“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”
Woman – who is she? Is she the gentle nurturer of the human race? Is she a seething cauldron of simmering emotions, ready to overflow? Or is she an indecipherable labyrinth of undiscovered feelings?
Well, she’s all this and more. She’s every woman you and I know. She’s the spunky female who discovers the passion that drives her, in this quote by Mark Anthony. She is Mira Verma, the protagonist of the just-released Voot Original, It’s Not That Simple 2.
It suffices to say that Mira Verma is one of the strongest female protagonists ever to grace an Indian show. In the sea of fragile, wimpy, placid women that populate Indian television and web shows, Mira Verma stands out like a glittering beacon of rebellion against the tide.
Come to think of it, It’s Not That Simple is also not your everyday, garden variety web series, crawling out of the woodwork from every nook and cranny of digital-land. It is infinitely different – in its story, its treatment, and its characterization. It is an intelligent show – it compels you to think; and it stays with for a long, long time after you’ve finished watching it.
It is a woman-centric show, focusing on the travails of a woman, nay, on the travails of women (yes, that’s woman in the plural), in a misogynist, patriarchal society. On its surface, it is the story of Mira (Swara Bhasker, sparkling in a role that is tailor-made for her fiery personality), as she learns to take charge of her life without the pseudo-crutch of a man in the background. Simple enough.
But scratch just beneath, and you uncover a mass of issues that are a common occurrence in our male-dominated society – issues that raise a stink worse than rotten eggs, but are brushed under the carpet with impudent regularity, notwithstanding their stinky status.
We’ll come to that later. First, the story –
Season 2 of It’s Not That Simple picks up from where it left off in season 1. Mira is on the verge of divorce from Jayesh (Karan Veer Mehra), her husband of eleven years. Having separated from him over a year ago (at the end of Season 1), she revels in her single status, happily bringing up her ten-year old daughter, Jhilmil, in Mumbai. She is also a housewife-turned-entrepreneur, running a fledgling architectural firm called Take 2, with her bestie-cum-business partner, Natasha (Manasi Rachh).
Trouble brews in her paradise when she gets acquainted with Dev Kashyap (Sumeet Vyas), the CEO of Cornerstone, a well-known architectural firm. Dev is suave, sophisticated and….predatory. He takes a liking to Mira and manipulates her like putty, to ultimately have her where he wants her- in his bed. His machinations include merging Take 2 with Cornerstone, lock, stock and barrel (that includes all of Mira’s painstakingly created designs of the last eleven years), handing her a 30% partnership in the new entity. He considers himself God’s gift to (single, sex-starved) womankind, while Mira falls for his scheming manipulations like a ton of lead.
To say that Mira is a babe in the woods initially, is putting it mildly. She is quite taken by the fancy man and his fancier hard-sell, blissfully giving up the rights to her own designs, and her heart and body too. But then the control freak a**hole in him raises its ugly head. He doesn’t like it when she denies him a quickie in the office. He doesn’t like it even more when she over-rides his suggestions, to assert her own opinions and ideas in the boardroom.
And what does a man do in such a situation? Well, he resorts to the cheapest trick in the book – he throws the meanest sexist remarks at her face in the presence of the entire board – about housewives in the boardroom and sucking up her ego coz she’s really good at sucking anyway….get the drift? He insults her with the sole purpose of undermining her esteem and confidence, so that she capitulates easily.
Mira sees red….yes, the hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned-wala red. She takes on Dev in the only way she knows how – with her architectural talent. Of course, Dev makes a few pathetic attempts at damage control. But that’s like locking the barn door after the horse has fled. How Mira deals with the betrayal of her trust and gets her groove back forms the rest of the story.
Along the way, the writers have introduced various characters into the narrative, to make the telling more lively. There’s Rajeev (Vivan Bhathena), Mira’s childhood buddy, who holds a torch for her; Anika (Neha Chauhan), Rajeev’s fiancé and Natasha’s lover (duh, Anika swings both ways!); Jassi (Rohan Shah), an eighteen year old journalism intern, with raging hormones; and his girl, Tani (Devika Vats), a budding restaurateur; Ajji (Shubha Khote), Tani’s grandmom, who’s brought her up.
And then there is Angad Shergil (Purab Kohli). While the first season of the show had Mira as the sole centrepiece, Angad Shergil steals the limelight in this season, and very adeptly at that. Even though Mira is still the main protagonist this time around, Angad is the pièce de résistance of Season 2. In fact he’s everywhere – in your face and full of attitude! He is blessed with the gift of the gab and a glib tongue. He’s the owner and CEO of Sharp Cut, a media company specialising in breaking news and journalistic daredevilry. He’s a Fulbright scholar, a Padma awardee, has taken a bullet to the shoulder in Syria. And he’s sexy as hell. In short, Angad Shergil is the complete package. His run-ins with Mira, including a Twitter war, are a riot. Yet, after the initial hostility, he proves to be Mira’s knight in shining armour. Sigh! How we wish we had an Angad Shergil in our lives too (Yes, yours truly is a member of the fairer sex; so it figures, doesn’t it?).
