FC Web Watch: Little Things

Dice Media’s new web-series Little Things isn’t as enjoyable as their first, Not Fit, and takes a bit of getting used to

Producers: Ashwin Suresh, Anirudh Pandita

Director: Ajay Bhuyan

Cast: Mithila Palkar, Dhruv Sehgal

Rating: 2.5 stars

“Lekin story kya hai? (…but what’s the story?)” has long been the quintessential Indian-audience parlance of demonstrating boredom, or a kind of minimal-plot restlessness, at the movies. As a culture steeped in drastically mythological hues, we’re not used to virtually nothing out of the ordinary happening on screen.

Forget villainous in-laws and last-minute airport dashes. Even a ‘realistic’ romance today means nothing to us without its eternality, the drama and conflicts; the concept of a couple seems futile unless they unite, display love, separate, display sadness and unite again. Otherwise they’d just be like us – uneventful, unremarkable and common.

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Which is why Dice Media’s Little Things, their second web-series after the very enjoyable Not Fit, takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a noble intention – a non-story about all the lesser moments that make a modern relationship what it is – a collage of urban quirks more ‘shareable’ than watchable.

Five short episodes play out in a breezy friends-next-door manner, designed to merely acquaint us with two likeable young faces. Kavya (Mithila Palkar) and Dhruv (Dhruv Sehgal; also the writer) are impossible to dislike, even though they find themselves in situations far from unique or unseen.

Kavya (Mithila Palkar) and Dhruv (Dhruv Sehgal; also the writer) are impossible to dislike, even though they find themselves in situations far from unique or unseen.

Perhaps that’s the entire point, because there’s a clear effort to Juno-fy the tone: lovely sketchbook-animated opening credits, an acoustic nursery-rhyme-ish theme song (akin to McDonald’s whispery ‘thehra yeh pal’ ad jingle scoring their days), a bright colour palette and genuine-hipster home interiors.

Since they belong to a medium that isn’t traditionally close-ended, it took me a while to condition myself to the inevitability of random bickering not leading to all-out gender wars. Morning arguments leading to make-up Biryani lunches (and not sex, as goes the cliché), cute nicknames (sloth bear, biryani monster), spontaneous late-night ice-cream binges, ex-boyfriends discussed with unnatural calm (thereby overwriting Dhruv’s Delhi-boy stereotype), bad office days ending with jokey giggles in bed – it’s all meant to look familiar, and somewhat over-sanitized, as if consciously avoiding passion for fear of it spiraling into intensity.

Though this lack of ego between the characters is disarming, indicative of a comfortable-sibling period somewhere between ‘honeymoon’ and ‘cheerful resignation’ in their live-in cycle. They’re growing into full-fledged adults together, in it for the long haul, and one senses that the tears and temper tantrums are behind them – evident from the way Kavya feels secure enough to confide in Dhruv about how she may compensate for this ‘life stability’ by embracing career instability. There are hints that she’s an artist yet to find her calling, sans the usual breakup-inspiration-dreamer tropes.

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But there are times when the show sort of defeats its own unassuming purpose. At the end of the first episode, for instance, after missing the excitement of a trip and spending a routine Sunday together, Dhruv sagely voices something that needn’t have been said: that not everyday can be as cool and happening as they want it to be. “We will laugh about this in two months.”

In the moment, this sounds like more of a moral-of-the-story disclaimer, to assure audiences that this is what they must expect. Simply showing them skimming through the day’s Instagram photos on their phones communicated this; the spoon-feeding reeks of self-awareness.

There’s also the effort to integrate brand sponsors (“thankfully, so-and-so app gave us a discount”) into their everyday conversations by means of their tech-savvy existence, which becomes a bit forced eventually, occasionally breaking the rhythm of their chemistry.

There’s a clear effort to Juno-fy the tone: lovely sketchbook-animated opening credits, an acoustic nursery-rhyme-ish theme song, a bright colour palette and genuine-hipster home interiors.

Ms. Palkar, despite playing a proud occupant of the selfie generation, doesn’t overdo the smiles and petite-pixie syndrome. Though Palkar brandishes an extreme freshness, almost an unnatural youngness: the Alia-Bhatt kind that makes it difficult to imagine her doing adult-like and more serious things.

Mr. Sehgal, however, takes his time being torn between reciting lines the way he’s written them as compared to realizing them in context of their easygoing personas.

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Their read-between-the-lines little things are perhaps the kind Naveen and Shreya (from TVF’s Pitchers) have already conveyed in the same space, despite being a subset of a larger, more relatable journey. Because, as much as this show wants us to believe otherwise, in a city like Mumbai, it’s unusual to separate professional from personal, day from night and bitter from sweet. That’s not to say this isn’t its own coming-of-age genre.

Though Palkar brandishes an extreme freshness, almost an unnatural youngness: the Alia-Bhatt kind that makes it difficult to imagine her doing adult-like and more serious things.

To be fair, Little Things aspires to be more like an old, smelly PJ bottom than a sexy pair of high heels. But there’s only so much of a “North-Indian Lives In with Maharashtrian” best-of skit collective one can enjoy. For now, I’ll smile about it and move on.

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