Modern Love Mumbai — the first Indian spinoff of the rom-com anthology Modern Love, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video — begins with the same words as its American counterpart: “Inspired by a personal essay by the New York Times column Modern Love. Certain Elements are fictional.” But oddly, unlike the original, Modern Love Mumbai doesn’t reveal who wrote the column that inspired the six episodes. Why hide the author’s name? Which begs the question: Are these real Mumbai stories submitted by the New York Times’ Indian readers? Or – allow me to be cynical – are these global stories ported to the Indian context? I sometimes think about that when I see Modern Love Mumbai, more because the episodes don’t pull me in.

That’s because most of its story — each episode of Modern Love Mumbai is on its own because it’s an anthology — is monotonous. While some episodes get off to a bad start and never put you on the side of their characters, others start off in a promising fashion but eventually fade out. Many people fail to gain their insight, awkward conversations or making superficial observations. Some people crammed too much into the 40 minute runtime. (I think some chapters in next week’s Love, Death + Robots season 3 will have more in about a quarter of the time.) Despite the of individualism – even Vishal Bhardwaj, Well-known hands of Hansal Mehta and Shonali Bose, and more than others – it’s also hard not to look past the coaching hands.

While both The New York Times and Modern Love’s creator, director and executive producer John Carney are involved in some capacity, Modern Love Mumbai is ultimately a product of the Pritish Nandi banner . Not only does it have some of the same issues with their Prime Video claim to fame, four more pics please! Pritish’s two daughters, Rangita Pritish Nandy and Ishita Pritish Nandy, are executive producers and co-executive producers here. Please take four more pictures! The writer and director of Season 2 also got the final episode of Modern Love Mumbai himself. Rather than finding new partners to make its rom-com anthology, Amazon simply turned to people who already made (flirty surface-level) rom-coms for it. Even platforms are now engaging in nepotism.

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Masaba Gupta, Ritwik Bhowmik in Modern Love Mumbai “I Love Thane”
Image credit: Amazon Prime Video

The bar for Modern Love Mumbai was finally set low, and Little Things creator Dhruv Sehgal — the most inexperienced of his peers here compared to the aforementioned Bhardwaj, Mehta and Bose — not only easily but rightly cleared it. His short and fifth episode “I Love Thane” looked very good in front of others, but only because the comparison was too stark. Through the perspective of a 30-something landscape architect (Masaba Gupta), she realizes she’s unfulfilled and out of tune with most men—until she stumbles upon a man from Thane (Ritwik Bhowmik) who works for the local government committee. Men – Sehgal and fellow writer Nupur Pai (Seasons 3 and 4 of Little Things) touch on what online dating is like in a way that’s more real than ostensibly Everly Confused and Eager for Love.

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In the early days of “I Love The King,” there’s a wonderful and hilarious shot of two women locking their eyes as they drift away from what are apparently two of the worst dates in the world. In a matter of seconds, Sehgal not only succinctly reinforces the “men are s**t” philosophy popular in our generation, but also misrepresents so-called “liberal” and “feminist” men who can say worse than their opposites. “I Love Thane” does get into a typical rom-com rhythm after a certain point, but it’s the small but profound insights Sehgal portrays that stand out. Importantly, Sehgal is unwilling to compromise on his vision for the sake of Western audiences – I think, Modern Love Mumbai is India oriented as it is externally oriented – unlike Hansal Mehta in his “Baai” second Concentrate on what you do.

In “Baai,” when a character names a Bollywood actress, the subtitles translate it to Julia Roberts. But in “I Love Lords”, when characters refer to communities such as Lords, Bandera, and Nopada, they are presented in the subtitles. Sehgal wants viewers to continue reading or reading after the episode to fully understand the dialogue where one character complains to the other about making them “drive all the way to Tarn”. this is necessary. After all, that’s how Hollywood treats the world. The boroughs of New York — at least their names — are now globally recognized. When Captain America and Spider-Man feud in Queens and Brooklyn, even Marvel movies aren’t kidding themselves. Neither should we.

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Pratik Gandhi in Modern Love Mumbai ‘Baai’
Image credit: Amazon Prime Video

Mehta’s “Baai” does have some merit. For me, the personal highlight was the early single shots in the car – the director’s reunion with his hoax cinematographer Pratham Mehta in 1992’s Modern Love Mumbai – — It was truly epic and harrowing during the Mumbai riots. It reminds me of the car sequence from Son of a Man, and one of the most memorable sequences I’ve seen recently. “Baai,” written by Mehta and debutant Ankur Pathak, got off to a good start, but has lost momentum. Mehta follows a gay Muslim man (Pratik Gandhi), a minority in a minority – this isn’t the director’s first LGBTQ+ story, he also produced a saga led by Manoj Bajpayee Aligarh.

