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‘Feels Like Ishq’ Review: Netflix Anthology Injects A Perfectly Measured Dose Of Love And Mush!

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Your’s truly is a sucker for romance. I cannot begin to tell you about the mood-uplifting power of a good fictional romance, because if I did, this review would turn into an anthology of my greatest romance hits. Not today, Cupid. Today we talk about Feels Like Ishq, a new anthology from Netflix, whose love affair with this format of storytelling is the stuff of OTT legend now. As the name indicates, this is a romance anthology, and the title also hints at what you can expect from these stories, which aren’t full-fledged love stories but more like a ‘day-in-the-life-of’ glimpse into these characters’ lives as they’re about to have an adorable meet-cute that feels like ishq, but doesn’t necessarily mean it is that forever, ishq wala love. The six love stories are helmed by six directors—Anand Tiwari, Ruchir Arun, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, Sachin Kundalkar, Jaydeep Sarkar and Danish Aslam. It stars Rohit Saraf, Radhika Madan, Tanya Maniktala, Amol Parashar, Neeraj Madhav, Simran Jehani, Kajol Chugh, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Skand Thakur, Zayn Marie Khan, Saba Azad, Mihir Ahuja!

 

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The anthology’s writing credits include Monisha Thyagarajan, Gazal Dhaliwal, Saurabh Swamy, Aarsh Vora, Ritwiq Joshi, Sulagna Chatterjee, Danish Aslam, Arati Raval-Pandey, Sachin Kundalkar, Jaydeep Sarkar, Shubhra Chatterji, and Ira Dubey. Produced by Mutant, the late Seher Aly Latif is the executive producer along with Shivani Saran.

Right off the bat, I love this concept, for two reasons. One, it’s a treat for romance fans like me, because as any fan worth their salt (or sugar?) will tell you, the meet-cute is perhaps one of the most important elements that can make or break a love story. And Feels Like Ishq was meet-cutes galore! The other reason was the incomplete completeness of these stories and the possibilities that would have to offer. There’s always been this allure of loves stories when you know how they begin but don’t know how they end. Because then, you’re free to fill in your own version of the story, and how it would end. And there’s this giddy power in it, to be able to fantasise and simply escape in that imagination, without worrying that the story already has had a certain intended ending.

The obvious reason, of course, was the cast, all of whom looked great and looked like they had great chemistry with each other. The trailer had an overall cute, mushy vibe to it. Add to that the music (which we are going to talk a lot about ahead), and you’ve got a heart shaped package that anyone who gets them warm fuzzy feels didn’t stand a chance against!

Also Read: 5 Thoughts We Had About The ‘Feels Like Ishq’ Trailer: Romance Anthology With Such Cute Pairings? So Ready For Them Feels!

So did Feels Like Ishq make me feel all those emotions that it promised, and perhaps more? Let’s find out, one love story at a time, shall we?

Save The Da(y)te

Director: Ruchir Arun

Writer: Monisha Thyagarajan

Cast: Radhika Madan, Amol Parashar

You know how they say a good beginning is half done? Feels Like Ishq reeled me in with this one right away. Radhika Madan as Avani the influencer and the bride’s BFF is an absolute riot, the role is just that up the alley! Just fresh off Ray, Avani is a heady mix of Didi’s charisma coupled with the confidence of a Delhiite influencer! When Avani’s BFF, the bride, goes missing, she seeks the help of a random guy, Jay, just for his wheels.

And what wheels they are! As a Supernatural fan, the Chevrolet Impala has a special place in my heart, and this is one was a beautiful blue convertible, that came with a dapper Amol Parashar dropping some truth bombs about how love tends to fade away after marriage. The jugalbandi between Avani and Jay, as the former tries to convince the latter that her BFFs (the bride and groom) are made for each other, while the latter grounds her in reality, and as they both search for the runaway bride to save the day and date, is enjoyable and refreshing. Oh and did I mention, this trip is down some cosy Goa lanes? Classic.

I loved the end, and I wish I could tell you more about it, but I’mma save you from spoilers. One thing is for sure, this is easily a favourite thanks to the chemistry between the two actors and the writing! Oh and the car, of course the car.

