Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: A Fluffy, Frothy Teenage Drama
Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: A Fluffy, Frothy Teenage Drama

Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: A Fluffy, Frothy Teenage Drama

The series is streaming on Prime Video.

Director: Debbie Rao 

Writers: Anuradha Tiwari, Seema Mohapatra, Jahanara Bhargava 

Cast: Tanvi Azmi, Anushka Sen, Kush Jotwani, Vishakha Pandey, Revathi Pillai, Elisha Mayor

Episodes: 7

Available on: Prime Video

In her debut film, Bhuvan Shome (1969), Suhasini Mulay played a sweet and sassy young woman who schools a grumpy curmudgeon. While everyone else in the film is deferential to Shome (played by Utpal Dutt), Mulay’s Gouri sparkles with irreverence. In their first proper conversation, Shome asks Gouri if the charpai he’s sitting on might have bedbugs. “Hotey toh achha hota. Aapko koot-koot karke kaattey (If only. Then they could have nibbled on you),” she replies with a grin. Fifty-five years later, there’s been something of a role reversal. In the new series Dil Dosti Dilemma, it’s Mulay who is the relentless grouch pitted against a young heroine who is very much a chip off Gouri’s block.

Of course Asmara (Anushka Sen) — the protagonist of Dil Dostil Dilemma — would probably be aghast to be compared to a ghunghat-wearing village belle. With her fashionable shorts, carefully-styled hair and urbane gloss, Asmara sees herself as the ultimate Bengaluru babe. She’s all set to become the envy of her friends by holidaying in Canada, but those plans are dashed when Asmara’s mother learns Asmara is embarrassed by her mother’s family because they’re not posh. “That’s my grandmother’s friend,” Asmara fibs to her two best friends, Naina (Elisha Mayor) and Tania (Revathi Pillai), when they bump into Asmara’s grandmother, Nani (Tanvi Azmi). As punishment, Asmara has to leave the comforts of her pampered life in a tony Bengaluru neighbourhood and spend her holiday living with her grandparents in their weathered family home in a grubby, crumbling part of India’s Garden City.

Dil Dosti Dilemma Review on Prime Video
Dil Dosti Dilemma Review on Prime Video

In addition to living without air conditioning and adjusting to her grandparents’ lifestyle, this means setting up alarms on her phone and arranging her room so that Asmara can con Naina and Tania into believing she’s in Toronto through video calls. It also means borrowing wifi from her neighbour, the crush-worthy Farzaan (Kush Jotwani) whose grandmother is the perpetually-grumpy Akhtar Begum. There are no real villains in Dil Dosti Dilemma, but Akhtar Begum comes closest to fitting that description with her sharp tongue and unforgiving snarls. Mulay doesn’t downplay Akhtar Begum’s nastiness, but she also manages to layer the portrayal with comic moments that serve to unexpectedly make the old woman feel endearing. As a result, this minor role feels more dynamic and complex than the leads.

Dil Dosti Dilemma is the latest in a long line of urbane, young-adult romantic comedies on streaming platforms and it checks all the necessary boxes while tipping its perfectly-coiffed head to films like Clueless (1995) and Legally Blonde (2001). There’s a chirpy female lead, accompanied by her gang of girlfriends and a smouldering love interest. Although Dil Dosti Dilemma focuses on its young cast, some of the show’s best moments are thanks to the snap-crackle-pop that veteran actors like Azmi, Mulay and Shishir Sharma (he plays Asmara’s grandfather) bring with their performances. In contrast, there’s a performative theatricality in the way characters like Asmara, Tania, Naina and Rukhsana are brought to life, which gives Dil Dosti Dilemma the aura of an elevated television serial. It’s fun and frothy entertainment that doesn’t linger on uncomfortable moments or dig past the superficial. As a result, the show makes few demands of its actors and feels easily forgettable, despite its sweetness. 

The barebones of Dil Dosti Dilemma are from Andaleeb Wajid’s novel Asmara’s Summer (the author appears in a cameo) and the adaptation by Anuradha Tiwari expands on Wajid’s premise and characters. The show fleshes out Asmara’s friends, giving both Naina and Tania their own individual storylines, and dangles the bait of a second season. Some of the novel’s sharper observations are dulled by fiction, beginning with the decision to place Asmara’s grandparents in a fictional place called Tibbri Road. However, director Debbie Rao inserts montages showing regular sights and sounds from the city into each episode, adding a refreshing flash of realism that anchors Asmara and her world to the physicality of Bengaluru. It’s the only memorable flourish of style in the show’s storytelling.  

Dil Dosti Dilemma Review on Prime Video
Dil Dosti Dilemma Review on Prime Video

While Tiwari retains Asmara’s bratty precociousness from the novel, Dil Dosti Dilemma is determined to portray Asmara as Tibbri Road’s saviour, which effectively suggests Asmara is right when she thinks of herself as superior to the “tackolina” locals. Had Asmara been shown as exploring Tibbri Road and coming up with insightful ways to tackle the problems faced by the neighbourhood, the narrative choices of Dil Dosti Dilemma may not have felt as awkward as they do. Unfortunately, not only is Asmara entirely lacking in curiosity — most of her efforts go into creating her own bubble — but her observations are ridiculously simplistic. For instance, her radical solution to people squabbling to get water from a tanker is … (drum roll)… to form a queue. Who’d have thunk? Repeatedly, the show suggests that it’s Asmara’s privileged cluelessness that makes her the best person to ‘fix’ Tibbri Road, which feels self-defeating, silly and tone deaf. 

Tiwari’s adaptation folds a number of serious issues into Dil Dosti Dilemma, but the show feels determined to approach these with so fluffy a touch that it makes the least possible impact upon the audience. To their credit, Rao and Tiwari ensure that the predominantly Muslim characters don’t feel like walking clichés and religious identity is almost incidental to the people in Asmara’s world. There’s more of a focus on topics like privilege, the importance of putting up appearances in contemporary society, or how social expectations are often defined by class. Unfortunately, Dil Dosti Dilemma’s treatment of these themes feels determinedly superficial, as though the show wants credit for touching upon them but without actually addressing anything.

That said, if you’re in the mood for an easy, breezy, undemanding binge that holds out the reward of a sweetly chaste love story, Dil Dosti Dilemma should be your weekend watch. Spoiler for romantics: The kiss is in episode five. You’re welcome. 

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