“Baai” does everything we’d expect from a story about an LGBTQ+ individual in a repressed society—which contains a very real inclusion of how violence is more prevalent among gay men—but fades away due to its tangents. It’s clear from its title that it refers to the protagonist’s grandmother. But the bigger with episode 2 of Modern Love Mumbai is that the actor — celebrity chef and restaurateur Ranveer Brar plays Gandhi’s boyfriend and future husband — is not credible as a gay man . The wedding scene is 👎🏼, and the intimate scene is so funny. It’s as if they put their faces and bodies together instead of actually hugging and kissing.

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Mehta also tries to put food at the center of his story — the grandmother is known for her cooking, and Brar’s character is a chef — but it gets lost in everything else and never comes out. Vishal Bhardwaj does a better job of centering his story “Mumbai Dragon” on food. Like Mehta, Modern Love Mumbai Episode 3 – written by Bhardwaj and debutant Jyotsna Hariharan – focuses on outsiders. In his case, despite suffering more than most Indians, he was seen as a Chinese Indian on the other side. (Hence the story is a mix of Hindi, Cantonese, Punjabi and English.)

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While Zhang Meiyang’s idol singer gets more episodes, his mother (Yeo Yann Yann) shines in “Modern Love Mumbai”. Thanks for playing the mostly Hindi character – she doesn’t sound like she was born, but she did her best. Yann’s mother hugs her grown son through food because that’s how she expresses her love. While the “Baai” part is about how food is really about love, “Mumbai Dragon” does a better job of conveying that. In Mehta’s story, it fades into the background. Baai is supposed to be a killer chef, but it’s not part of the picture – it’s past. Bhardwaj ends his performance with a perfect food shot that conveys more than dialogue or action.

Bhardwaj’s Modern Love Mumbai episode also has a generic part. Not only does it meander in the middle, but it also creates an overly optimistic image of self-fulfillment. The Bollywood dream machine has always liked to inspire its own mythology, although I expected more from someone like Bhardwaj. I didn’t expect much from Shonali Bose (The Sky Is Pink) and Alankrita Shrivastava (Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare), though, their stories are woefully underwhelming.

“Raat Rani” – Episode 1 of Modern Love Mumbai, written by Nilesh Maniyar (the sky is pink) and debutant John Belanger – is the only story about people falling out of love, not one of them. The biggest stumbling block on the Bose episode is that Fatima Sana Shaikh’s Kashmiri accent is hilarious. On top of that, you can’t connect to the character from the start because the start is too sudden. But more importantly, “Raat Rani” didn’t win any scenes. Totally disjointed, it just jumps from one thing to another. Bose wanted “Raat Rani” to be a female empowerment story at its core, but the big moments of growing up happened offscreen.

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It’s also an issue with “My Beautiful Wrinkles” – written by Shrivastava, whose title doesn’t fit the geography of Mumbai – in which an estranged grandmother (Sarika) is stabbed by a young man she’s tutoring (Danesh Razvi) Proposing marriage in this manner should constitute sexual harassment. As snappy as the overture is, Modern Love Mumbai episode 4 is childish from start to finish, almost as if it’s ashamed of actually getting to the bottom of what it’s about. “My Beautiful Wrinkles” flopped quickly and ended in a cheesy, escapist way that showed it had little worth to say. It also has the most awkward dialogue of any episode in this Prime Video anthology, in which characters say things they find on coasters and T-shirts. This is where Shrivastava is experiencing shortages in every sector.

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Arshad Warsi, Chitrangda Singh ‘Cut Firewood’ in Modern Love Mumbai
Image credit: Amazon Prime Video

The rest is what I call a nepotism story because it’s made by Four More Shots Please! Season 2 director Nupur Asthana and writer Devika Bhagat. “Cutting Chai,” starring Chitrangda Singh and Arshad Warsi as a 40-something couple, romanticizes the problematic aspects of Indian men. I have nothing to say because this is basically the whole episode. Except for the sixth and final episode, “Modern Love Mumbai,” which takes a twist in the final nine minutes as it tries to bring all of this together and give meaning to the entire series in a clichéd way.

Inexplicably, Modern Love Mumbai spoiled its anthology aesthetic in “Cut the Firewood,” with characters from the first five episodes temporarily dominating. For those who have seen Modern Love, this is not surprising, since the original was the same, as a friend told me. But that doesn’t make it any less sudden. Some scenes pay off in earlier resolutions, but for others it’s like reliving a trauma from the past. It’s a somewhat fitting conclusion and, in a way, the worst possible ending, because by retelling and giving us some small epilogues, Modern Love Mumbai only serves to remind us how bad this anthology is.

All six episodes of Modern Love Mumbai will be released on Amazon Prime Video in India and around the world on Friday, May 13 at 12am.

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