Jonathan Edwards has helmed this quality regional adaptation of a popular Israeli show
Vijay, a 20s something youngster, is a baker at a small-time store run by his parents, Venky and Padma. He's the eldest child to his parents and has two siblings, Vicky and Meera. Vijay is hardly happy about his relationship with an overly possessive Mahi but struggles to put his thoughts across. His world turns topsy turvy when he accidentally bumps into a prominent film star, Aira Vasireddy, who's just come out of an abusive relationship. Sparks fly between the two in their very first meeting and their warm rapport blossoms into a romance soon, much to the agony of Aira's haughty manager Lakshmi. There's hardly anything common in the lives of Vijay and Aira, but they are committed to overcoming all the roadblocks in their way to stay together.
The beauty of the OTT space is that it's a leveller and lets the content do the talking. No star is too big and no actor is too small - this is exactly why you have pleasant surprises like this week's OTT release on aha, The Baker and the Beauty, every now and then. The show, an adaptation of an international series by the same name, has a near-implausible premise of a romance between a lower-middle-class boy and a popular film star. The series, though revolving around the much-in-love couple, goes much beyond their romance.
The show may have a Mills and Boon-styled premise, but it is dipped in reality and provides an accurate picture of the lives of celebrities and concerns at middle-class households. It mirrors the clash between their lifestyles, socio-economic backgrounds with honesty. The characters are etched beautifully - from Vijay's over-curious neighbour to their strictly middle-class parents, a sibling's confusions with her sexuality besides Aira's status-conscious manager, the plot gives most of its characters its due and doesn't judge them.
Rarely do audiences get to witness a film's star's life in such elaborate detail in a show, be it the love-hate relationship with the media, managers, how they deal with fame, handle creeps day in and day out. Aira, despite being the most talked about star in the tinsel town, is a loner at heart and rarely comes across people who look at her beyond her privilege. Vijay and his family lead a normal existence but don't take a moment to appreciate the simple, everyday pleasures they enjoy. The show literally builds on the idea of 'grass is greener on the other side.'
Though Vijay and Aira are attracted to each other in the very first meeting, their romance blossoms quite organically and gradually. Jonathan Edwards, the director, gives their relationship enough breathing space. Aira and Vijay have their moments of fun, frolic, madness and soak into the bliss of togetherness too but they have their rough edges. The Baker and the Beauty showcases the messiness of relationships in their true colour. It reflects how difficult it is for people to move on from their toxic relationships and not let them interfere with the present.
The show also strikes a chord with its sensitive portrayal of LGBTQ relationships. When Vicky makes fun of his sister Meera about her sexuality and romantic interests, the latter puts him in his place and confronts his heteronormative bias. Vicky, essayed by Sangeeth Shobhan, is the show's most enjoyable, bindaas character. His flirtatious advances, filter-free chatter in the Telangana slang, adds so much liveliness to the proceedings. The three siblings, Vicky, Vijay and Meera are quite a trio when they're together.
The conversations during their family dinners are so enjoyable, especially when the neighbour is around. Their parents, Venky and Padma, are a delightful on-screen jodi; they discuss everything from their past relationships to their abnormalities with rib-tickling sarcasm. While Venky doesn't speak much, Padma is an extrovert with conservative ideals. It'll certainly be interesting if we could have a season about the two got married too. The pre-climax sequence is a surprise when the neighbour uses an unusual trick to stop Padma from whining about her life regularly.
Jonathan Edwards has an eye for detail and it's these little things that enrich this show. The 5-hour run time gives him the liberty to take his time to set up the backdrops. There's a free-flowing quality to the narrative and no sub-plot feels forced. He extracts wonderful performances from many little-known and established actors. Be it Santosh Shobhan's portrayal of the average common man or Tina Shilparaj's pitch-perfect performance as a film diva or the spontaneity from Sangeeth Shobhan, Sai Swetha, Vishnu Priya and known faces like Srikanth Iyengar, Jhansi and Venkat, there's so much to root for.
The Baker and the Beauty makes for a breezy watch and it's a romance with a lot of depth to it. The writing is sincere and the show gives us so many memorable characters, some restrained and some exaggerated, that linger on your mind long after the viewing. This show is a true example of how one can stay true to the tropes of the romance genre and still do so much with the setting.