All the actors have given outstanding performances. Vivan Bhatena is a revelation. His expression, when he finds out that Anika is bisexual, is to die for. Sumeet Vyas is brilliant as the manipulative egomaniac, beset with self-laudatory grandiosity. Having always portrayed gentle, positive characters, Dev Kashyap’s character promises to be his tour de force in his journey as an actor. Karan Veer Mehra is comical and adorable, making us laugh with his funny antics. His Jayesh was a complete jerk in the first season, but makes a rapid U-turn in this one. Except for the last episode, that is.
Swara Bhasker is superb as Mira. She’s plucky and kicks ass with panache. She gives a layered, nuanced performance, winning our hearts with her strong, though vulnerable, Mira. But it is Purab Kohli who wins our vote as the stand out performance of this season. He’s simply incomparable –sardonic, sassy, sensitive too – it’s a role and performance that’ll go right up there as one of his best ever.
The narrative is peppered with interesting asides, exploring intriguing facets of multiple relationships – Angad and Tani’s, Rajiv and Mira’s, Rajiv and Anika’s, Anika and Natasha’s, Jayesh and Mira’s, Mira and Dev’s, Mira and Angad’s, Mira and Natasha’s….phew, quite a lot packed into 7 measly episodes!
Full marks to the writers, Charudutt Acharya and Jaya Mishra, for keeping the show crisp and racy, while deftly balancing the multitude of angles. The story of It’s Not That Simple is the star of the show. And the dialogues, the starlight. They sparkle, shine, gleam and glitter in the heady milieu of the story. They are funny, thought-provoking, sensitive and stimulating. The writers even have Tani quoting Kurosawa at one point.
Producers, Vaibhav Modi and Victor Tango Productions, deserve a special mention for listening to their gut instinct and giving the go-ahead to this bold and badass drama. Take a bow, guys!
Danish Aslam’s direction is dazzling. He’s given the series the perfect treatment to keep audience interest sky high all the way through. The narrative flits back and forth between flashbacks and the present day, undulating and unspooling into a captivating montage. Mira consistently breaks the fourth wall throughout the series, rendering the story even more fascinating than it already is. Pretty engaging stuff, if you ask us.
And there’s one more thing….while the main story has Mira grappling with a control freak for a boss, there are a slew of tangents in the narrative that pick up cudgels for a gamut of issues facing womankind today. The series touches upon lesbian love and its acceptability in society, or lack thereof. It rakes up the blatant misogyny and sexism prevalent in society. A woman who doesn’t give in to a man’s sexual overtures is branded a fu*king c*ck-tease. Divorced housewives are deemed desperate for sex and thus, easy meat. When a guy, losing his virginity with a girl (who’s a virgin too) isn’t successful in the act, he very coolly blames the girl for it and tells her to consult a gynac, coz she, in his opinion, has a physical problem.
When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she needs to be shown her place. It’s actually difficult to believe that there are guys out there that can objectify a woman so blatantly. And then when the woman doesn’t succumb to their dominance, their inflated and artificial ego fizzles out like a faulty firecracker and their hopes of running the show go up in smoke.
It’s Not That Simple touches upon all these topics and more. But more importantly, it encourages women to be who they are, unrestrained and unfettered by the chains of patriarchy. It encourages a woman to explore the options available to her. She is answerable to none about the choices that she makes. She can be whatever she chooses to be- a loving wife, a caring mother, a hardened career woman, a tomboy, a sex symbol, an accomplished lover or even a lesbian. She no longer toes the line on the role society has demarcated for her.
She flaunts her sexuality with an in-your-face attitude and is unapologetic about her relationships. She lives life on her own terms. If along the way, a woman finds her soul-mate, a man she is convinced she wants to spend her entire life with, she is not afraid to commit to the sanctity of marriage. But marriage is not the be-all and end-all of her life. She does not hanker after marriage and is quite happy without it.
Phew! All said and done, It’s Not That Simple gets right to the basics and delivers what it promises, devoid of any hallowed psychobabble. It’ll do you a world of good to shun the rubbish shows that abound the net and watch the real deal – this show, dude!
Season 2 ends at a gripping cliff-hanger, and we just can’t wait for Season 3 to make its appearance. It remains to be seen how the next season plays out a future that appears to be firmly ensconced in the ample bosom of resurgent female power.
4/5 is our rating for It’s Not That Simple.
(Written by Rashmi Paharia)