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'Love Storiyaan': The Series is Proof That Love Conquers All (Even Middling Craft)

What hurts the six-episode show is its brisk 25-35 minutes runtime per episode, which results in complex issues being magically resolved or narrative lighthouses appearing out of nowhere.
A still from 'Love Storiyaan'.

Dharmatic’s Love Storiyaan, created by Somen Mishra and featuring a roster of six (seriously diverse) directors, comprises choices ranging from the awkward and ordinary to the sublime.

Just like The New York Times’ Modern Love column – which has now spanned two seasons of a hit series (including two Indian offshoots in Modern Love: Mumbai and Modern Love: Chennai), this one is inspired by India Love Project – curated by Priya Ramani, Samar Halarnkar and Niloufer Venkatraman – featuring real-life accounts of people defying social norms to complete their love stories.

What remains befuddling is the hybrid approach, where the filmmakers interview the real-life couples and their next of kin, but then shoot scenes reconstructing the anecdotes using lookalike actors, with the real-life person’s voiceover in the background. In theory, I think I can see what the filmmakers are going for – but the choices are not quite as seamless as one might imagine. 

What hurts the six-episode show is its brisk 25-35 mins runtime per episode (quite possibly prescribed by the streaming service to make the series as ‘bingeable’ as possible) It results in complex issues being magically resolved or narrative lighthouses appearing out of nowhere and oversimplifying the challenges of relationships spanning decades into bite-sized pieces of ‘content’, so it can be described as ‘wholesome’. Which again, is not to say Love Storiyaan is an insincere show. It’s fully aware that by releasing in a time when conforming is the rule, merely endorsing these trailblazers is a political act. Most of these episodes here, despite some stretches of dubious craft, ensure they end up as cathartic at least – a solid starting point.

A still from ‘Love Storiyaan’.

An Unsuitable Girl

Directed by Hardik Mehta, who has shown a wild range of temperaments from his breakout in Amdavad Ma Famous (2015) to Netflix series Decoupled (2021), this episode is an urban Bollywood rom-com setup. Aekta, a 33-year-old writer/editor based in Delhi, meets Ullekh, a journalist based in Mumbai, the old-fashioned online way—in the comments section of her lifestyle blog. The conflict arises when Aekta’s two daughters from her first marriage have to approve of their mother’s partner before they can take it forward. The way Mehta reconstructs it using actors, I could imagine Manav Kaul and Shefali Shah playing Ullekh and Aekta in a fictitious version of this story. 

The strongest bit of this episode is Aekta confessing to discovering her self-worth in her job as a writer/editor, the ‘light’ in a dark, lonely marriage. There’s a playfulness to the story which makes it ripe for a Bollywood adaptation. Mehta employs that in a reconstruction scene, like one of Aekta’s daughters showing her hostility to Ullekh in a sweet, savage manner. The story is all trumps and the “cuteness” of it is all that remains in the end, overcoming Mehta’s stagey craft.    

A still from ‘Love Storiyaan’.

Love On Air

The Northeast has always been a tricky place for Hindi films, and the cultural awkwardness continues in Vivek Soni’s Love On Air – following two rival radio jockeys falling in love in Meghalaya. Soni’s directorial debut Meenakshi Sundareshwar was infamous for Hindi-fying Madurai, and here you see him trying to be more cognisant of that fact with Nicholas and Rajani’s love story. However, the gaze continues to be an outsider’s, with hints of exoticisation most visible in a voice-over straight out of Bollywood.  

Nicholas is a Christian man, divorced, playing up the facade of a casanova (he brags about how he would go on multiple dates every week), which is a way to mask his drinking problem. Rajani, a headstrong, Hindu woman, in a steady relationship when she meets Nicholas, slowly begins to embrace the ease she feels around him. The surprise package of this segment is their cupid – Mandira, a devoted, visually-impaired listener for both Nick and Rajani’s programmes. 

The inter-faith couple comes together despite opposition from her parents, and talks about how the ‘fairytale’ was tested during Nicholas’ periods of alcohol addiction. It’s a sombre moment that grounds the episode. When Nicholas, Rajani and their son Mahyaan pay a surprise visit to Mandira – a tearful reunion worthy of cameras – to Soni’s credit, he keeps rolling after they leave. After promising to ‘stay in touch’, Soni films the loneliness in Mandira’s life. It’s a touching ode to those who magnanimously bat for love, even if they only have their solitude to live with. 

