Director: Arif Khan
Writer: Sumrit Shahi, Durjoy Datta
Cast: Nakuul Mehta, Anya Singh, Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, Rituraj Singh, Niki Aneja Walia, Vivek Mushran, Mohit Hiranandani
Streaming Platform: Zee5
There is an old woman, donning dark glasses and drinking what I assume is soda from a glass, who taps her cane with matriarchal authority and pronounces, “Ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin ban sakte.”
Never Kiss Your Best Friend, (10 episodes, a run-time of about 20 minutes each), is that kind of web-show, where ‘best-friends’ keep bouncing along the blurry boundary between romance and friendship. But this web-show isn’t about unrequited love. It is merely about the time and circumstances of the two characters not aligning, until they do. My staple diet growing up, this story felt like comfort food- the idea of which is always greater than its reality, but you lap it up anyways; chug, burp, and grin.
Much of their characteristics can be extrapolated from the fact that Tanie is waiting for the “true-love-vala-sex” and Sumer is always looking his shoulder for the next hook-up.
The series is based on the best-selling book of the same name, written by Sumrit Shahi who also wrote this series. The friends here are two Punjabis in London, Tanie (an elegant and charming Anya Singh) and Sumer (an over-excited, endearing Nakuul Mehta). Much of their characteristics can be extrapolated from the fact that Tanie is virginal, waiting for the “true-love-vala-sex” and Sumer who awaits his next sexual encounter with a singular devotion- always looking his shoulder for the next hook-up. Therefore, she is careful and calculating, and he is reckless and free-spirited. This is how characters were sketched in the 90s. This peeved me (not as much as some of the clunky dialogues and circumstances- Tanie first runs into Sumer in a bathroom as he is jacking off behind the bathroom curtain, unapologetic, and proud, for some reason), but didn’t take away from the universe of lovers loving as friends first.
Besides, this dated characterization blurs as there are always conflicts brewing. There are two timelines- one where Sumer and Tanie’s friendship brews and one a few years later. In the interim, they haven’t spoken- something has happened. The build-up to the event in the past itself, and their unresolved afflictions now keep alternating. At any given point, there is some buildup and flaring of tensions.
Add to this arbitrary touches like Tanie who keeps breaking the fourth wall to give us an insight into what is happening. It doesn’t add much to the moments themselves, but the charm with which Singh addresses both the situations and the camera forgives. The old woman too breaks the wall at one point. Consistency is a virtue least expected in this universe where you are meant to merely be swept up in the currents. Sitting by the banks, peering in with a notepad is not advisable.
Marijuana, according to Tanie, and perhaps the makers themselves, is either lethal or a gateway drug- both of which are scientifically unsubstantiated. Their positioning of this felt irresponsible, if not ignorant.
However much I enjoyed the show, even when it privileges caricatures over characters, one thing really ticked me off. Tanie’s cousin is a pothead. He ends up dying of a “drug overdose”. Tanie makes Sumer promise he won’t take drugs. Marijuana, according to her, and perhaps the makers themselves, is either lethal or a gateway drug- both of which are scientifically unsubstantiated. Their positioning of this felt irresponsible, if not ignorant.
But when ever does matters of the intellect interfere with the workings of the heart? At one point, Tanie who is reading what looks like a romantic novel, looks up at us, the audience and proclaims, “Saari galti na, inn romantic novels ki hai” and continues reading it anyways. That was me, lapping up every love-lorn, sensual-sewn moment this show threw at me, however contrived or juvenile. I kept thinking this is a show I should be taking offense with. It is simplistic, it is vain, it is convenient. But I love it, and would recommend it in a pulse. As Tanie would rationalize, “because… pyaar.”