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Modern Love Mumbai review: A sweet and melancholic ode to the 'City of Dreams'

Modern Love Mumbai is adorable in most sections, whether you call it cute, melancholy, or heartwarming. If you're looking for something fun and not too heavy for your mind in today's world, this anthology is a good choice.

3.5rating
  • Aishwarya Vasudevan

Last Updated: 06.28 PM, May 12, 2022

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Modern Love Mumbai review: A sweet and melancholic ode to the 'City of Dreams'
Modern Love Mumbai
Story:

Modern Love Mumbai is a collection of six unique yet universal stories about various human emotions, all anchored on love. It delves into the complexities and beauty of love as well as its repercussions on the human relationship. Each episode of this Indian adaptation of the enormously successful original version tells a separate story inspired by the New York Times' famed Modern Love column. The journey of six heroes from various origins, with various experiences and tasks that lead them on the path of love and self-discovery. These are six distinct stories of modern love in all its radiance.

Love stories about self-love, familial love, the love of partnerships, friendship, and the love that arises from kindness to others, but most importantly to oneself. Modern is a distinguishing feature here, and it does not allude to technology; rather, it refers to something urban. How a cosmopolitan, burgeoning, developing third-world city influences and connects people, including strangers. These six stories, inspired by the visions of six diverse front-runner directors in Indian cinema, also explore the various textures, parts, and faces of Mumbai, the city of dreams.

Review:

When it comes to exploring Mumbai, every writer brings their perspective, and each filmmaker uses a different lens than the other to see this beautiful city in a unique light. Some call it the "City of Dreams," while it's also addressed as the "City that Never Sleeps." And the stories in Modern Love: Mumbai try to pay a well-deserved tribute to this city.

The anthology has its heart and soul in the right place and excels in delivering it too. The filmmakers who have taken up the franchise know how the audience, especially the Mumbaikars, loves to see their city in popular culture. The magnetic attraction that Mumbai has over people is captured well in the anthology.

Let's give you an idea of what each story is about in these six short films. First up is Shonali Bose's Raat Rani, featuring Fatima Sana Shaikh and Bhupendra Jadawat. In an expensive condominium in Mumbai, far from their native Kashmir, Lali works as a cook, and her husband Lutfi is a security guard. Long days end with ice cream in one cup and two spoons till he dumps her, shattering her heart and dreams. Only his old bicycle remains behind.

I can easily call this the best film of the lot! Bose's way of exploring self-prioritising most simply shows how one can create maximum impact in the minimum amount of time. On top of that, Fatima's performance makes the film more palpable and makes you wish it just didn't end at all. Although Raat Rani talks about the tragic love of a woman whose husband of ten years leaves her without dropping any hint.

This short can give a sense of déjà vu about Vikas Bahl's Queen, starring Kangana Ranaut. But there's still some freshness in the story with Mumbai as the backdrop. There are hardly any dull moments in this short period as the story progresses in quick succession with scenes that are going to stay with you for a long time. Bose, who has Margarita With a Straw and The Sky is Pink to her directorial credits, stitches the narrative penned by Nilesh Maniyar and John Belanger in such a way that it's relatable, heartbreaking yet soothing.

The second story is Baai by Hansal Mehta, featuring Pratik Gandhi, Ranveer Brar, and Tanuja in the lead roles. Manzu, a gay guy who grew up in a strict family, is divided between his love for his partner and his grandma, Baai, who is sick and adoring. When he pays a visit to her in their ancestral home, the sorrow and pangs of his youth resurface, dragging him back to a reality he had long forgotten.

A homosexual love story getting disapproved by the family is something that we have seen onscreen many times over the years. However, the speciality of Mehta's film is the way he blends it with his love for food as well. Along with the filmmaker, Ankur Pathak has penned the screenplay and dialogues. This is why, along with showing the conservative set-up beautifully, it gives an urban touch beautifully.

It's the performances that elevate this short film, especially by Gandhi and Brar. This is one film which has many supporting characters, including Manasi Joshi Roy, Kashmira Irani, Rushad Rana, and also Talat Aziz. And more importantly, it also gives equal importance to flashback sequences and does not leave the viewers hanging. Needless to say, if you have an experienced filmmaker like Mehta, all you can expect is a complete package. However, what brought this film down a little was the predictability factor. We kind of get a sense of where this story is heading and at what point it will take a turn and end.

