Director: Rohan Sippy
Writer: Devang Kakkad, Vikas Singh, Hitesh Bali
Cast: Aahana Kumra, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Zakir Hussain, Divya Seth Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Lubna Salim
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
Naina (Aahana Kumra) and Sameer (Kunaal Roy Kapur) are getting married, but find themselves in a fix, living in an apartment with their parents and in-laws as immediate neighbours- a hop, skip, jump from their interfering gaze.
This gaze becomes fodder for humour in this 15-episode (out of which I watched 8 episodes) sketch comedy- Naina’s father (Atul Kulkarni) is the strict, and erect ex-army person, her mother (Lubna Salim) is a superstitious goof, Sameer’s father (Zakir Hussain) is plant obsessed, and his mother (Divya Seth Shah) is a frigid divorce lawyer, whose hair is always pinned with flowers. Each parent is playing a stereotype, as a foil against the naturalism of Sameer and Naina, a Mumbai-based modern day couple.
The ‘Mumbai’ here is interchangeable with any Tier 1 metro- the city is only referenced, never seen as the show is filmed only between the three apartments, all on one floor. This show doesn’t dwell on cities, but merely its aftermath expressed in the lifestyle, and apartment sizes. Even the Kanpur background of Sameer’s parents as opposed to the urban city background of Naina’s parents isn’t really mined for humour- it’s just an inert character trait. (This is effective because both Sameer and Naina don’t really leave home for work- one works from home, and one is a sportsperson.)
The titular sandwich is the feeling this young couple has of being stuck between these two ageing couples. Like good humour, there is a kernel of truth in this caper- the overprotective, asphyxiating love that parents can exude, and the dysfunctional chemistry between parents who have come to mistake duty for love. Naina’s father stalks Sameer, Sameer’s mother complains that Naina is not cooking for her son. There is conversation and counter-conversation on expenses, gifts, viagra, and marital unrest. The comedy track in the background of all of this, is both effective and earned.
With every theatrical sketch-comedy- which is by definition flirting with the exaggeration of expression and circumstances, and the artifice of set design and dialogue- the fear is being engaging for longer periods, because it is essentially a string of jokes. There is no character development, or story thread to follow. Each episode stands on its own. Indeed, the set of the house keeps changing every episode- the sofa-set that was bought by Sameer’s and Naina’s parents for them in the first episode is replaced with a plush blue one in the second. Even the lipstick-red Kamasutra couch that becomes the fulcrum of humour in the second episode doesn’t seem to referenced beyond that episode.
You don’t even really know what Naina does for a living on the outset- her life outside the housing complex is seen only in the badminton court. At first, it seems like a recreation, but it is only in the fourth episode that we are told clearly, that she professionally plays the game, as a National level player. But of course these are only incidental facts.
Where such continuity doesn’t exist, the need for humour is all the more, and Sandwiched Forever, despite its overlong 30-minute episodes, strikes that balance- with humour that is endearing, inoffensive, and thus joyful. All actors play their part, with nothing or no one sticking out like a sore thumb. The universe is believably outrageous, while remaining humourous. It’s indeed a feat.
The flip side of this is that the memorability of the show ends with its runtime. There is nothing to take back, and not a single dialogue or moment where you fall out of the seat laughing. But then, perhaps, that wasn’t even the intent, like most comedy shows on television, which thrive on only providing ephemeral engagement. When you’re offered coffee, why demand beer?