Netflix’s latest dramedy, Decoupled, focuses on the dysfunctional lives of a Gurgaon couple going through separation in their marriage but deciding to live together for the sake of their daughter.
The plot kicks off with India’s 2nd best selling pulp fiction writer, Arya Iyer (R. Madhavan), and his start-up founder wife, Shruti Sharma (Surveen Chawla) in a fix about how to go about their lives after clearly falling out of love with each other.
Arya is an insufferable know-it-all and is irked by the randomness of Indian society and people. He often runs into trouble with his neighbours, strangers, and the world in general for crudely voicing his toxic opinions without a second thought.
Another thorn in Arya’s life is his rival and fellow writer, Chetan Bhagat (playing a fictional version of himself). The two run into each other more times than they like and always find a way to besmirch each other’s reputations and egos.
Meanwhile, Shruti is an ambitious women who is focussed on seeking investors for her budding company while figuring out a way out of this dead marriage.
Their decision to live under the same roof despite no feelings is their daughter, Rohini (Arista Mehta). The duo believes that their little girl isn’t mature and strong enough to handle the news of her folks getting divorced so they carry on with the facade.
The narrative takes a turn when potential lovers enter their respective lives and the concept of seeing new people fuels the thought of making their separation known to family and friends.
Madhavan is as glorious as he is insufferable. There isn’t a single scene he’s in that you’d actually like Arya’s character. Everything he stands for can wind up the most tolerant of people. This is a testimony to the greatness of his portrayal of the character. From his mannerisms to his philosophies, Madhavan creates a highly unpleasant personality for Decoupled and displays stellar acting chops in the process.
Chawla as Shruti matches her better half at every step. Her subtle yet fierce knack for vengeance is delightful and she leaves no stone unturned to make her presence felt in every frame she encapsulates. Chawla also brings an endearing side to her character when she tackles situations related to her daughter and that is a welcome addition.
Mehta as the little Rohini surprisingly holds her own amidst an experienced and talented senior cast. She presents herself well in all her scenes and even showcases great emotional range.
The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t have a lot to do with the amount of screen time provided but they add the perfect sprinkle of amusement to the plot.
On top of the excellent acting performances, creator Manu Joseph and director Hardik Mehta do not stray away from what the show stands for, and that is to provide a commentary on Indian matrimony and society, which it does in a way that will make you introspect.
Decoupled brilliantly showcases what happens when the crippling objectivity of a pessimist locks horns with the concepts of nationality, political correctness, class divide, and more.
The short episode length is another major addition to Decoupled’s repertoire. Eight, 30 minute episodes, run by in a jiffy and don’t let the show turn into a rant that forces certain opinions onto its audience.
Furthermore, the narrative also has a sense of relatability when it comes to seeking happiness and validation in life. The characters’ struggle to embrace their actualities while dealing with the inevitable consequences of their haywire actions is a delight to witness.
Unfortunately, in its attempt to showcase imperfect characters, Decoupled ventures into severely toxic waters. It is often sexist, misogynistic, and ridicules common things like puberty and masturbation in ways that could have been tweaked to make it appealing instead of revolting. The narrative is also riddled with casual female objectification.
When it comes to the writing, motivations and reasons for people being the way they are aren’t explored. With such short episodes, it is understandable that the makers did not have the ability to fabricate three dimensional personalities.
However, with the first season ending on such a tense and open ended moment, it would be nice to explore at least the lead pair’s past in the sequel series.
Decoupled is worth a watch for its spectacular performances and witty yet sometimes obnoxious writing. It may grind your gears in some moments but eventually manages to stick the landing.