The marriage of an unpleasant bestselling writer of pulp fiction and his wife, a successful venture capitalist, has unravelled. They bicker, she infuriated with his constant whining and arrogance while he holds on to the last vestiges of dwindling love.
Shruti (Surveen Chawla) describes her husband as “a self-centred, self-absorbed, selfish “a****hole”. Arya (R Madhavan) is all those things. At home, their daughter Rohini (Arista Mehta) refers to Shruti as the Taliban. She’s the bad cop, while he’s the cool dad who lets his child call him by his first name and teaches her computer hacks.
The opening credits of the eight-part Decoupled on Netflix are the most inventive aspect of a mouthy show about modern couples with first-world problems. Shruti and Arya have the luxury of having enough bedrooms so they can sleep separately while maintaining the ruse of happily ever after. They can even plan a decoupling party in Goa.
Though love is gone, they stay together because they are concerned about the impact of their separation on Rohini. But the teenager’s emotional and mental stability is handled with the least sensitivity or care.
Each episode deals with one of Arya’s public meltdowns and unfiltered irrational outbursts (sometimes expressing what many of us think but don’t vocally rant and insult people about). Shruti is left cowering in embarrassment at her husband’s chauvinism and intolerance. Most often he gets his comeuppance too.
Shruti gets support from a life coach, validation from her career and her flirtation with her Korean billionaire investor. Arya and his two equally emotionally stunted male friends pass judgment on everything – body shaming women, stereotyping flight attendants and mocking Bengali intellectuals.
Created by Manu Joseph, directed by Hardik Mehta, and set in post #MeToo-early Covid times, Decoupled is about people who are yet to encounter woke culture. Imagine Marriage Story, Scenes from a Marriage and A Separation pulped with Chetan Bhagat’s brand of humour – but with better vocabulary – and set in a high-end Gurgaon housing complex.
Bhagat plays himself, as the bestselling author who is Arya’s closest competitor and rival. Hopefully, Bhagat will leave acting aside and stick to his day job.
The satire has some mischief if you consider that Arya might be a send-up of Bhagat. There are many obvious similarities between Arya and the lives of a few bestselling Indian writers, one of whose partners has moved abroad after a decoupling.
The most humorous scenes feature Shruti’s Punjabi parents, played by Apara Mehta and Akash Khurana. Surveen Chawla finely conveys Shruti’s frustrations and disappointments as well as the patience of a spouse who once loved.
Arya would have been cancelled had Madhavan not appeared slightly unsettled by his character and brought in a measure of insecurity. The chemistry, easy banter, and lived-in feeling captured by Hardik Mehta, Chawla and Madhavan keep the series afloat.
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