In Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain, television staples Mona Singh, Gurdeep Kohli and Ronit Roy make their web series debut as the three angles of an extra-marital triangle. The grey zones of adultery have long fascinated story tellers and the internet offers a corner for unfettered exploration away from the prying eyes of the moral police. But while the ALTBalaji series has its moments, it does not fully realise the potential offered by the medium.

Forty-something Rohit (Roy), a married man and father of two, falls in love with interior designer Ananya (Singh). The show explores the fallout after the lid is blown on their three-year-long relationship, with Rohit torn between his love for Ananya and his duty towards his wife, Poonam (Kohli) and young daughters.

The show has been directed by Anil V Kumar and Kapil Sharma, with a story by Neena Gupta (who had earlier explored the concept in the 1998 TV series Saans). It premiered on Ekta Kapoor’s digital content platform on March 16, with new episodes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain closely examines the the claustrophobic yet exhilarating experience of an illicit affair, one that unfolds mostly in hotel rooms and closed spaces but yearns to break out of the confines of secrecy. It also explores the inevitable and routine heartbreak in such a relationship, when a few hours of bliss are followed by endless moments of loneliness and guilt.

The show is most refreshing in its empathy towards Ananya, who rises above the stereotypes of the mistress to emerge as one of the strongest characters Ananya is hopelessly in love, but she is not hapless. Neither is she jealous or insecure. She is largely self-sufficient, has friends, a fulfilling life and a career, and does not need the stamp of marriage.

What Ananya does need, however, is an acknowledgement of her existence in Rohit’s life, a need that finds fresh urgency once things come out in the open. The show’s more perceptive moments come when Ananya explains her despair at how Rohit has to wipe out all traces of her from his life every day, even as every corner of her house bears his stamp.

By making it clear that Rohit too is in love with Ananya, the show refrains from simplifying the narrative by creating a character driven only by self-interest and lust. That does not mean he can be let off the hook: the cost of his actions are shown with glimpses of its impact on his wife, their daughters, Ananya and even himself. How he resolves the moral dilemmas as it progresses will be key to understanding and evaluating him.

The most impenetrable character so far is Poonam. Unlike the dynamic, career-driven and independent Ananya, Poonam has dedicated her life to fulfilling her wifely responsibilities. When she finds out about the affair – the second such indiscretion on her husband’s part – she is keen to once again brush it under the carpet and soldier on for her family’s sake. Divorce is not an option, and she alternately demands and pleads Rohit not to leave. Her daughter repeatedly chides her for not standing up for herself and walking out, but Poonam insists that marriage is about compromise.

The show could have been been far more victorious if Ananya and Poonam were equally matched, for the juxtaposition of a self-assured career woman with the housewife keen on preserving the sanctity of marriage at all costs seems familiar. By placing Poonam at that end of the moral spectrum that the show is trying to challenge, it could be giving her an unfair deal. But this could also mean that Poonam is the character to watch out for as the show progresses, as the possibilities for her evolution are many.

Still, Kohli’s performance as Poonam is among the stronger ones in the show. Roy and Singh do not seem to occupy their roles fully and lack chemistry. The show has poignant and perceptive moments, but the dialogue often seems unnatural and the execution begs polish. After a strong beginning, the story seems to meander in the later episodes and is yet to find its groove. There are a lot of dramatic moments, but the triggers are often unclear.

Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain.