The birth of the byte-sized show is upon us, where the total duration is shorter than most movies, amputated arbitrarily into 5 or six episodes. MX is front and center, from Girlfriend Chor, and Pati Patni Aur Panga to the recently released Bullets starring Sunny Leone and Karishma Tanna, which is a cold-storage film, Tina And Lolo that they have repurposed to release. (The show got about 2 million views in the first three days of its release)
This is both counter-intuitive to the episodic, long-form nature of web-series, and also blurs the distinction between plotting a show and a movie. Good or bad, is another question altogether, but perhaps it is important to note how this impacts storytelling.
First is the casualness of these shows — they cannot be serious or seriously taken. MX Player itself reserves the long-form content for “serious” topics like fake Godmen in Aashram and drug addiction in High. Second, is the almost YouTube video like memorability. They are not designed to endure, and barely designed to entertain. The quickness with which they come and go lets them get away with this. The free subscription makes the case stronger, since you are only investing time, and not money. The most extreme version of this is DICE Media’s Firsts, with one minute episodes on Instagram, designed to lull itself into the infinite scroll machine of the app.
In the context of this, the sheer recklessness of Aapkey Kamrey Mein Koi Rehta Hai is quite depressing. It is a story of four friends — Nikhil (Sumeet Vyas), Subbu (Naveen Kasturia), Kavi (Amol Parashar) and Sanki (Ashish Verma) — but it barely takes a moment to register the friendship, taking their thick-as-thieves-ness as granted, stated, and unwavered by any obstacles. Even if your friend roofies women to make them “fall in love with him” at a work party and gets you and him fired from work, the friendship is intact, even if your friend loots your girlfriend, the friendship is intact, even if your lover is possessed by the ghost of your friend, your friendship is intact. In the opening sequence these four men are described as being at the intersection of ‘chutiyas’ and ‘bachelors’; a world where being a bachelor is also a moral statement in itself.
In comes Swara Bhasker playing Mausam, a name as shifty as her personality. She’s new to the city, and works with the four boys. The whole pot is stirred at a housewarming party hosted by the four friends, where they invite their colleagues, their broker, their security guard, who also doubles as their priest, and a naughty sprinkle of foreign sex-workers. The house is haunted and amidst the tired, dated staging someone dies, someone is possessed, and someone has to get married. Its logic as airtight as an open sewer, the five episodes quickly finish offering little in the name of sense, sex, or salvation.
There’s also a casual awfulness about the way this plays out. The plotting and dialogues are designed to resent both charm and shame. The acting is unable to transcend the bad writing, and so actors like Bhasker and Vyas, who have shown their capacity to be memorable, elicit only our sympathies.
The horror-comedy spike we are seeing post Stree is a welcome corrective to the genre— where the existential dread that keeps horror films afloat is padded with comedy. But here, neither are necessary— the horror isn’t horrific, and so the comedy needn’t be comic. It’s sort of a rationalization of its own badness, an explanation for why banal nothingness is in the DNA of its making. And even if you regret the time spent, it is just an hour, and flashes by, but gosh, does time hate how it is taken for granted.