LOVE.
When viewed in its entirety, Modern Love Mumbai is a tale that gives you smiles and makes you feel light and alive once again.
I have divided my Modern Love Mumbai review into six parts to give equal attention to all the stories.
Episode 1: Raat Rani Review
Lali is a cook, and her husband Lutfi, a security guard, in an upscale apartment in Mumbai, far from their native Kashmir. Everything is going hunky-dory until one day when Lutfi dumps her and goes Phantom.
Raat Rani stars Fatima Sana Sheikh (Lali) and Bhupendra Jadawat (Lutfi) in lead roles, and it is directed by Shonali Bose.
What Works for Raat Rani?
The soothing Kashmiri song, Jeem Cheem, sets the tempo for Raat Rani early on. You’d love the vibes and feel a sudden connection with the atmosphere. Even though the song is in Kashmiri and many of us, including me, don’t understand it, the alluring music will mesmerize you to the core.
Moreover, when melodies are combined with the scenic beauty of Mumbai’s beaches, there cannot be a better combo.
Raat Raani has two songs, and both are composed by Ram Sampath. While Jeem Cheem is sung by Vibha Saraf, the title track gets its vocals from Nikita Gandhi.
Fatima Sana Sheikh
Talk about acting, and I have to say that Fatima Sana Sheikh has left me stunned with her outstanding performance. Her impressive hold on the Kashmiri dialect is commendable. It was the first episode of the show, and the makers had to ensure an enticing start to keep the viewer on board for the next five parts.
Fatima had to be on top and on top she is. Her immersive character development is brilliant. I recently watched her in Thar, where she played a Rajasthani woman and aced the character. To me, it felt that was her peak performance, but Sheikh has proven me wrong.
She is more aggressive, soft, and poignant as Lali in Raat Rani. It wouldn’t be wrong to say her portrayal made it tough to differentiate fiction from reality. Fatima handles her expressions intricately, ensuring there’s no scope for openings.
Raat Rani is about independence and freedom from the demons living inside us. They fail us every day, but we still take cover in them because of internal fear. Breaking the shackles is one of the toughest challenges for anyone in a romantic association that tears them apart instead of completing them.
The makers have beautifully captured the essence of a failing, one-sided relationship while adding a touch of gender equality to it. And the best part is they make sure it doesn’t come out as a sermon.
What Doesn’t work for Raat Rani?
I couldn’t find anything that works against the run of play for Raat Rani.
Episode 2: Baai Review
It caters to the same-sex relationship between Manzu and his partner Rajveer. After growing up in a conservative household and facing countless hardships and stigmas, Manzu finally gets into a serious relationship.
However, he cannot find words to communicate the same to his ailing and caring grandmother, Baai. Many surprises await you as you binge-watch this incredibly heartfelt story from Modern Love Mumbai.
Baai is directed by Hansal Mehta, who also makes a tiny appearance in the episode. It stars Pratik Gandhi (Manzu) and Ranveer Brar (Rajveer) in lead roles. Moreover, the titular role of Baai is played by the veteran actress Tanuja Samarth.
What Works for Baai?
Like Raat Rani, Baai is also high on some heavenly tones. Since Manzu’s character is a classical singer, there are multiple songs that come your way (not all fall in the Classical Music category, though). My favorite was Kaisi Baatein Karte Ho, composed by Jeet Gannguli and sung by the evergreen Sonu Nigam.
Moreover, Laakhon Ke Bol by Rutuja Lad, Chandni Raat by Ali Sethi, and Hum He Hum in the voice of Shashaa Tirupathi give amazing feels.
There’s a scene when Manzu and his cousin are sitting on the stairs, and both are listening to a song, sharing a wired earphone. They are not talking, not even lip-syncing but simply enjoying it. It was pure joy to witness something like this happening onscreen.
I mention this because these days, many of us have forgotten how to enjoy things. We are more into going through them and not going through them thoroughly. There’s a slight difference, and that’s what the particular scene explores.
Baai bases itself around emotions and tries to get into the skin of Manzu. It is not an emotional roller coaster ride but a tale of hindered feelings, where the ends of the thread are slippery and uncontrollable.
The story will warm your heart and give you a reason to trust those who unconditionally love you. Such people don’t need you to be toeing the traditional line. You don’t need to fit in the societal lens; honesty and integrity are enough.
Pratik Gandhi, our star from Scam 1992, plays the lead in Baai. Interestingly, he’s again working in a Hansal Mehta film. The actor is utterly calm and composed while performing and has an intrinsic ability to make amends with the screen time.
