Feels Like Ishq evokes Modern Love. It doesn’t have the range or emotion of the romantic-comedy anthology series inspired by The New York Times reader-contributed weekly column but captures the idea of magical connection between two people over six breezy, half-an-hour episodes.
Given the overkill in anthology format lately, it’s a bit of a relief that Feels Like Ishq is more like a bunch of standalone shorts catalogued under a common header.
Most of these odes to serendipity are set in a post-pandemic universe whose protagonists are young, social media reliant folks hit by some good, old-fashioned sparks.
Save The Da(y)te
Director: Ruchir Arun
Writer: Monisha Thyagarajan
Radhika Madan and Amol Parashar kick-start the proceedings against Bollywood’s favourite backdrop — shaadi.
On discovering her BFF and bride-to-be AWOL hours before her lavish destination wedding in Goa, Madan traces where those cold feet must have taken her with some help from the obliging wedding planner (Parashar).
Through the course of their search in a swanky vintage Impala, the duo dart off some zingers as well take a peep into each other’s persona. She’s full of beans. He’s calm and cynical. I have crazy money; she keeps reminding him while glugging down tequila at every chance. Marriages are not made in heaven, he remarks like the classic by-product of a bitter marital union and yet chooses the same means to make a living.
Although these scenes are as predictable as the landmarks of Goa, the mood is fun and frothy. Radhika Madan and her Elaine Benesque energy is wonderfully complemented by Parashar’s perfectly-timed quips. Depth there’s none, but charm and chemistry in good measure.
Director: Tahira Kashyap Khurrana
Writer: Gazal Dhaliwal
Set in Chandigarh amidst the COVID-19 scare at its earliest stages, a teenage Sardar boy (Mihir Ahuja) readying for his boards finds himself crushing on the next-door-neighbour (Kajol Chugh) sharing his love for music.
When not sneaking off with his WhatsApp-fixated mum’s cell phone or receiving lessons on customer service from his lingerie selling dad, he thinks of ways to get closer to his paranoid padosan in the time of social distancing. Amidst stealing glances, shy smiles and tons of sanitiser spray, they jam from their respective terraces and forge a sweet friendship. Gawky, uninhibited fresh faces add to the authenticity.
But a little deceit is troubling our young man, which Kashyap’s affectionate telling of awkward, adolescent love treads on gently. Without making it too obvious she and writer Dhaliwal send across some relevant messages on good eye and intent.
Tahira’s significant other, Ayushmann Khurrana pitches in his composing and singing prowess alongside Sameer Kaushal and Jonita Gandhi to produce the infectious Punjabi melody, Mainu Ki Pata and enrich Quaranteen Crush‘s enamoured air to a pleasant effect.
Director: Anand Tiwari
Writer: Saurabh George Swamy
A teenager (Rohit Saraf) saving money for a trip to see Northern Lights rents out his grand Mahabaleshwar home as B&B when his parents are away.
As it happens the guest from Mumbai, a young woman (Simran Jehani) who decides to arrive solo following a bad break up, and he start on a wrong foot but things get expectedly better as they go along.
She’s got all sorts of allergies. He forgets to appreciate what he has — a gorgeous view of Maharashtra’s majestic hills for what he plans to behold in Scandinavia.
As they learn the value of little things in Anand Tiwari’s scenic short film doffing its hat at many Hollywood rom-coms that is now the stuff of guilty pleasures, a glowing review feels like a natural summary to their interactions.
She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
Director: Danish Aslam
Writer: Sulagna Chatterjee
The life of a self-conscious 23-year-old bisexual girl (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) in Mumbai city is turned upside down the moments she lays her eyes on the sassy new superior (Saba Azad) in her advertising company.
As inspiring the latter’s proudly queer ways are, her sexual preferences don’t make her heart hurt proof, it’s as complicated and vulnerable as any heterosexual relationship. It’s a vibrant and endearing portrayal of LGBTQ and Aslam finds a subtle way of making it entirely about representation and yet still only about two people hitting it off.
While Saba Azad is a seamless mix of dynamic and damaged, the real joy is Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s fizz and candour as she pours her heart before the camera and shares the details of her exciting romance like reading the jittery feelings of someone&’s personal diary.
Director: Sachin Kundalkar
Writer: Arati Raval
A super confident (Zayn Marie Khan) job applicant walks in at an electronics store and dazzles a fellow candidate (Neeraj Madhav) from Kerala with her incredible knowledge and ambition.
Eager to learn the ropes from her, they discuss tips over tea. What ensues is utterly feel-good and so, SO Bombay. The Maximum city’s acceptance and admiration for accent, mehnat and potential for rewards ‘baaki idhar sab ho jaata hai‘ are underscored in a modest but delightful fashion as they watch a giant screen unfold in 3D glasses where a great many things seem closer than they are.
The sheer optimism and goodness of Raval’s story, Kundalkar’s treatment, the disarming quality of its actors, especially the extraordinary Zayn Marie, bearing a whiff of Mr and Mrs Iyer and the realism of Ritesh Batra’s brand of serendipity is a cut above the rest.
Director: Jaydeep Sarkar
Writer: Shubhra Chatterjee, Jaydeep Sarkar
There’s a nice line in Ishq Mastana: ‘I don’t do it to change the world. I do it so that world doesn’t change me.’ Too bad its ideals cannot match its cursory portrayal as the segment goes about debating privilege and activism around a lacklustre couple in a flimsy manner.
If Skand Thakur has a poor little rich boy quality, A Suitable Boy-fame Tanya Maniktala continues her looking at the world through romanticised eyes streak.
A protest forming the site for a first date is an interesting premise but Ishq Mastana, taking its title from poet Kabir’s doha, is far too happy in posturing to realise its actual merit. At the end of the six short stories, Feels Like Ishq is uneven yet watchable.
Like a hamper of bite-sized bhujia packets, some more munch worthy than others, the episodes reiterate the power of raw charms and spontaneous chemistry.
Feels Like Ishq streams on Netflix.