Netflix’s Eternally Confused and Eager for Love did leave me confused for a number of reasons, as I saw potential that was never realized.
The production follows Ray (Vihaan Samat) as he navigates through his single-life looking for the perfect life companion with the help of his super-hero, “inner voice” buddy Wiz (Jim Sarbh). To get to the point: a guy who’s needs aren’t being met, trying to over-think his way through it all.
This 8-episode, 3 hours and a bit, binger written and directed by Rahul Nair tries to paint the picture of a well-to-do middle class family, with a nerdy awkward son who just doesn’t seem to understand the social context of talking to a girl, let alone trying to get a date. This is wonderfully fueled by the voice in his head that seems to drive each and every decision Ray makes.
Lets get the bad stuff out of the way first: This show is purely time pass, as we South Asian’s put it. You are simply going to kill 3 and a bit hours cracking at few jokes, cringe at some truly awkward moments, and feel a lot of confusion on what the hell is happening at various times. There are moments where the writing works well with the direction, and then there are moments where the lack of continuity of the story paired with predictability and awkwardness on screen just kills the experience. I guess it does live up to the “eternally confused” part of the project. You’ll either have fun or cringe watching Ray completely sabotage his life with every interaction he makes, the latter killing the viewing experience.
What I liked though was the potential the series had (or could still have).
During various scenes, you could see characters trying to challenge their perception of love vs feeling love. There is also a sense that the characters grapple with needs vs wants, fueled by external pressures (friends, family, etc) and what the world is putting out there (media, content, etc). There was a part where the characters challenge the roles of men vs women, and the social issues that women are faced with in India.
Before you think Im trying to find some philosophical takeaway, let me stop you there. This project is very much a young man overthinking and making stupid decisions, and is intended to make you laugh and/or cringe. That is a given.
However, I can’t help but feel that this obscenity-filled comedy could have had more solid substance. And I don’t mean in the “oh man, story of my life” kind of way, but like “damn, that was good”. Many short-episode-run comedies have achieved this within their own story and context. Brooklyn Nine-Nine being one of my favourite. There were so many opportunities for solid conversation that would have be profound for an Indian-culture based production. Comedy could have been a wonderful driver for that discussion.
The cast of the show are polished performers, especially when you include names like Suchitra Pillai and Rahul Bose. There are moments of brilliance in the show, which I felt were undercut by the issues I had of continuity and context. Their talents, as a result, I felt are under utilized in this production.
Jim Sarbh as Wiz, the voice inside Ray’s head, captures the eternal struggle in a dramatic and eccentric way. The voice inside Ray’s head and his interaction with this voice is a great stylistic element to this production, and the back and forth between the two brings out a somewhat exciting and quirky character journey for us viewers to follow. What I would have liked is if this interaction brought about character development, rather than an attached-at-your-hip friends with a megaphone.
What this production really lacks is depth, both in character interactions and overarching narrative. There are moments where seriousness could have been really explored to help the characters truly define themselves, while still celebrating the comedy that this project is.
I feel the struggles that Ray is experiencing could have been highlighted more by giving the comedy a break. There were brilliant moments of this with Ray’s interactions at the hospital, with his parents, and even his love interests. They just weren’t explored enough to give the characters some positive qualities. What you got instead is 8-episodes of a character just messing up. If these episodes were 40 minutes long, I don’t think you’d get past the first two episodes.
This show concludes in a way the leaves the door open for more to be explored. I hope Rahul Nair and the entire creative team are given a Season 2, and hopefully use that as an opportunity to really let the characters shine and work on the narrative.
I feel there is a shift in Indian and Indian-context cinema/television. The stories and narratives we are accustomed to through Bollywood are being challenged with independent productions, and challenging the status quo is always a difficult journey.