ZEE5’s latest original is an anthology titled Forbidden Love comprising four edgy and one-of-a-kind love stories helmed by four National Award-winning directors that include Pradeep Sarkar, Priyadarshan, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Mahesh Manjrekar.
Of the four, Arranged Marriage (starring Patralekha, Ali Fazal and Omkar Kapoor) and Anamika (starring Pooja Kumar, Aditya Seal and Harsh Chhaya) release today.
Rules of the Game (starring Aahana Kumra, Chandan Roy Sanyal, and Anindita Bose) and Diagnosis of Love (starring Raima Sen, Mahesh Manjrekar, Rannvijay Singh, and Vaibhav Tatwawaadi) drop on 24 Sep. Each film deals with a dark, twisted form of love which is what makes it forbidden.
Read on to know what we thought of Arranged Marriage and Anamika.
Directed by Pradeep Sarkar, Arranged Marriage is set in Kolkata and centres around Dev (Ali Fazal), Neel (Omkar Kapoor) and Keya (Patralekha) whose lives are intertwined. Dev and Neel are a couple, but Neel is unable to come out to his parents who are after him to get married.
In a bid to pacify them, Neel gets married to Keya, who in turn is Dev’s cousin. It’s at this point that the tension in the narrative escalates as Neel is compelled to balance his dual life between his lover who he’s still seeing and his wife. Soon enough, Keya senses something amiss when her husband keeps avoiding her till she finds out the the real reason. This is where the film takes a bizarre turn before ending on a rather unexpected note. We’re not giving you any spoilers.
"As much as the film explores the complexities of queer love, it also takes a hard look at the concept of arranged marriage through the lens of superstitions and age-old beliefs."
At about 40 minutes long, Arranged Marriage manages to entertain, impress and also raise pertinent questions. Much of the credit for this goes to Sarkar who has a firm control over the proceedings. The film beautifully manages to capture the sights and sounds of Kolkata, which is almost like another character in the film.
Sarkar extracts great performances from his leads too. Of the actors, Fazal’s role is the most fleshed out. Dev is a man hopelessly in love, but is still grappling with demons from his past and the actor beautifully does justice to his part. As Keya, a woman caught in a loveless marriage and who wants to make it work at any cost, Patralekha is wonderfully restrained. Omkar Kapoor does a good job of bringing out the conflicts of Neel who’s torn between forbidden love and societal tradition.
In Anamika, directed by Priyadarshan, Pooja Kumar plays the title role. Anamika, as we see, leads a rather boring and mundane life in Pondicherry. Her everyday routine is cut out. She cooks and packs tiffin for her husband (Harsh Chhaya) even as he barely acknowledges her presence, tends to her old and ailing father-in-law and works at the billing counter of a cafe.
Things get exciting for her after a chance encounter with a regular customer at the cafe she’s employed with. Ishan, played by Aditya Seal, is everything her husband isn’t. He loves her for who she is, respects her and most importantly, makes her feel worthy. As they start spending more and more time with each other, she begins to rediscover her identity that had somewhere got lost along the way.
Ishan’s a student and is younger to Anamika. She’s a married woman. They know their relationship is forbidden and are even unsure about its future, but nothing seems to really matter. All that matters to them is that they love each other.
"The unfolding of Ishan and Anamika’s relationship gives the film its best moments. It has a little bit of everything - love, sensuality, rage, uncertainty."
You’re rooting for them throughout because you want their story to end with ‘happily ever after’, and that’s where the success of the film lies. You feel for the characters and their emotions. As for what happens to their love story, we leave that for you to watch and find out, but the film’s ending will surely catch you off-guard. We hadn’t seen that coming.
Stories about extra-marital affairs can be tricky, but Priyadarshan has handled the subject with a lot of sensitivity. Both Pooja Kumar and Aditya Seal have great on-screen chemistry. They are a pleasure to watch and successfully bring out the many shades of their relationship. We’d have loved to see more of Harsh Chhaya though. Anamika too has a duration of nearly 40 minutes.
Along with taking you into the world of dark and complicated love stories, Forbidden Love is also a great example of skillful storytelling, deft direction and winning performances!
This one’s totally recommended. We give it 4/5 stars.
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