Quaranteen Crush

Director: Tahira Kashyap Khurrana

Writer: Gazal Dhaliwal

Cast: Kajol Chugh, Mihir Ahuja

Remember I told you how we need to talk about the music in this anthology. Quaranteen Crush seems like a good place to start that conversation. Because it is music (Sameer Kaushal; lyrics by Gurpreet Saini) that brings Maninder and Nimmi closer, while they’re both social distancing in a small Punjab town. He is prepping for a college competition that might not happen because Covid pandemic is at its peak. And she is a local neighbour’s granddaughter who has flown in from Canada and is self-quarantining in the house opposite Maninder’s for fourteen days. They bond over Maninder bringing her meals every day, and some phone conversations and socially distant jamming!

I love the name of this story, and it is every bit that cute, with both Mihir Ahuja and Kajol Chugh keeping their characters real and instantly endearing. I love that Ahuja’s beatboxing skills (which I received a first-person demo of during an interview!) have also been woven in! The magic is elevated when the sweet song that Maninder has been practicing finally plays out, and it’s a voice we’re all too familiar with (again, no ruining the surprise), with Jonita Gandhi joining in perfect accompaniment! It’s perfect for this innocent terrace romance that’s brewing and invokes very warm and mushy feelings about your own first love or crush!

One thing that I really liked about this story, and which I even got a chance to talk to about with Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, who is the director, is how Maninder’s courting of his crush could very easily have become deceitful in some ways. But his moral awakening happens inwardly, thereby preserving the innocence of his feelings.

Also Read: 15 Men Who Are Our Current On-Screen Crushes And Make Us Feel Like.. *Heart Eyes*!

Star Host

Director: Anand Tiwari

Writers: Saurabh Swamy, Aarsh Vora, Ritwiq Joshi

Cast: Rohit Saraf, Simran Jehani

Arz kiya hai, “Aap aaye hain Le Château Tranquil mein mehmaan ban ke. Kabhi hum villa ko, kabhi Rohit Saraf ko dekhte hain!”

I can attest to the fact that this is what most girls who watch Star Host are going to be saying! I don’t think Saraf’s charm has an off switch, but it had tough competition in this one from the beautiful location where this story has been shot! His Aditya is a travel junkie who rents out his fantastic villa with a killer view to a couple for a weekend stay while his parents are away, to make some quick bucks towards his travel fund to go see the Northern Lights. Who ends up coming there but Tara (a very convincing Simran Jehani), minus the boyfriend that booked this stay, to prove to the guy that she can have fun by herself. This puts a dampener in Aditya’s meticulous plan to be a star host to a difficult guest. Or does it?

Star Host looks beautiful most of the time, and has this proper, cosy, woody, hill station vibe, like a world where magic could happen. And in a way, it does. Rohit and Simran have lovely chemistry, and the scene with the fireflies and light banter is sweet. I love how the story is ended, because it doesn’t make to many promises or declare a relationship status update, and yet feels contently complete in a way!

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

Director: Danish Aslam

Writer: Sulagna Chatterjee

Cast:  Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, Saba Azad

I already liked the fact that She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, was a love story that treated its lead’s sexual orientation very matter-of-factly. It’s a paradox that a lot of people seem to miss understanding, that while we do need more queer stories and characters up on our screens, we don’t need to always make that queerness a big focal point about their story. We’ve seen that happen in beloved shows like Schitt’s Creek (Patrick & David), and even for that matter, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, which applies some of the most mainstream romance tropes to a queer story, with a mainstream actor playing the lead.

Muskaan is bisexual but not overtly out about it. She’s an artist working in an ad agency, who loves manga and anime, and is mostly an introvert. We get some well-placed fourth wall breaking that tells us more about what she is thinking, particularly about the new entry in her office, Tarasha, who she is instantly smitten with. And Tarasha is your quintessential extrovert; she exudes confidence, speaks up for what she wants, and is the first to strike a friendship with Muskaan. How these opposites attract and how their feelings, past and present, play into it, is what this story is all about.

