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Love Storiyaan review A Valentines Day date between personal and

Love Storiyaan review: A Valentine’s Day date between personal and political | Web Series

The term ‘Love Storiyaan’ is Dharma Productions’ contribution to the pop-culture lexicon. If you turn back time a little, you’d recall that this Hinglish phrase caused quite a stir when it sneaked into the popular romantic song Kesariya from Dharma’s 2022 blockbuster fantasy movie Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva. The internet couldn’t wrap its head around how seasoned lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya could corrupt the otherwise Hindi song with this English twang.

Love Storiyaan review: Dharmatic Entertainment releases unscripted series on Valentine's Day
Love Storiyaan review: Dharmatic Entertainment releases unscripted series on Valentine’s Day

(Also Read: Kesariya lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya calls ‘flak’ on love storiyaan unexpected: Itna hungama kyu macha?)

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The term ‘love storiyaan’ has an inherent rebellion attached to it. And anything that rebels against the norm is bound to make people uncomfortable, from merely a Hindi tweak to an English word or merely a back hair-flip dodge in the romantic song Tum Kya Mile from Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani last year. But isn’t romance all about rebellion? Rebellion against the world, so one can be closer to oneself. Dharmatic Entertainment’s aptly titled new unscripted series also underlines a similar sentiment.

Date between the personal and the political

Inspired by stories from Priya Ramani, Niloufer Venkatraman, and Samar Halarnkar’s popular Instagram handle #IndiaLoveProject, Love Storiyaan is an anthology of six short films and is created by Somen Mishra, Head of Development at Dharma Productions and Head of Dharmatic Entertainment – Fiction. The stories on display scream diversity and touch upon the several socio-political constructs that hinder and hamper love.

The first short, An Unsuitable Girl, is yet another interesting title. It’s a spin on Karan Johar’s 2016 memoir An Unsuitable Boy, which is further a subversion of Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel A Suitable Boy. Directed by Hardik Mehta, who won a National Award for Best Non-Feature Film for his 2015 documentary Amdavad Ma Famous, it has a similar lightness imbued in its treatment. Co-written by Hardik and Mirat Trivedi, the short chronicles the romance between a Malayali man and a 40-year-old divorcee Punjabi writer.

It’s important to spell out these adjectives as these are the very labels stories from this anthology aim to trump. The most fascinating aspect of An Unsuitable Girl is how the lovers meet in the now-vitriolic virtual world. While there was no social media then, they used to engage in wars of words by disagreeing with each other on their respective blog posts. Two writers wrestling it out with words – only to fall in love. Secondly, it’s heartening to know how the woman falls in love – when the man calls her young. In her head, she’d aged so fast because of an early, rushed-in marriage and the birth of her two kids.

Hardik’s film is a smooth entry into the subsequently rockier universe of Love Storiyaan. He balances the hustle-bustle of metro cities with the serene calm of Kerala like the shot of first love slowly and surely easing into a long bout of cosy companionship. And using two pet dogs as the glue to the couple’s fractured family serves as the perfect furry cuddle before the progressively rougher stories that follow. The first short may be dismissed for sticking out like a sore ‘apolitical’ thumb from the anthology, but it does set the tone for what’s at the heart of each story: a blend of the personal and the political.

Love is love

My favourite short from the lot is the second one, Love On Air, helmed by Meenakshi Sundareshwar director Vivek Soni and co-written by him and Aarsh Vora. Two Radio Jockeys in Shillong, Meghalaya marry each other. No, they weren’t colleagues. In fact, they represented rival stations. How do they meet? Through a mutual listener, who’s visually-impaired. Just this triangle is so ripe with warmth that it was a story waiting to be celebrated.

A blind woman could see what those with eyes couldn’t. She senses the love at first listen. Just by listening to two different voices on the radio made her play the matchmaker. She called her to play a prank on him as part of her radio show. The story is told through the eyes of the couple’s son who’s on his way to meet his parents’ cupid. Needless to say, it leads to a tearjerker of a finale – with six moist eyes and two blank ones that saw it all coming.

But that’s not where the beauty ceases to be. Like the first short, one half of this love story stemmed from a broken marriage. There’s a moving scene where he breaks down in front of the camera talking about how difficult it would’ve been for her to adjust to a wounded, commitment-phobic man. But her words at the end of the short sum up their romance – one between two RJs who thrive on listening as much as they do on speaking – that love comes with 100 wounds, but a thousand balms to heal them.