A still from ‘Love Storiyaan’.


Shazia Iqbal’s episode about a Hindu-Muslim couple eloping from Dhaka, Bangladesh, in search of their happily-ever-after in Kolkata – is one of the finer episodes here. Their daughter recounts how Sunit and Farida moved to Kolkata, thinking they were going to a large-hearted country. However, the recent polarisation has evoked the images of 1973 – the year Sunit and Farida had eloped from Dhaka – when they were surrounded by radicals on both sides.

Iqbal touches upon the hardships the couple had to face, especially with the contrasting pictures of their youth and their weather-beaten faces today. Sunit came from a rich family, while Farida was from a politically influential family. Neither could have imagined a time when they would be struggling for basic necessities. To Iqbal’s credit, the focus is always their unconditional love of five decades. The episode follows Sunit and Farida going back to their homes in Chandpur – which is hardly picture-perfect. Sunit’s parents and his close relatives have all passed, while Farida’s brother is frozen through most of their first interaction. However, a text slide later tells us how the brother meets Farida and Sunit, and requests the crew to not film them. While it could be viewed as a ‘happy ending’ the episode also draws focus to the pointlessness of the hurt and rage inflicted by people on themselves. 

Raah Sangharsh Ki

Akshay Indikar’s episode is my favourite one in Love Storiyaan for how Utopian and idealistic it feels. Rahul, an IITian-turned-activist for adivasis meets Subhadra, a Dalit activist. Their common ground for social justice aside, they have very little in common. Rahul hails from a Brahmin family of engineers in Kolkata, something Subhadra knew nothing about when she agreed to marry him. 

Indikar’s film benefits from Subhadra’s presence – a firecracker of a person, being matter-of-fact about her life and their relationship. Rahul, a man who speaks with sophistication and thought, almost comes off as the ideal partner. Hearing about where Subhadra began, and being witness to her personal, as well as academic growth is one of the most inspiring arcs I’ve seen recently. Indikar’s film doesn’t hide the fact that Rahul and Subhadra’s journey being rosy at all points, especially when Subhadra candidly confesses that she’s had thoughts of leaving Rahul. “But then I think – will I find anyone like him? Unlikely,” she says with a laugh. Seeing Subhadra find the vocabulary to voice her thoughts against patriarchy and caste bias, which has denied her so many opportunities, left me feeling giddy with its glimpse of what a just society would look like.


Archana Phadke’s episode about a Malayali woman, Dhanya, and an Afghan man, Homayon, meeting during college in the USSR, is visually the most refined one. This is a rare episode, where the re-enactments of Dhanya and Homayon’s anecdotes seem organic, especially with Homayon mentioning how he was reminded of Rekha, the first time he laid eyes on Dhanya outside their Dean’s office.

In terms of sheer logistics, it could also be argued that Dhanya and Homayon’s is one of the most rigorous love stories in the show. The couple recount how she had to wait for four years to convince her parents to marry Homayon, who explicitly states that eloping was never an option like in the Bollywood movies. Shortly after they marry, Homayon is stranded in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, causing Dhanya to follow him there, which meant a significant mortal risk. It’s almost poetic how following her husband to one of the most oppressive environments for women on earth also becomes her key to lifelong freedom and equitable companionship. 

Love Beyond Labels

A love story between transwoman Tista and transman Dipan is a lot of ground to cover in about 30 mins, but Colin D’Cunha does well to take us through the beats. Tista, assigned male at birth, found herself drawn towards sindoor khela – a ritual for married women to conclude Durga Puja festivities. Meanwhile, Dipan found himself drawn to sports and his father’s shirts. Growing up with shame in conservative localities, both Tista and Dipan talk about their struggles, periods of self-loathing, and finding peace with their identities.    

There’s a sharp touch from D’Cunha, when Tista is recounting how neighbours would complain to her mother about her. She sighs saying she would feel bothered for a bit, but soon go back to acting like her favourite heroine. It’s a fine, irreverent moment puncturing all the trauma out of the picture.

There are moments in D’Cunha’s episode that feel staged, and voiceovers that take us out of the story. However, the Dharma aesthetic is most prominent here [in a good way], and if this has to be the gateway to sensitise the Indian middle-class about the trans community, then D’Cunha and his crew should consider themselves successful.   

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