Gradually, Gandhi is becoming an actor with a persona that can pull audiences. I specifically loved the way he uses interludes between the dialogues. During a moment of pause, his eyes and expressions do the talking, which is pretty uncommon yet essential.
Ranveer Brar as Rajveer delivers a matured performance and glues together the broken pieces of Manzu. His deep voice furthers what you might call a restrained act. Everyone else in Baai does a fantastic job in concluding the story.
What Doesn’t work for Baai?
Everything’s good here too.
Note: I know I should be criticizing Modern Love Mumbai as an impartial observer. But since all the six stories are different and are helmed by distinct individuals, I cannot find valid points of disapproval.
Episode 3: Mumbai Dragon Review
Mumbai Dragon is set against the Indian Chinese community of the city. When Sui’s son falls deeply in love with a girl, she becomes insecure. Her overbearing behavior of fondness leads to this unusual story.
It stars Meiyang Chang (Ming), Yeo Yann Yann (Sui), Wamiqa Gabbi (Megha), and Naseeruddin Shah (Pappi Singh) in lead roles. Furthermore, Mumbai Dragon is directed by Vishal Bhardwaj.
What Works for Mumbai Dragon?
I have to point this out, considering the novelty of the plot. Firstly, I didn’t know about the Indian Chinese community in Mumbai. Secondly, the concept of a mother’s domineering love is portrayed beautifully in this episode from Modern Love Mumbai.
Building a story around such a sensitive topic, where even a tiny drift could impact opinions, is tricky, but Vishal Bhardwaj shines in his endeavor.
Though Meiyang Chang is more popular among the three lead actors, it is Yeo Yann Yann who steals the show. Her resentful performance is at the heart of Mumbai Dragon. Additionally, the way she handles three dialects is praiseworthy.
Meiyang Chang and Wamiqa Gabbi looked decent together; however, I won’t call it an endearing chemistry because of a visible lack of bonhomie. Gabbi, who was last seen in Mai, is brilliant with her individual act. She had to be random and casual instead of the more serious roles she has played till now, and the actor does not disappoint.
On the other hand, Chang looks way better than in Undekhi 2, his previous outing. I have always thought of him as a talented artist who is yet to get his fair share of opportunities. Maybe, with OTT platforms coming around, he would get more chances than before.
Furthermore, the cameo from Naseeruddin Shah is enjoyable. He comes on top with whatever screen time he gets. The Punjabi accent looks natural, and why would it not? We are talking about ‘The’ Naseeruddin Shah, after all.
What Doesn’t Work for Mumbai Dragon?
A little dull
Though Mumbai Dragon is mostly sweet, it seems dull at several points. The makers try to infuse fun through situational comedy, but they fail to accomplish anything. Jokes don’t look authentic but forced and, therefore, fail to draw a burst of laughter.
Episode 4: My Beautiful Wrinkles Review
The fourth part of Modern Love Mumbai explores the fabrications of love when there’s a drastic age gap of over forty years. Dilbar Sodhi is somewhat startled when Kunal expresses the sexual fantasies he has about her. Afterward, both find it hard to face each other until there is a twist in the tale.
My Beautiful Wrinkles is directed by Alankrita Srivastava and stars Sarika and Danesh Razvi in lead roles.
What Works for My Beautiful Wrinkles?
Ironically, I am putting ‘ending’ as the first point of merit for My Beautiful Wrinkles. Anyhow, this chronicle of a less showcased side of love has an ending the majority of the Indian audience is not used to.
Self-discovery and letting go find a way while old friendships and new perspectives usher as the curtains fall on this story. You won’t find this point elsewhere in my Modern Love Mumbai review because My Beautiful Wrinkles is an out-and-out winner when it comes to portraying a winning conclusion.
Sarika, the veteran Indian actress, gives a thumping performance to infuse life into My Beautiful Wrinkles. She aces Dilbar Singh’s character like a queen. Her hesitations and eye-rolls, combined with the soft voice, add charm to the story.
Danesh Razvi as Kunal delivers what you may call a soft-locked outing. He holds himself back to such an extent that the story feels more relatable than ever. Kunal will resonate with the average Indian guy who falters while talking and lacks confidence.
Finding a story within a love story is more complex than creating two novel stories. It is because the force of emotions is higher in the former than in the latter. My Beautiful Wrinkles has an adorable plot that paves the path for assorted feelings.
You’d feel for the characters and even disagree with their actions on the screen. But that’s the whole point of a good plot. It doesn’t offer conclusions but instead allows for distinct opinions that eventually come to a close with the viewer’s thought process.
What Doesn’t work My Beautiful Wrinkles?
Again, nothing here, folks.