Stories, sometimes, grow on you in hindsight. And the more I discovered the thought and details that went into these characters, their looks, and the visual storytelling, the more I fell in love with it! Both actors, Saba and Sanjeeta, were naturals and their chemistry felt so organic. And it took one interview with them to find out that I had the right idea—both of them are pretty much like their characters! A huge shoutout to director Danish Aslam and writer Sulagna Chatterjee for a sweet, simple story that normalises queer love, and for the production teams for this vibrant, colourful and popping look of this story!

Also Read: Feels Like Ishq: Danish Aslam, Saba Azad, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya On Normalising Queer Love Stories

Interview

Director: Sachin Kundalkar

Writer: Arati Raval

Cast: Zayn Marie Khan, Neeraj Madhav

It would be really hard for me to pick favourites at this point, but you know what? I am going to go ahead and say it. Interview, by Sachin Kundalkar and Arati Raval is I think my favourite. And major credit for this goes to Zayn Khan and Neeraj Madhav’s beautiful, heartwarming dynamic that just made me smile throughout! Now Neeraj is someone I liked in The Family Man; he brought this vulnerability to his character even as a terrorist in the show. Now imagine him amping that up as a nice, genuine guy and you can imagine the allure!

But it was Zayn who stole my heart, and is hands down, my favourite character in the entire anthology, which is high honour because everyone is so easily loveable here, you know? She is this strong woman who has been through a lot, and still finds a way to see the good in people, while doing good herself. Her Shahana Shaikh meets Rajiv while they’re waiting in queue for an interview at an electronics store, and instantly they have this connection, where she is the confident teacher who loves an audience, and Rajiv, the eager student. They play pretend, they exchange life stories, teach languages to each other, and when the moment comes, we see just how much Rajiv has grown in that one meeting! I think it speaks so much of the transformative power of connections with strangers, which isn’t exactly love, but still so potent.

I loved every minute of this story that balanced bittersweet, but it is the ending that was the sweetest thing! So many possibilities, so much hope!

 

Ishq Mastana

Director: Jaydeep Sarkar

Writer: Shubhra Chatterji, Jaydeep Sarkar

Cast: Tanya Maniktala, Skand Thakur

It’s time to talk about music again, folks. Because the heart of Ishq Mastana, and what plays a huge role in the beginnings of Mehr and Kabir’s romance is poetry and music. The story is set in the backdrop of citizen activism that has been a huge reality of the youth of our country, especially in these past couple of years. Mehr is supposed to Kabir’s rebound fling. But things get too intense for his taste when she asks him to meet her at an environmental protest that gets crashed by cops, who arrest them all. Initially aloof, Kabir finds himself understanding what is it and why is it that those who protest, do so. And at the same time, Mehr and her friends move past their self-righteousness to discover a Kabir, that like his namesake poet, might have a rebel in him after all.

I like this unique premise, because it is quite reflective of many a bonds that have formed between those people united by a common cause. Skand Thakur as the privileged Kabir puts up an extremely convincing act, and I can say that because I’ve met so many Kabirs along the way who are trying to figure out their role in all of this. And Tanya Maniktala’s Mehr is someone I could relate to, because I do believe in fighting for a cause and also judge a lot of men I meet by their belief systems.

The soul of this story for me (and it’s something that I’ve managed to tell the director whose idea it was) is the beautiful adaptation of Sant Kabir’s ‘Haman Hai Ishq’, composed by Ashutosh Phatak, with vocals by Gaia Meera.

Verdict: Feels Like Ishq injects the right dose of feels, warmth and mush!

Feels Like Ishq is a series that’ll make you smile throughout as you watch it. It’s easy breezy, there’s no character that might turn you off , and what’s most important is that neither the stories nor the actors seem like they’re trying too hard which might threaten ruining the ride for you. The stories are all refreshing, look, feel and sound great, and will have something for you whether you are single or otherwise attached!

It’s a perfect binge for a monsoon weekend, and as one of the actors mentioned to me during the interview, might just bring you February 14 feels in July! I say, open your heart up and enjoy it. It feels like… pretty great.

Feels Like Ishq is currently streaming on Netflix.

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