The coronavirus pandemic that is refusing to leave us inspires one of the nicest chapters in Modern Love Hyderabad. The Amazon Prime Video anthology series is based on the long-running New York Times column Modern Love, and follows Modern Love Mumbai in exploring urban relationships.

Noori (Nithya Menen) has a damaged knee and an unwelcome visitor: her mother Mehrunissa (Revathi). The two fell out six years ago over Noori’s choice of husband.

Mehrunissa enters Noori’s home the day before a national lockdown is declared to stem the Covid-19 pandemic. Locked in together, mother and daughter pick on old wounds and heal over Mehrunissa’s culinary brilliance.

The episode, titled My Unlikely Pandemic Dream Partner, is directed by Nagesh Kukunoor and written by him and Bahaish Kapoor. Kukunoor serves as the creator of the entire series. He has directing credits on two more episodes and co-writing duties on all the short films.

Any niggling doubts about the rushed denouement are cast aside by the terrific performances by Revathi and Nithya Menen. Revathi needs no more than a single look to convey Mehrunissa’s tough love for Noori. Menon radiates warmth and intelligence as Noori. Together and apart, the actors create one of the most heartfelt love stories in the series.

Modern Love Hyderabad (2022).

Kukunoor and Bahaish Kapoor have also written the other winner of the lot. Finding Your Penguin… stars Komalee Prasad as Indu, a newly minted singleton stumbling about the jungle of mingledom. Indu has the brainwave of selecting her future mates on the basis of their shared characteristics with birds.

The jaunty exploration of the dating game, wittily directed by Venkatesh Maha, has engaging performances by Komalee Prasad and Pavani Karanam, Bhavana Sagi and Priyanka Kolluru as members of her girl gang. This episode is far more convincing than Devika Bahudhanam’s About That Rustle in the Bushes, in which an overly protective father (Naresh) creepily spies on and stalks his daughter (Ulka Gupta) on her dates.

Komalee Prasad in Modern Love Hyderabad. Courtesy SIC Productions/Amazon Prime Video.

The rest of the chapters vary in quality and impact. In Kukunoor’s Why Did She Leave Me There…?, a successful businessman (Naresh Agastya) revisits his indigent childhood. Ramulu (Advitej Reddy Chaklet) is adored by his grandmother (Suhasini Maniratnam), but she is forced to give him up for adoption.

Uday Gurulla’s tellingly titled What Clown Wrote This Script! stars Abijeet Duddala as the producer of a mindless television soap who decides to try something new with a show featuring a talented stand-up comic (Malavika Nair).

In Kukunoor’s Fuzzy, Purple and Full of Thorns, there’s much ado about a pair of stilettoes that Renu (Ritu Varma) finds in the closet of the house she shares with her boyfriend Uday (Aadhi Pinisetty). Varma’s enthusiasm makes up for Pinisetty’s woodenness.

Each short film has its own corny background song. MM Keeravani has composed and performed the title track.

With a brief to solve intractable problems faced by deracinated characters within a limited runtime, the determinedly lightweight material is salvaged by a sharp performance here or a well-observed sequence there.

Aadhi Pinisetty and Ritu Varma in Modern Love Hyderabad. Courtesy SIC Productions/Amazon Prime Video.

Also read:

Nagesh Kukunoor on going from ‘Hyderabad Blues’ to ‘Modern Love Hyderabad’

Modern Love Mumbai’ review: Look for the cycling woman and the Indian-Chinese dragon mom