Web Review: Decoupled: Delightful Couple Trouble!

R. Madhavan (right) and Surveen Chawla are delightful in Decoupled. Photo: Trailer Video Photo

First things first: Decoupled is not for the ultra-conservative. It is meant to be seen with a barrel of salt among other things, yet has to be taken seriously after one finishes enjoying the fun parts. It is a spunky, funky look at a marriage gone sour and full of outrageous situations that add to its unique-for-Indian series humor. And there are subtle elements to take home, muse over. Or look out for.

To be sure, it seems to go on the “pseudo” (read wannabe high Indian society) track of shows like the non-fictional Famous Lives of Bollywood Wives and their ilk in general tenor. But it connects to us at a Never Have I Ever kind of emotional level with its spurts of rootedness as well as healthy rebellion against some obnoxious or effete societal norms.

The protagonists (or should I say, actual antagonists) are a dysfunctional couple, the South Indian celeb author Arya Iyer (R. Madhavan), and his long-suffering wife Shruti Sharma (Surveen Chawla). Making their conflict piquantly relevant is their daughter Rohini (Arista Mehta), who actually prefers dad to her ‘Taliban’ mom. Despite the parents’ growing squabbles after years of marriage, she is their center and pivot. Well, almost, as you shall see.

Friends define us, so they say. And Arya’s buddies are Mayank (Aseem Hattangadi, a filmmaker of sorts) and CEO-turned-spiritual guru Agni (Atul Kumar). Shruti’s bestie, again of sorts, is counselor Jwala (Puja Sarup). The show begins with Arya and Shruti having an argument over their driver Ganesh (Mukesh Bhatt)’s body odor!

From here, things go into truly outrageous and mostly hilarious zones. Arya comes across as a deliberately obnoxious character in his dealings with neighbors, maids, strangers, housing society acquaintances and even his father-in-law (Akash Khurana). He is in the midst of a deal with Netflix over the filming of his books, and even insults their representative, Reema (Dilnaz Irani).

In an open show of rivalry with bestselling contemporary Chetan Bhagat (playing himself!), he has spats, verbal and otherwise, with him. In most cases here and otherwise, he ends up in a spot, but is least bothered and always justifies himself, much to the supreme embarrassment of Shruti.

As it happens, Arya and Mayank take the help of Agni, a libidinous early-middle-aged man with a great (female) following in designing their Netflix show, as the channel has second thoughts on filming his novels. Agni encourages Arya to have flings, like with the charming and daring Masha (Sonia Rathee), an airhostess, while Jwala urges Shruti to date a gigolo (Akshaye Bindra) even as her new business associate Lee (Darren E. Scott) seems to fall head-over-heels for her.

Finally, after many misadventures of all kinds, the couple decides to have a “decoupling” party in far-off Goa (they live in Delhi) and the full ensemble heads there—or lands up by chance at the resort. It is time for some emotions as well, and a very unconventional “ending” that leaves us asking for more—that is, Season 2!

The direction is assured, the script and lines even more so, while Rachita Arora’s music sets the tone every time. The other highlights include the wedding ring sequence in a restaurant, the ‘banana’ matter, the sequence where Arya mistakes maids for transgenders, the point where he tries to instruct his father-in-law in a key sexual matter, the village interactions with the driver, and the necklace sequence with Masha in the hotel room. The technical side is very upbeat.

And all the performances are classic. R. Madhavan does not let a single out-of-sync note creep into his obnoxious Arya, whose heart may, however, be in the right place. His scenes with Chetan Bhagat are outstandingly written, and enacted by the latter as well.

Surveen Chawla has always been an underrated actress and she proves it like never before with her expressions, nuances and body language. Akash Khurana and Apara Mehta, as her parents, show a rare brilliance, as both are known more for dramatic and emotional roles. Khurana, especially, is magnificent when at his snooty, grumpy best.

Exceptional performances come also from Sonia Rathee as Masha and Arista Mehta as Rohini. Aseem Hattangadi as Mayank, Dilnaz Irani as Reema, and above all, Mir Afsar Ali as Dr. Basu, Mukesh Bhatt as the chauffeur Ganesh and Atul Kumar as Agni are pitch-perfect.

But then, this series is primarily a Manu Joseph and Hardik Mehta triumph. More power to them, and after the eight episodes are over, I realize that I can’t wait for the next season.

Rating: ***** (Almost!)

Netflix presents Decoupled. Created and written by: Manu Joseph Directed by: Hardik Mehta Music: Rachita Arora Starring:R. Madhavan, Surveen Chawla, Arista Mehta, Chetan Bhagat, Atul Kumar, Aseem Hattangadi, Mir Afsar Ali,Sonia Raathee, Darren E. Scott, Dilnaz Irani, Akash Khurana, Apara Mehta, Mukesh Bhatt, Puja Sarup & others





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