Whoever said Ekta Kapoor shows are only about saas-bahu dramas couldn’t have been more off the mark. For, nobody does romance better than the undisputed Czarina of sought-after content. Her romance shows, both on TV as well as in the digital realm, have consistently captured collective imaginations, whipping up a frenzy of feelings in viewers. Romance, in the able hands of Ekta Kapoor, is portrayed how it should be – dreamy, old school, passionate – complete with softly stolen glances and unspoken words that convey a gazillion ardent emotions of love, passion and completeness.
Baarish, the latest web series from the stables of Alt Balaji, is a dreamily romantic show of the aforementioned ilk. And it bears the unmistakable stamp of an Ekta Kapoor production – lavish sets, larger-than-life lifestyles, mesmerizing music, a luminescent leading lady and a loveable leading man. Yes, when it comes to romance, Ekta Kapoor sure knows how to bring out the bells and whistles.
The 20-episode series has been produced by erstwhile actress-turned-producer, Bhairavi Raichura and Nandita Mehra, for Alt Balaji, while Nandita Mehra has also directed the series.
At the outset, let us tell you that Baarish is quite distinctly a reprise of Ekta Kapoor’s runaway Sony TV hit, Bade AchheLagteHain, which was headlined by perennial Ekta Kapoor favourites, Ram Kapoor and SakshiTanwar. Let us also tell you that when we realized this fact within the first few episodes of watching Baarish, we were passed off beyond measure – how dare the Balaji guys simply repackage an old story in a different wrapping and present it to their gullible audiences as brand new?
We even had half a mind to stop watching further, that’s how indignant we were.But, for the sake of writing this review, we persisted; and we’re glad we did. Not because the story takes a drastic twist and goes into uncharted waters – nope, that’s not the case. But because, as it progresses, the series grows on you so subtly and surely, that before you know it – wham – you’ve fallen for Anuj Mehta and GauraviKarmarkar’s love story, hook, line and sinker.
We also soon realize the shrewdness of the makers in reprising a tried and tested successful story for online viewers – most online audiences are gen-next viewers or viewers of the variety that are not your regular TV watchers. Baarish, for such viewers, is obviously a novel offering. That being the content strategy, the story has been kept quite close to the original Sony show – why fiddle with something that is a proven success?
The first episode shows Gauravi (Asha Negi) being led to jail for an undisclosed crime. The narrative then goes into flashback mode, as Gauravi narrates her story to her defence lawyer, describing the events that led to her incarceration.
At its heart, Baarish is the heart-touching tale of the unconditional, unreserved love that blooms between middle-class Marathi mulgi, Gauravi, and uber-rich Gujarati diamond merchant, Anuj Mehta (Sharman Joshi), owner of Mehta Diamonds. The whimsical Mumbai rains play cupid in bringing the two together, hence the name of the show.
However, the markedly diverse financial and social backgrounds of our protagonists play spoil-sport in their love story, expedited by Anuj’s snob of a younger brother, Rishi (SahilShroff).
Anuj is a simple, naïve man, for whom family is above everything else. He dotes on his mom (Leena Prabhu), and siblings, Rishi and Shreya (Pooja Banerjee). Having left his studies midway at a young age to build Mehta Diamonds after his father’s death, he suffers from a huge chip on the shoulder due to his lack of education and inability to speak English. As a result, he shies away from marriage and is single even at the age of 37.
Gauravi, on the other hand, is an educated, self-respecting, independent girl, who has a prerequisite for marriage – she will give her earnings to her parents even after marriage. She has trouble finding a groom for herself because every prospective groom vamooses upon hearing her precondition.
As fate would have it, Gauravi and Anuj come together in a marriage of convenience, so that their marriage can pave the way for Shreya’s marriage to Gauravi’s younger brother, Aniket (Vikram Chauhan). How the differences between Gauravi and Anuj culminate into an epic love story forms the crux of the emotional oeuvre.
Sharman Joshi is magnificent in the role of Anuj Mehta. He is simplicity personified and absolutely adorable as the guy with a heart of gold. His gently smiling demeanor and soulful eyes breathe life into his character of a rich yet unassuming family man. His is acting that is measured and effortless. Asha Negi, on the other hand, makes for a radiant Gauravi. She shines with an ethereal beauty, while her eyes speak for her when words fall short to convey her emotions. Together, the two steal every scene they feature in.
SahilShroff pulls off the character of a mean, snooty and immoral rich guy with aplomb. He lends credence to a role that could very well have denigrated into a typical, farcical TV-ish bad guy. Pooja Banerjee is also perfectly cast as the spoilt rich girl who will have everything her way. The pouty, petulant persona she dons conveys more than mere words could have. Vikram Chauhan props up the character of Aniket with his strikingly deep voice and admirable skilfulness. He does need to work on his diction, though. Leena Prabhu makes a striking mom to the Mehta siblings. She exudes class and compassion in equal measures.
One of the things we loved about Baarish was its music. The series is studded with silvery songs that are melodious, affecting and eminently hummable. They lend atmospheric heft to the narrative, particularlyBaarishein and Preetabsachihorahi. The production values of the show are top-notch. Every frame of Baarish looks pretty as a picture, with nary a discordant note to mar the mesmerizing beauty of the settings. Anuj’s home, especially, is stunningly beautiful and the stuff dreams are made of.
Another thing we loved in Baarish was, well, the ‘baarish’. The Mumbai monsoon plays a spectacular role in the series; it is almost an entity in itself. The rains lend character and a certain intense essence to the proceedings, too elusive to put into words. It is certainly the best use of rains in a show until now.
What we didn’t like about Baarishwas this – Baarish follows the established norm of the Indian content ecosystem where the leading man and leading lady are always the embodiment of goodness. That is also the case with Gauravi and Anuj. They are both so good that they can do no wrong, even if their life depended on it. The only thing missing is a halo over their head as proof of their virtuousness.
It’s about time Indian content creators realized that people are never wholly black or wholly white. Pristine-white, purity-drenched characters don’t exist in real life. Neither do black-as-night, evil-personified ones. Show us some real people, for heaven’s sake. Grey is what human beings are, and in the modern era, showing their protagonists resplendently grey in its myriad hues is what writers must aim for.
Nevertheless, Baarish is a beautiful show, made with passion and fervour. It is like that favourite easy-chair you sink into at the end of a particularly frazzled day, which melts away your fatigue in its warm solace. It is the blissfully cool relief of the first monsoon showers after the heat of the sweltering Indian summer.
It is old wine in a new bottle, yes, but potently intoxicating and addictive. It is wine that must be sipped slowly and swirled around the tongue to savour its full-bodied richness, not swallowed greedily.
Watch Baarish for its enchanting, old-worldly romance. We bet you won’t be disappointed.
3/5 is our rating for Baarish.