Streaming on ALTBalaji and ZEE5, His Storyy (They had history, this is his story) first made headlines when it was called out for plagiarizing Loev’s movie poster. The production house later pulled down the poster, acknowledging that the “uncanny resemblance and similarity cannot be written off as mere coincidence.”
The controversy was quickly forgotten as praise for the web series followed suit. However, the Prashant Bhagia-directed romantic drama needs to be assessed rather critically before helming it as the “game-changer for same-sex celluloid stories in India” as one reviewer put it.
A perfect south-Bombay couple
Kunal (Satyadeep Misra) and Sakshi (Priyamani) are not only the perfect couple but partners in business too. Over twenty years of their marriage, they have raised two boys — Shivaay (Nitin Bhatia) and Shlok (Mikhail Gandhi) — and built a chain of restaurants.
It’s the third of this chain, Saffron, whose launch the couple are celebrating, with which the series opens. There’s an overdose of men being “bastards” and over-the-top acting, making the opening episode sloppy. But several conflicts that are presented and hinted at in the maiden episode keep you intrigued. Spanning over 11 episodes, each around 20-minutes long, this series explores, and sensitively touches upon the bonds of love, family, and friendship, but lacks cinematic sensibilities.
The arrival of Sakshi’s charming surprise-guest, Preet, a food critic, fills the story with promise. And anyone who has seen enough gay dramas knows what will happen next. Still, one anticipates what’s in store as there’s an obvious tension that fills the screen. The writers — Suparn Verma and Ritu Bhatia — must be credited for this engaging and intriguing story. But I don’t know whom to blame when I see the timestamps on the chat messages shown in the second episode not matching with the story’s own timeline.
At 8:43 AM, we see a text conversation between Kunal and Preet with the time stamp 7:02 PM, which means it should be evening; however, it’s still morning in the scene. The next conversation defies not only the natural flow of time but basic attention to detail. The next chat at 8:59 AM shows a timestamp of 5:34 PM. So, they go back in time? And soon, at 10:29 AM, in the chat it is 11:34 PM.
As a subplot, we have Nihal (Rajiv Kumar), a misogynist, trying to make a “mard” out of his son Ved (Anmol Kajani). Struggling with his sexuality, Ved is often abused by Shivaay. The latter also accuses him of making his brother, Shlok, gay. The arguments between the teenagers seem more mature and each one of them deserves praise for playing their parts with utmost sincerity. However, I don’t know what to make of Jhanvi saying “must be your booty call” to her mother when the doorbell rings. This neither represents being “open” nor modern. And given Jhanvi’s character arc, it seems like a stretch.
No longer a ‘right guy’
To protect Kunal’s 20-year marriage, Preet decides to fake straightness, taking her sister as her date to a party that Sakshi throws at her place. Beginning with the first episode, we witness Sakshi getting skeptical about her husband as he hasn’t touched her for over six months. The obvious lack of intimacy in a celebrated marriage is good reason to doubt the partner. But, she fails miserably at catching her husband red-handed; each time she fails her conviction of marrying the “right guy” is solidified.
But Rafia — their friend, and single parent to Jhanvi (Rheanne Tejani) — catches Kunal and Preet having a private moment at the parking lot. When Sakshi does find out that her husband is cheating on her, she is taken aback. One is left wondering whether she is shocked to find out that her husband hadn’t been loyal or that he is with a man. When she begins to share what she had seen on her way to the ‘Ladies Night’ — a scene during which the viewer struggles painfully with the burden of sexuality tutorials told via poetic metaphors — Rafia tries to register her conviction in what her friend had seen. But the latter starts blaming Rafia for indulging in the act of sharing partners, insinuating her for her decision to remain a single parent, and defending and trying to construct an explanation for what she saw. She thinks that it must be out of boredom, a midlife crisis that her husband is going through. But is shattered when the latter confronts her saying that Preet “completes” him.
With visible faults in their stars, Kunal and Sakshi decide to call off their marriage. But the series doesn’t present a “happily ever after” image. It rather questions whether unions defined by marriage are the only resort that people in a relationship have. It also forefronts a discussion about losing the excitement when two people are about to get married. It begs to ask whether they should be rubbished as “pre-wedding jitters” or they have in them a natural itch to prevent wrongdoing that might end up failing everyone in the marriage.
Even though some cinematic elements are compromised, His Storyy tables human issues in a relationship and family beautifully. The principal actors, Priyamani, Mrinal, and Satyadeep, need to be lauded for their authentic portrayal. Their restraint, naturality, and conviction in presenting Sakshi, Preet, and Kunal, respectively, bring out an original quality that helps this romantic drama gain a universal appeal. And for that, I urge you to give it a watch.