Honeymoon, the new six-part Telugu comedy series on Aha, begins where most rom-coms end. A wedding has taken place and we enter the auditorium when the decorations are being taken down. Tejaswini (Sanjana Anand) and Praveen (Nagabhushana), the newly-weds, pose awkwardly as an over-eager photographer keeps them from taking part in everything that follows that actual rituals of the wedding. It’s evident from this awkwardness that both Tejaswini and Praveen don’t know each other too well. Praveen is nervous and pleasing while Tejaswini remains cheerful but distant. More than a couple, they seem more like acquaintances who’ve just about added each other on Instagram.
In time, we learn more about their differences. Theirs is an old-fashioned arranged marriage. For Praveen, Tejaswini is the sixth girl he met before saying yes. Tejaswini, though, has lost count of how many men she met before Praveen. Praveen is from a small-town, while the more modern Tejaswini grew up in the city. But, for Praveen, emotional compatibility isn’t really the immediate concern.
His wedding-day nervousness is mainly the result of a lack of ‘experience’. Call it small-town mentality like Tejaswini does, or his naïveté, but Praveen is more worried about the first night than about spending a lifetime with a stranger. The 28-year-old tells his wife that he’s a virgin, but this is not exactly news to her. They talk for a while but it’s more to themselves than to each other. But can this distance be reduced with a trip to a faraway land, away from friends and family?
Honeymoon is a lighthearted series that begins with the ambitions of a sex comedy. As long as we see this couple through the eyes of Praveen, it feels like there’s nothing more to a marriage than sex. Like how Maara’s single-minded determination led him to achieve his dream of starting his own airline in Soorarai Pottru, it appears that Honeymoon too is a series of obstacles Praveen must overcome to finally ‘unite’ with his wife.
These obstacles vary between something as silly as misplacing his pack of condoms to delays caused by a cleaning lady who refuses to leave their hotel room. We sense a pattern in the way things unfold, and there’s a lot of redundancy in the way they come so close to ‘doing it’ before nothing happens, yet again.
But as we proceed, and quite cleverly, we feel the show changing its priorities. From the stranger that Tejaswini was, we slowly start understanding more. She becomes a real person and, suddenly, the idea of this honeymoon starts changing for Praveen as well. In a sense, this isn’t merely a journey from Hyderabad to Kerala for this newly-wed couple. It traces the distance this couple covers together, from Praveen calling her Tejaswini in the beginning to simply ‘Teju’ towards the end.
The writing here really surprises. The show’s biggest conflict involves Praveen having to deal with Tejaswini’s past. There’s no judgment; the show does not take a moral stand either. Through the emasculation Praveen feels, we see his coming-of-age from a narrow-minded boy to a worthy companion.
But this level of perceptive writing is not consistent. There are stretches that feel like hurriedly shot first drafts. Early on, we get a shot of Tejaswini returning all her jewellery, because it was apparently taken on rent. Now this is quite a powerful image, given the context of an arranged marriage. Yet, it is abandoned without an explanation, even though it never seems like Tejaswini or her family is short of money. Even Praveen’s stinginess is merely stated through dialogue, like a character trait, but it doesn’t add anything to our understanding of him. And, for a show set in 2020, one feels a need to to know why Tejaswini and Praveen know so little about each other before getting married.
Even the show seems far too stretched out to keep us engaged throughout. With individual episodes getting broken down to deal with one specific issue, it feels like there are too many montages and too much dead air, with nothing happening for around 10 minutes in the episode that actually matters. Which is why, the show works best as ambient viewing rather than an engrossing take on a modern arranged marriage. Held together by Nagabhushana’s promising performance, Honeymoon is at best a lazy watch with a few good laughs, but nothing more.