The number of eye-rolls you expect when you begin with ‘there are two kinds of people in the world’ is in its own way, an indicator of the fact that there indeed are just two kinds of people. If you read that line again, you’ll be genuinely confounded if not aggravated, by my audacious, and yet somewhat ingenious observation. It’s just the kind of obvious and sort of annoying explorative intent that defines SonyLIV’s latest series, Chutzpah.
After airing an intriguing trailer during commercial breaks between Euro Cup games, it delivered despite looking generically bold. If you had looked into the show, you’d have found out that it’s an attempt to understand and explore the extent to which social media has intruded into our lives. It isn’t exactly a poignant essay on addiction and the paradigm shifts, good or bad, that social media has introduced. Instead, it’s funky, even relatable at points, and definitely meaningful.
It follows at least ten different individuals, each interconnected to each other via various real life and social media links. The scale however, instead of feeling daunting, somehow feels natural and unexpectedly cosy. Writing so many arcs and balancing them with proper development of each in each episode, is no mean feat. The writing will definitely feel obnoxious to quite a few viewers, but if you calmly take in the words said, you realize it’s got heart and the lines are authentic.
Given the premise, and the beautiful visualisation of the idea, the show fails its potential to some extent. Or maybe the intention was, as the last monologue suggests, to not take things overtly seriously. The ending can come across as quite unnecessarily feel good and on-the-nose, but I think it makes its point rather well. The gradual development, or possible downfall, due to abuse and misuse of newer technologies has been addressed rather genuinely. And the ending monologue somehow convinced me it was worth watching the show.
That being said, it is awfully difficult to sit through the earlier episodes. The banter is very authentically Indian, but given the range of characters it covers, it is possible that a section of the audience won’t find anyone that relatable. Moreover, the initial episodes although necessarily meandering, don’t try enough to hold your attention. I personally feel the strength of the material and how it grows into a truly meaningful observatory piece on the growth and impact of social media actually gives it the space to expect people to stay with it.
The manner in which sides are taken, but only after depicting both sides of a story, especially in the boys locker room arc of the show, is why I respect it. It’s fallen short definitely, and I’d have loved a bolder and darker take, but the sincerity saves it. The stand on sex work was especially memorable and one that many people would need. Online sex rooms are a taboo topic, but it’s dealt with very boldly here, almost cathartically. And Elnaaz Norouzi’s performance was stunning, a league above everyone else’s. Plus, a very remarkable frame shows two webpages, one restaurant reservation and one hook-up site registration, and the dilemma presented says more than the dialogue could.
Sometimes you need to view the world through your own eyes while being guided by someone who understands vision. And I think Chutzpah does just that. It’s not a Black Mirror episode, and maybe that’s a good thing. It’ll make you wonder, and question a lot, without bothering your boundaries. The world needs challenging art, but maybe it’s okay for art to ask the world to challenge itself. And the stories may seem boring to those who can’t relate, but they have an uncanny genuineness about them, which makes you realise the show has a lot of heart in it.
The world of social media influencing is equal parts ridiculous and obnoxious. And yet, these are people too. Content creators, especially ones who make ‘flippant’ content like reaction videos and meme trolls, have a bad reputation. It’s assumed that what they do is good, but not meaningful. Yet, the number of times this ‘dumb’ stuff is viewed, tells a different story. The show is also equal parts understanding and critical of these people. On one hand, it should be realised that it’s still work and not necessarily very easy to do. On the other hand, one has to appreciate the fact that social media following is very fickle.
Chutzpah is not entirely diplomatic. Even if it’s flippant at times, instead of being the dark comedy you might have hoped for, I must recommend it. It’s taken quite a few stands, socially relevant ones. Of course some of it is far-fetched, but to make anything outrageous means to invite criticism. And Chutzpah definitely has a lot of chutzpah. I think that’s what I liked most about it, the unapologetic nature. It tells the stories it wants to, not caring about how you will personally receive it.
In this world where everyone’s a critic, genuine stories get called ‘illogical’ and ‘unrealistic’, so it feels good to see something that is least bothered about validation. And if nothing else, just watch it for the stylish editing and amazing cinematography, which are also extremely audacious. The psychedelic camera spins and slow panning shots, on top of the expertly edited sequences and montages, all together make for an attractive viewing experience, in case stories don’t attract you.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.