Modern Love Chennai, driven to dishy depths by diversity

The six stories in this follow-up anthology to Modern Love Mumbai and Modern Love Hyderabad do not convey the flavor of the city as strongly as the other two

Modern Love Chennai poster (Photo: IMDb)
Modern Love Chennai poster (Photo: IMDb)

Subhash K Jha

Modern Love Chennai (Prime Video, 6 Episodes)

Rating: ****

There are so many voices, so many characters jostling to make their presence felt, it sometimes feels like a carnival of unvarnished emotions toppling over with anxiety and excitement.

The six stories in this follow-up anthology to Modern Love Mumbai and Modern Love Hyderabad do not convey the flavor of the city as strongly as the other two. But there you have it: a love anthology where for a change, the city doesn’t define the characters, but the other way around.

Many of the stories especially the last one Ninaivo Oru Paravai overstay their welcome. There is just this much we can take of these hybridized love birds as they negotiate problems as diverse as teen crush to degenerative blindness, all with assuaging background scores reminding us that love  during the times of stress can only be defined by the strings played in the  background.

I wait for the day when Indian cinema, especially stories from real relatable situations such as these would do away with the background score and let the audience figure out the emotions on their own.

In the meanwhile, savour the delicate delineation of first love in “Margazhi” directed by Akshay Sundher. The pretty and expressive newcomer Sanjula Sarathi plays Jasmine, a young teenager discovering the first flush of a crush. The storytelling in unremarkable. Intentional or not, it works for the  theme of virginal love.

In “Imaigal” directed by Balaji Sakthivel, a couple negotiates its way through courtship marriage, parenthood as the girl goes gradually blind. This is one of my favourite episodes in the anthology, with many moving moments and one glaring continuity flaw when the semi-blind mother says she moved out of the room for a minute when her child was injured: she  did not move.

The over-saturated “Kaadhal Enbadhu Kannula Heart Irukkura Emoji” directed by Krishnakumar Ramakumar and Mallika (Ritu Kumar) is a mix of gamine and glutton as her insatiable appetite for love experiences lands her on the wrong side of the bed repeatedly. In a rain-drenched heartbreak sequence she sees the love of her life kissing another woman in a car park. Somehow, the gravity of the moment is squandered in chic shrieks of sardonicism. Here, Mallika is held responsible for her troubles. Finally, she marries a man who shows her how to dance in the rain without music, a nirvanic state of sexual and emotional release on par with a movie without background music.

In “Lalagunda Bommaigal” directed by Rajumurugan,Shoba (Sri Gouri Priya) drinks, rants and falls in love with a north Indian paani puri seller. There is  no telling about tastes, and I am not referring  to the paani puri. Finally, she finds the love of her life in a wacky godman. But not before swigs of alcohol and a dance of celebration that suggest heartbreak to be a terrific trigger for unruly behaviour.

In “Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal” directed by the redoubtable Bharathiraja, a man happily married with two lovely children, falls for a divorcee whom he befriends on a local train (Meryl and de Niro did it in Falling In Love), brings her home for a pacifying confrontation with his wife. His wife and girlfriend eat, talk and even share silences over an evening while the man shuffles around uneasily . Frankly, I found this story embarrassing in its regressive approval of extra-marital associations. Have your affair if you like. But how can you bring the new woman home to meet the wife?

The most exasperating story is  “Ninaivo Oru Paravai” directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja where Wamiqa Gabbi, who is rapidly becoming typecast as the modern-day Rehana Sultan, breaks up with her boyfriend after multiple sessions of mind blowing orgasms. The ex-boyfriend loses his memory and Wamiqa’s character Sam must nudge his memory awake with a series of relationship-defining memories. At a playing time of more than one hour this story slithers forward with no thought for pace and grace.

Happily the other stories are gently told and mostly a pleasure to behold.

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