Episode 5: I Love Thane Review
Saiba is on the quest to find the best man for her. She swipes right and left on dating apps and even meets some guys, but destiny has other plans. Her want for a man ends during a random video meeting. There is a lot to adore about I Love Thane from Modern Love Mumbai.
It stars Masaba Gupta and Ritvik Bhowmik in lead roles. Dhruv Sehgal directs this episode, written by him along with Nupur Rai.
What Works for I Love Thane?
I Love Thane brings an atmosphere of sweetness alongside. What starts on a funny note goes on to become cute and engaging. You would like their chemistry and the kind of love they flourish. One that gives more pleasure when viewed from afar. The makers succeed in transporting the vibes to the audience.
The story of Parth and Saiba feels like one of our own. In fact, all the stories in Modern Love Mumbai are relatable since they originate from real-life tales of love. In I Love Thane, you have a woman who wants to date someone but cannot find a suitable guy.
If you have been on a dating app in this fast-moving world, you probably know how desperate some people can be. I Love Thane has a story that retains the rawness of love. You hardly ever find the makers taking creative liberties, which is good.
Masaba Gupta is phenomenal in I Love Thane. She shapes herself articulately to match the essence of Saba’s character. Not for even a moment did I see a glitch in her act. The easier the character, the tougher it is to portray on screen, which I am saying from personal experience.
Saba has no uncanny features. She is simple and straightforward like many of us. It means we know how that person would behave. Now, when Masaba charts her, she understands the expectations people must be having from Saba, owning to her similarities to the common Indian woman.
Therefore, with all such things going through her head, she does a fantastic job while bringing Saba to the masses.
Ritwik Bhowmik as Parth is cuteness personified. He makes the art of dialogue delivery a piece of cake. Bhowmik enters the scene like a nobody, but as time progresses, he begins spreading his magnetism. The actor perfectly aces everything, be it sober scenes or those with complex emotions.
However, I would love to see him take on different roles from hereon. In my opinion, he can try shedding the silent boy personality for a while.
What Doesn’t work for I Love Thane?
Despite all its positives, I have a valid reason to call it slow. Almost all the six episodes of Modern Love Mumbai have an equal length, but I Love Thane feels longer. It made me dreary for a while, and I was thinking, why isn’t it ending. And that’s when you know the pace is down south.
Episode 6: Cutting Chai Review
Here, you get to witness a married couple, Latika and Danny, trying to be there for each other even after years of marriage. Well, that’s not what the plot revolves around, though.
Latika is a writer who is yet to complete her first novel. Everybody is like, ‘if you wanted, you would have finished the book.’
But for a married woman, who has a kid and a kid-like husband to look after, accomplishing dreams is quite a task. When Latika begins evaluating her career and personal choices, she finds herself standing in a conundrum of unfulfillment.
Cutting Chai is directed by Nupur Asthana and written by Devika Bhagat.
What Works for Cutting Chai?
The chemistry between Arshad Warsi and Chitrangda Singh is the best among all the couples in Modern Love Mumbai. It’s like they are made for each other. Nothing looks forced, and they come out like an original pair.
If the series was a dessert, they are like the sweetness it needed to be succulent.
This is why I kept the first point short. Chitrangda as Latika is too alluring to avoid in Cutting Chai. Singh is an underrated actress who continues to impress me every time she takes the stage. Here, as an aspiring novelist, she brings a lot of grace to the screen.
There’s a touch of her own in every dialogue she utters, and I particularly loved how casually she can say something and make it look professional.
Arshad Warsi is the hook-step of Cutting Chai. I have seen him act a million times, but he can still surprise me with his striking abilities. He’s an actor who is authentic in his portrayals. You would never see him trying to lead a particular scene forcefully. Warsi’s dexterity is enough to give him an edge.
Cutting Chai has the best narration, or maybe, the most unique, among all the other stories in Modern Love Mumbai. A big credit for that should go to the screenplay. When you just have an episode to convey your story, the presentation matters greatly.
The makers joyfully play with the concept of ‘what-if’ using an apt narration. The inner conflicts, issues, and other elements look more vivid with a well-orchestrated plot.
What Doesn’t Work for Cutting Chai?
Here’s another irony: this episode is based on a writer’s life but lacks taut writing. Not much, but yes, if you take a deeper look into its features, you would find writers screaming for convenience on the screen.
I understand it is a short story and the time to express for a writer is limited, but a few scenes could have been better written, in my opinion.
If you ask me, Modern Love Mumbai is the loveliest Indian show to have come out in recent times. You have to watch it to believe it, especially in times like these when hatred is trying to seep into our daily lives.