Web series

‘Kehne Ko Hamsafar Hain’ review: Adultery-themed web series has its moments, but lacks polish

The characters played by Ronit Roy and Mona Singh don’t have the chemistry required to sell their passionate and illicit love story.

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.

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Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain.
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.