Mumbai, 23 Jul 2021 12:57 IST
Only the episodes directed by Anand Tiwari, Danish Aslam and Sachin Kundalkar manage to stand out thanks to their stars' chemistry and the engaging writing.
A runaway bride, neighbourly concern for a person in quarantine, a solo traveller testing the waters, a workplace crush, a job interview and an environment protest — all these elements set the stage for the would-be romances of Netflix’s latest anthology series, Feels Like Ishq.
However, the episodes are a mixed bag that begin and end on a weak note, with the strongest stories being wedged in between.
Dedicated to the late producer Seher Aly Latif who died last month, Feels Like Ishq opens with Save The Da(y)te featuring influencer Avni (Radhika Madan) trying to salvage the wedding of her best friends after the bride, Sunaina, gets cold feet. She forcefully enlists the help of the wedding project manager Jay (Amol Parashar) to help her find Sunaina.
Director Ruchir Arun and writer Monisha Thyagarajan have the perfect wedding setup, but the characters of Avni and Jay are far too incompatible to fully connect. The humour falls flat and the leads can’t salvage their forced union.
Tahira Kashyap Khurrana’s Quaranteen Crush explores the budding friendship between two teenagers, Maninder (Mihir Ahuja) and Nimi (Kajol Chugh), during her quarantine period after arriving from Canada.
Kashyap and writer Gazal Dhaliwal hastily shove in a social message about consent and stalking, against a backdrop of social distancing and corona. But despite the sweet romance built upon similar interests in music and movies, the episode feels rushed and out of place.
Thankfully, things begin to take a turn for the better with Anand Tiwari’s Star Host, featuring Netflix heartthrob Rohit Saraf and Simran Jehani. Saraf is Aditya, who sees an opportunity when his parents go on vacation and sets up a bed and breakfast at their Mahabaleshwar home during their absence.
Hoping to impress a couple on their romantic weekend getaway, Aditya encounters Tara, who has a point to make against her cheating ex. Aditya and Tara have a disastrous first meeting and later patch up their relationship as they both teach each other something. Writers Saurabh Swamy, Aarsh Vora and Ritwiq Joshi create a relatable world, with characters you can root for.
Tiwari doesn’t rush the story or his characters and the result is a delightful escape to Mahabaleshwar with charming leads who sell the romance. Plus, that sunrise is actually #nofilter, stirring up wanderlust.
In She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya is Muskaan, a bisexual 23-year-old who is still figuring out the world but is still mature in her approach to her workplace crush Tarasha Ahmed (Saba Azad). Written by Sulagna Chatterjee and director Danish Aslam, the queer love story is absolutely appealing, even though the constant directs to the camera, à la Fleabag, get repetitive.
Bhattacharya and Azad wear their characters' vulnerabilities well and Aslam and Chatterjee keep their romance real and relatable. Set in a post-COVID world, it’s a hopeful look at normalcy.
Sachin Kundalkar’s Interview stars Zayn Marie Khan, as Shahana Sheikh, and Neeraj Madhav, who play two job aspirants who strike up a connection while seeking employment at an electronics store. Kundalkar’s episode, written by Arati Raval and the filmmaker, is the only story to feature working-class characters. It’s also the most realistic of the bunch.
Khan and Neeraj have great chemistry as candidates that harbour grand dreams. A sub-plot about Shahana’s past initially seems sudden, but as the story progress, you realize why it’s necessary. Malayalam actor Neeraj, known for his role as Moosa from the first season of The Family Man, is endearing and sincere, and Khan matches him well.
The anthology ends with Jaydeep Sarkar’s Ishq Mastana which the director co-wrote with Shubhra Chatterji and Ira Dubey. The entitled Kabir (Skand Thakur) meets up with activist Mehr (Tanya Maniktala) at a protest for the environment, simply because his ex dislikes her. Things get heated at the protest and Kabir, Mehr and her friends are hauled away by the police.
Thrown together in close quarters, the duo discovers some more hidden qualities about each other. Despite the timely setting, Sarkar’s Ishq Mastana feels out of place. The connection between Kabir and Mehr doesn’t feel entirely plausible, and the setting also feels too sanitized.
The anthology promises love stories, but these episodes are romance lite, and half of them needed more development. Only the episodes directed by Anand Tiwari, Danish Aslam and Sachin Kundalkar manage to stand out thanks to their stars' chemistry and the engaging writing.
Feels Like Ishq is now streaming on Netflix.
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