- BOTTOM LINE: A Matured Take on Romance Across Ages
|Platform: MX Player||Genre: Drama|
What Is the Story About?
Pawan & Pooja is a tale about three couples – young, middle-aged and those in their twilight years – who incidentally share the same name. While the young Pawan and Pooja are two opposites, digital stars in their own right who come together for a reality show to up their fame, the plot surrounding the middle-aged couple is about a film director and a costume designer whose relationship has hit a saturation point of sorts in their 30s. Meanwhile, a veteran jodi seeks to live the last phase of their lives sans any regrets. However, the solutions to the conflicts faced by these three couples aren’t as straightforward as they seem. The series takes you through the emotional turmoil of six such individuals, without painting them as good or bad.
Veterans Mahesh Manjrekar and Deepti Naval rise above the shaky writing to instil life into their characters. The comfy vibes they share as an on-screen couple is charming, to say the least – it’s extremely interesting how they make use of tiny gestures, expressions and their histrionics to portray their characters. Their performance is certainly the textbook approach for young actors who wish to submit their roles without being overtly showy about it.
Sharman Joshi and Gul Panag are equally well cast as a couple in their 30s who need to express their mutual discomfort through silence and violent outbursts later. They give an identity to the wonderfully layered, flawed characters, though the melodramatic turn in the later portions could have been avoided.
Natasha Bharadwaj and Taaruk Raina provide the much-need vibrancy to the show with their vivacious screen-presence. The couple shares quirky on-screen chemistry and aptly represents the playfulness, the ambiguity, the sexual tension and the vulnerability of youngsters in the digital age. The supporting cast with names like Mrinal Dutt, Ayaz Khan, Akshay and Akash Bhagia come up with confident performances.
Not all Valentine’s Day offerings need to be mushy cinematic romances, or about imaginary duets or have a forced happily-ever-after ending. Pawan & Pooja is just the surprise that an uncompromising streaming enthusiast deserves. The show minus any hype or hoopla proves to be an affecting take on love at different phases in life. The series has just the right, delicate balance of being engaging and mature at the same time. Right from how couples express their love to each other in different ages to how they resurrect their relationships from time to time and have open conversations about it, the show makers keep things realistic and do complete justice to the story, despite the intermittent soapy, cinematic tropes.
The most impactful of these three tales is, of course, the layered subplot about the middle-aged couple. The man and the woman share the same workplace (on the sets of an adult film), were the best of friends before they got married, are insecure about couples stay happy for several decades. They hope to revive the fizz in their sex-life to keep their marriage alive. There’s an interesting twist to their tale when they decide to go ahead with an open relationship and when the Me Too movement takes a toll on their marriage. The series of crests and troughs in their equation – where the two both end up blaming each other for their decisions – is presented with an openness you wouldn’t associate with on-screen relationships.
The filmmakers Ajay Bhuyan and Shaad Ali are spot-on while addressing the loneliness, shallow existence of a young couple with an active digital life. The small town-metropolis clash, their initial friction and subsequent pairing for a digital reality show where they’re to promote a flurry of products, the balance between an offline and online life – there’s so much that the writing packages in this relevant, well-researched segment. However, it’s a shame that it ultimately had to take the love-triangle route. The raciness in the screenplay still keeps you thoroughly hooked to the proceedings though.
The relatively underwhelming portion is the one dealing with the elderly couple, where the writers replace the term ‘bucket list’ with a ‘no-regret list’. Unable to come to terms with the death of a beloved friend, a couple in their 60s is reminded about the unpredictability of human existence and come up with a ‘things-to-do’ list to tick off before they die. Although not as nuanced as the other segments, there’s a lot of humour and drama with some passionate conversations here.
It’s liberating to watch a couple in their twilight years retain their innocence, be progressive and witty (a combination that you don’t find often) without a hint of inhibition or apprehension. There’s some homoerotic tension between Pooja and Mahak in this segment (which however isn’t what it appears to be). The humour gets a tad too silly at times – especially where Pawan dons the avatar of a police constable and regulates the traffic on the roads.
The wordplay between three couples that share the same name is an interesting idea for a show. The contrast in the three relationships is definitely its USP. There’s no hero or a villain in these segments – the well-established characters are mere mortals who are prone to make mistakes and change with time. The open-ended finale is just apt. The series reiterates that there are no easy solutions to conflicts in relationships and trusts the viewer to interpret a few inspects. In all likelihood, Pawan & Pooja looks set for a second season.
Music and Other Departments?
It’s slightly disappointing that more filmmakers are opting to do away with many songs in their content, which could be wonderful tools to establish characters, situations and ease a viewer into a narrative. History says enough about the underlying connection between romance and music. Surprisingly, the role of a composer in the series is largely restricted to the background score, which fits well for the wide variety of situations.
Abhishek Chatterjee’s witty, matured dialogues are an asset to the show and so are the contributions of the writers Agrim Joshi, Debojit Das and Abhishek Chatterjee. Viraj Singh’s cinematography though impressive on the whole could have been more tasteful during the lovemaking sequences that appear raunchier than passionate.
Solid performances from the lead cast
Matured, engaging writing
The cinematic flavour to the segment dealing with the elderly couple
The extensive, exhausting duration
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Pawan and Pooja Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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