The second season of Permanent Roommates is now four episodes old (episode 3, on the big wedding, was in two parts). Three things that stand out about this season so far: the casting, the writing and the episode spoofing the big Indian wedding.
Permanent Roommates, a situational comedy by online digital entertainment company The Viral Fever, is about Mikesh Chaudhary (Sumeet Vyas) and Tanya Nagpal (Nidhi Singh), who were in a long-distance relationship for three years before Mikesh returned to India from the US and proposed marriage to Tanya. The first season saw both having doubts about marriage, the two moving in together and a break-up and a quick patch-up. It ended with Tanya proposing marriage to Mikesh at a registrar’s office. Launched in October 2014, the show became massively popular—the first episode of Season 1 has been viewed around 3.5 million times on YouTube; the other four are also in the 2-4 million views range.
Cut to Season 2, which premiered on Valentine’s Day this year on TVF’s free app, TVFPlay. Mikesh’s parents (played by Sheeba Chaddha and Darshan Jariwala) and grandfather (played by Asrani) come to visit.
If viewers thought Mikesh was a tad weird in Season 1, he now begins to seem reasonable in comparison to his folks. Both Asrani and Jariwala have great comic timing. As Mikesh’s father, Mohanlal, Jariwala brilliantly caricatures grown-ups who try to remain children at heart. He races up the stairs, says whatever comes into his head and utters bizarre compliments. Jariwala has essayed the role of the kooky uncle earlier, in movies such as What’s Your Raashee?
The writing, by TVF creative director Biswapati Sarkar, is crisp. If anything, the punchlines are punchier than in Season 1. The characterization is sharp. Season director Deepak Kumar Mishra’s role as Purushottam—the well-meaning, interfering and often irritating literalist—is reprised. He was the broker who helped Tanya and Mikesh get a flat on Commonfloor.com in the previous season and returns now as the driver of an Ola cab, the sponsors of the current season.
The series is filled with memorable dialogue, such as Mikesh’s “mardangi ka naya software” spiel. Sweet, if slightly slow, Mikesh is a great boyfriend to Tanya. As such, he is qualified to give her widowed father, Brijmohan (Shishir Sharma), relationship advice when he confesses to having a sweetheart who is afraid of what people might say about them falling in love at their age. A new-age man, Mikesh tells his father-in-law to cry “like a bitch” if he feels like it to resolve a lover’s spat. In a later episode, he tells an old friend that men hug each other now.
The two-part wedding episode has been the highlight so far. Tanya tells off the wedding planner, who is insisting Tanya spend more on the wedding than she wants to. In a memorable scene, the wedding planner draws the blinds and delivers a monologue on how the wedding is about everything but the bride. “You dare to think that this is your special day? It’s not about you. It’s about the chandeliers and the decorations. It’s about the malai kofta and the butter chicken. It’s about your jewellery and his turban. It’s about the colour of the envelope in which your wedding card was sent. It’s about everything except you. Because no one cares about you,” she says.
It comes close to the reality of the pressure on young people to have a big Indian (read Bollywood-y) wedding. But that’s why Permanent Roommates appeals to a young audience: It echoes how they think and feel.
The wedding planner scene is carefully crafted. The physical distance between the planner and Tanya and the dimming of the light are indicators of the power dynamics in the room. The tension is palpable and Tanya is swayed. But only momentarily, till she returns to her original position of not wanting a big wedding and retorts with an unsubtle, and therefore jarring, line in the script: “This is not my cup of tea,” she tells the wedding planner, literally handing her back her cup of tea.