How Modern Love Mumbai came alive with a trick game

Shefali Saxena Thursday 12th May 2022 04:19 EDT

When Amazon Prime Video decided to produce the Indian version of Modern Love (an anthology), six directors took part in a fastest finger first kind of a game where all were given six essays from the New York Times to choose one story in the six-part Modern Love Mumbai. 


Filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj selected the most coveted story in a record time of five minutes, which left all others who were eyeing the story titled ‘Mumbai Dragon’ a bit hassled and envious. Dhruv Sehgal (creator of Little Things on Netflix and Director, I Love Thane - Modern Love Mumbai) told Asian Voice, “It's (Mumbai Dragon) one of the best essays I've ever read in my life. But him (Vishal Bharadwaj) being the brightest or the fastest, understood the gist of it immediately and instantly chose it, while others were busy reading the whole essay.” 


Raat Rani


Director Shonali Bose who helmed Raat Rani for the anthology (starring Fatima Sanah Sheikh and Bhupendra Jadawat) told the newsweekly, “I chose that story (Mumbai Dragon) but Vishal’s  reply reached them before mine!”


“It was me! They took it, so then I cried. I said but I want to do this only, Shonali chuckled. But she does feel that Raat Rani was just as fantastic and best for her. Raat Rani is the story of Lali, a cook, and her husband Lutfi a security guard, in an upscale apartment in Mumbai, far from their native Kashmir. He suddenly dumps her, breaking her heart and shattering her dreams. All he leaves behind is his old bicycle. Shonali still uses her bicycle in Los Angeles to run errands and visit grocery stores. So she felt close to the narrative. Co-writer Nilesh Maniyar said, “It's so relatable in many ways, and yet so poetic. And it turns it on its head, you know? So I felt there's an opportunity here to do something more than just some love songs.” Actor Bhupendra told us that he believes there should be more versions of Modern Love, which could go beyond metropolitan cities. Modern Love anthologies from small towns would be equally intriguing and entertaining. 


Bose is not burdened by the idea that Modern Love is a celebrated series, and the onset of the Indian version makes her a part of an iconic debut for India. “If one is weighed down by the baggage of thinking, then you're not being honest and through just the way you treat any film. Any film that we're working on, we put our best craft there. And if you're feeling like oh my God, and the first one love in India, I'm carrying the burden of this. Thank God it didn't occur to me,” Shonali Bose added. 


Mumbai Dragon and I Love Thane


Speaking to Asian Voice, Dhruv Sehgal admitted that he would always feel cringed by the signposts of I Love Thane, I Love Goregaon and other places in Mumbai, but when he ran a search on Instagram, he realised there’s beauty and stories hidden behind them, and that people truly go and take photographs with those signs. Discussing how Dev Patel’s ‘When Cupid is a Prying Journalist’ from Modern Love S1, Dhruv said, “It actually reaffirmed my belief that even simple things can be powerful and I was really impressed by the footage in there.”


Sehgal has nearly championed the modern love space by creating Little Things (series) and yet, here, he helms I Love Thane as a director, not as an actor. Commenting on that, Dhruv told Asian Voice, “It feels great. It feels like extreme, you know, a chance which comes rarely. It's a great privilege. But it's also a privilege that I think I worked hard in that sense. It feels like I own this chance and yet it's mine. It feels like a great amount of learning has come to me at the right age. You know, I'm blessed that I got to do this at the age of 31 and not at the age of 38 or 45.”


Meiyang Chang, the lead protagonist of Mumbai Dragon, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. set against the backdrop of the Indian Chinese community, tells the tale of Sui's overbearing love for her son which is threatened when he shares his portion of love with his girlfriend. It’s based on a unique storyline of a small Indo-Chinese community that exists in the diverse population of the city. While their inherent language and cultural nuances might be different, the episode showcases how similar their values, beliefs and mindsets are. Being Asian is at the root of it. 


While this particular story seems to have picked just the right nerve of many South Asians, we asked Chang what he feels about people who seek answers and solutions from stories like these and art in general. Chang told Asian Voice, “The whole point of good art is that it has to strike a chord somewhere. And the more it does that, the more it relates to people. So if what you saw in the trailer, if you and your friends are able to relate to that then in the story, I'm also able to relate that with my life and with my family. It's a double bonus key as an audience. I'm invested in it when I'll watch it. And as an actor, I'm doubly invested.”


All actors and directors as well as writers felt that they could have asked for more length for these short films, but most of them are under 40 minutes. Many artists who are a part of this project haven’t watched Modern Love at all, which brings fresh perspectives to the table. It’ll be interesting to see how the Indian version of Modern Love unfolds. The series premieres on Amazon Prime Video on the 13th of May in over 240 countries and territories. 

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