Since time immemorial, and certainly since the beginning of cinema, love stories have been the preferred genre for storytellers and audiences alike. Fortunately, filmmakers are finally waking up to the reality of the 21st century and doing away with formulaic romance tropes. Netflix’s latest web series, Feels Like Ishq, attempts to go against the established romantic grain, by portraying six couples from different cities, backgrounds, and sexual orientations, with one thing in common—the first flush of attraction.
The season opens with Radhika Madan and Amol Parasher-starrer ‘Save the Da(y)te’—a tale of two bickering wedding attendees on a mission to locate the runaway bride. A shoddy premise and the inherent presumption that two personable people thrust together in any situation will develop feelings for each other, make this the most disappointing episode of the lot. Next up is a coming-of-age story called ‘Quaranteen Crush’, where Mihir Ahuja gives a stellar performance as the teen smitten by his quarantining neighbour (Kajol Chugh). An accurate portrayal of budding—even if socially distanced—teenage romance makes this episode quite endearing.
The third story pairs an irate traveller (Simran Jehani) and an errant first-time homestay host (Rohit Saraf) as an unlikely couple, in the supremely soppy ‘Star Host’. But episode four more than makes up for the previous fiasco. It is an interesting take on a predictable storyline, where the office wallflower (Sanjeeta Bhattacharya) falls for the firebrand newcomer (Saba Azaad), in the only LGBTQ+ offering, ‘She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not’. Episode five—‘The Interview’ —chronicles an unexpected romance between a pair of hopefuls vying for the same job. Excellent performances by Zayn Marie Khan and Neeraj Madhav, combined with an interesting plot, make this the best in the series. In the final episode, Tanya Maniktala’s environmental activist character falls for her ‘sports-quota-type’ date (Skand Thakur), despite their immensely different personalities. ‘Ishq Mastana’, as it is called, has potential but feels forced.
The short content format combined with the theme of love stories in modern settings is clearly an attempt to attract a young audience with ever-decreasing attention spans. It is a formula Netflix returns to often, despite its failings. A motley crew of actors, who perform in a mishmash of stories written and directed by people with varying aesthetics and sensibilities, the anthology ends with mixed results—some good, some show promise, while some are downright forgettable. Overall, do we recommend the series? Only if you are a sucker for love stories.