Starring Mahesh Manjrekar, Deepti Naval, Sharman Joshi, Gul Panag, Taaruk Raina, Natasha Bhardwaj

Created & Conceptualized by Siddharth P Malhotra, Shaad Ali

Directed by Shaad Ali and Ajay Bhuyan

Rating: ***(3 stars)

When two creative minds like Siddharth Malhotra and Shaad Ali set their hearts on exploring the dynamics of the man-woman relationship through the prism of contemporary perceptions, there is bound to be something interesting brewing in the backyard.

Sure enough, Pawan & Pooja throws forward quite a bit of warmth and sunshine even as its take on gender relations tends to lean too heavily on coincidences and obvious props. Also, some of the situations whipped up in the ebullient series is not entirely convincing. However, given the flights of fancy allowed to the tradition rom-rom, this extended version of the genre is not without its merits.

Mahesh Manjrekar and Deepti Naval as a 60-plus couple are my favourite Pawan and Pooja. The two co-actors play out well against one another inducing just the right amounts of nostalgia and warmth into their relationship. The only time I stared at them in disbelief is when Deepti’s Pooja ticks off ‘pick-pocketing’ on her bucket list because way back in 1974 she fell in love with a film called Haath Ki Safai. What follows is a bit of a stretch, but nonetheless cute. And the actor who plays the professional pickpocket guiding Deepti through her fantasy deserves an award.

Sharman Joshi and Gul Panag, both fine actors, made me cringe for all the right reasons. You see, their marriage has run out of spark because…well, he can’t get it up anymore and she just can’t stop taunting him about his drooping destiny in a voice loud enough for their son, house help and neighbours to hear.

“I have asked her to cook the small banana. Since that seems to be your favourite vegetable these days,” Gul adlibs poker-faced. There is a ‘penis’ joke in a lift which errr…does little to lift Sharman’s limp fortunes.

The Sharman-Gul story plays out as a mildly engaging s*x comedy. Curiously the story of the youngest couple, played with considerable cockiness and charm by Taaruk Raina and Natasha Bhardwaj, set in the self-seeking, predatory world of the social media and its constant hunger for sensationalism, plays out with an undertone of sadness, thanks to the two actors, especially Raina who captures the attention-getting anxieties of a smalltowner with conviction.

All three couples have sufficient meat in the plot to chew on, and they make the best of it. The series maintains an emotional equilibrium, never going overboard in its quest of eyeballs. Three pairs of actors take care of the rest.