Coming to Vishal Bhardwaj's Mumbai Dragon, the filmmaker touched upon a very unconventional setup to show 'Maa Ka Pyaar' in Mumbai. Sui's (Yeo Yann Yann) excessive love for her son (Meiyang Chang) is threatened when he shares his portion of love with his girlfriend (Wamiqa Gabbi) in Mumbai Dragon, which is set against the backdrop of the Indian Chinese community.

Bhardwaj got everything right, beginning with the casting. Representation mattered in this story, and someone of his calibre can only be perfect with it. Although the film is about the Indian Chinese community, it focuses on the "two states" kind of love story and an overprotective mother of a son.

It's more of a fun watch with the banter between Yeo and Chang, while Wamiqa squeezes in well with her quirks. A special appearance by Naseeruddin Shah brings a lighter tone to the film.

Alankrita Shrivastava, with her short My Beautiful Wrinkles, brings back her forte of showing women and their desires. Here, a young man in his late twenties confesses his sexual attraction to a woman in her sixties. The film follows Dilbar Sodhi (Sarika) over a few days in her life as she must deal with a young man, Kunal's (Danesh Rizvi) statement of sexual interest in her, leaving her agitated. However, it leads her on a path of coping with her previous baggage and rediscovering the beauty of life.

There was nothing new in this short film, and it lacked direction as it progressed. Being a fan of Lipstick Under My Burkha, I kind of expected Alankrita to bring something new to the table despite the format. However, it seemed like a monotonous love story where the thought was right but not the execution.

It's a visual treat to watch Sarika again after a very long time, and that too, in a very intense role. The actor doesn't shy away, not even for a millisecond, and like it's said nowadays, she got the assignment right. Watching her in the short film is only the best part, I can say!

I Love Thane by Dhruv Sehgal is soothing and cute. The short film chronicles Saiba's (Masaba Gupta) search for the right modern man among the sea of men on dating apps. Life, on the other hand, has different ideas for her when she meets someone, Parth (Ritwik Bhowmik), who isn't the "modern man" she was looking for but is instead timeless!

In Modern Love Mumbai, Dhruv gets out of Bombay to narrate the beautiful inception of a love story. And with his story, he explains that to find love, one has to expand their horizons or go back to the roots.

It's a treat to watch Masaba in a fictional role, and lo, she aces it well with her composed performance. The fashion designer-turned-actor shoulders the film by showing the mundane things a single girl in her mid-30s goes through while handling city life. However, for the story to reach Ritwik, we have to tolerate Adar Malik and Prateik Babbar, who just fail to impress in their limited roles.

But overall, I love Thane. It is a close second for me in terms of creating a love story in which two people can talk about anything and everything under the roof and not judge each other.

Last but not least is Cutting Chai, which just like its title, speaks about sharing life just as one can share a hot cuppa in Mumbai. The short film was directed by Nupur Asthana and features Arshad Warsi and Chitrangda Singh in the lead roles. Latika, now in her forties, is stuck in the rut of marriage and children, and she regrets not pursuing her ambition of being an author. She finds herself re-evaluating everything in her life, including her marriage, after an exciting day. As bittersweet recollections and 'what if' fantasies race concurrently in her head, she realises that questioning her history is pointless; the solutions are all within her.

If I talk about the latest meme trends, Latika goes through the multiverse of madness in her mind and thinks about scenarios of how her life could be. The musicality of the narrative is funny but quite interesting. Plus, it hits the right spot by situating the shots at the iconic CST station and local train in Mumbai. A story based out of Mumbai is futile if there's no Mumbai local, but Nupur doesn't disappoint in that sense.

Moreover, it's the casting that takes the cake in this story. Chitrangda is seen as a character who she might not have played before or just longed to see in one. The actor carries the story forward in such a way that, in a short period, we get along with her on the train of thoughts filled with empathy. Walking hand-in-hand with her is Arshad Warsi as Danny, who will leave you in splits and awe one after the other.

Modern Love Mumbai is a beautiful attempt thanks to the episodic nature of the stories. I know the first season of Modern Love US has stolen the hearts of many, but I can assure you, that the Hindi anthology is better than the second season, which came out in 2021.

Although it's based on the columns of the New York Times, the anthology easily shows how any and every love story can fit in Mumbai and can make the city itself a pivotal character.

Verdict

Call it cute, bittersweet, or heartwarming, Modern Love: Mumbai is adorable in most parts. The stories which struck the right chord with me are Raat Rani (Shonali Bose), Baai (Hansal Mehta), I Love Thane (Dhruv Sehgal) and Cutting Chai (Nupur Asthana). In today's times, if you need something very lighthearted and not too much for your head, Modern Love: Mumbai can be taken into consideration for sure.

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