The third short, titled Homecoming, is directed by Shazia Iqbal of Bebaak-fame and co-written by her and Rahul Badwelkar. As the title suggests, it’s yet another emotional rollercoaster of a love story. As they meet during their Master’s degree course in Dhaka, Bangladesh, they swiftly engage in some “khullam khulla pyaar,” as she insists. She’s a Muslim who abandons her religion, home, and relatives to relocate to Kolkata with him. And he’s a Hindu who relinquishes his inheritance to marry the love of his life. When they return to their university and their respective homes as an old couple, one can’t help but tear up with them on the lives they lost for the love they chose.

It’s from Homecoming that Love Storiyaan starts sharpening its political bite. Not to say that the first two shorts are devoid of politics, but the micro circumstances gradually grow into macro with every instalment. For instance, the fourth short titled Raah Sangharsh Ki kicks off with Vashishtha Anoop’s titular song that announces politics as embedded deeply into love and vice-versa. An upper-caste revolutionary falls in love with a Dalit revolutionary when he sees her hold her own at the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Madhya Pradesh.

Helmed by Akshay Indikar (director of the docu-fiction film on Jnanpith-winning Marathi writer Bhalachandra Nemade) and co-written by him and Tejashri Akshay, Raah Sangharsh Ki has a river of revolutionary blood running through it. Yet it has its share of intimate moments – the idea of two revolutionaries meeting at a common point to march ahead to a common goal is progressive-love goals. Watch out for the cute moment when they discuss how they hit the sweet spot between love and luxury, between ‘sex life’ and ‘sangharsh.’

The fifth short, Faasley, operates on similar lines, where caste is replaced by country. In this story helmed by Archana Phadke (director of About Love) and co-written by her and Arya Rothe, an Indian Malayali woman and an Afghan man meet at college in Russia, and eventually get married. Once she moves to a war-torn Afghanistan to meet him, she’s stuck there for years. It’s nice to see her talk about how despite initial awkwardness, his large Afghan family gelled with her and helped them raise their children. So much so that even after the end of Taliban rule, they continued to stay back in Afghanistan in order to rebuild the nation. It would seem impossible, had it not been true.

And in the final short, Love Beyond Labels, director Collin D’Cunha and his co-writer Soumyajit Ghosh Dastidar address sexuality and gender. The story of a transwoman and a transman falling in love in Kolkata is immensely rooted in the city and its sights and sounds. From using Victoria Memorial as the backdrop for the couple talking to the camera to juxtaposing Kumortuli’s sculpture finishing against the couple’s respective accounts of them coming to terms with their bodies, the city is utilised as a rich canvas.

Who says romance is dead?

Love Storiyaan reiterates a pertinent point: that for those speculating whether the romantic genre is dead, they don’t need to look beyond the next window. There’s enough love out there, only if it gets precedence over hate. Social media can be a very effective disseminator of these stories, like #IndiaLoveProject has been, instead of the conduit of hate that it’s used as, more often than not. It’s no surprise that Love Storiyaan comes from the same banner that delivered a progressive romantic comedy like Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani last year.

Special credit for Dharma’s new direction must go to Somen Mishra who has, so to say, added the ‘iyan’ in the banner’s idea of love story. Like Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions has symbolised romance on the big screen for decades. Yes, some aspects of that love must be revolted, but one must not throw the baby with the bathwater. One must keep the love intact, not at the cost of depicting friction both micro and macro.

Which takes me back to the opening short of Love Storiyaan. She’s a Punjabi divorcee who writes on very personal subjects like self-respect while he’s a Kerala socialist whose focus is on the ‘larger issues.’ He objects to her writing about these issues when there are bigger problems at bay, but eventually falls in love with her. As the anthology advances, it also tends to aggressively underline the ‘larger societal issues’ without giving enough weightage to the smaller, yet equally important issues. Yes, love is inherently political, but its genesis is deeply personal.

Having said that, Love Storiyaan is insistently inclusive – of those on the margins and even of those operating at the centre. Going back to the title, Love Storiyaan rebels against the conventions of etymology. But it also reiterates how like love, language flows freely across boundaries. The phrase ‘Love Storiyaan’ is objectionable only when it’s viewed as a ‘foreign’ language invading a native one. But like the anthology and like love itself, it must be viewed as a confluence of the insider and the outsider – of Hindi taking an English term and making it its own.

Love Storiyaan is now streaming on Prime Video India.

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