Being an admirer of the initial series Modern Love, I was intrigued by what the Indian version would entail. This episode from Modern Love: Mumbai aptly captures the angst of Indian women torn between their needs and society's expectations. And this anxiety grows as they age, every sensation in the body adding to the confusion.
Women in Indian households view gratification of their needs as a closeted affair. It has been internalized for generations and even the slightest probing of these private ideas can lead to chaos. I couldn't help but view this episode through a Freudian lens. According to him, our entire world may crumble if we are betrayed by our own emotions. Indian women have been forced to spend years repressing their desires, labelling them as forbidden or primitive and it is about time, we give them free rein.
The word 'need' moves into a much broader spectrum than just sexual. In a patriarchal society, emotional distance is encouraged and the simple pleasures of feeling your partner's warmth, cuddling, or even expressing vulnerability have been deemed as childish. The women who have constantly been deprived of the same through their prime years are bound to frown upon its prevalence today. Pain stems from a place of lack, and this lack has been beautifully explored in My Beautiful Wrinkles.
This episode has the potential to shake years-old constructs and just thinking about the kind of havoc it would wreak on traditional ideas makes me chuckle. Sarika gracefully plays the role of a woman named Dilbar, which roughly translates to 'lover'. The opening scene introduces us to Dilbar's lack of approval towards older women being romantically involved with men. Her journey later with the young Kunal makes her question everything she believed in. Through Kunal, she finally finds a way to love herself and come to terms with the fact that she is worth loving and being admired.
Smaller instances like disdain towards her granddaughter's naivete or envy towards her estranged friend's success made her relatable as a woman. Dilbar's life looked very different from the time she had been a writer or had a stable marital relationship — having Kunal torment her beliefs came as a torturous respite; to get out of stagnancy and view that there is more to life.
There was a lot to take back from Kunal's character as well. Creative minds are constantly looking for a muse in their life and a muse can be anyone, even a woman who is thirty years older than them. His gaze wasn't merely sexual. He was taken back by the life she lived, the person she had evolved into. He believed that her beauty wasn't skin deep, and even within those sexual fantasies, one could sense a longing to mature as gracefully as she did.
In the last scene, there was a humorous amount of awkwardness that made the love story even more real. Their encounter was a fruitful one because it added to their life. For once, a woman's journey was not ending with her feeling settled and mentally sorted. There was an incompleteness that reflected how she is yet to see more, and that makes this episode wholesome.