Unpaused cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Saiyami Kher, Richa Chadha, Sumeet Vyas, Ishwak Singh, Lillete Dubey, Rinku Rajguru, Abhishek Banerjee, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shardul Bhardwaj
Unpaused directors: Raj and DK, Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Avinash Arun, Nitya Mehra
Unpaused rating: Two stars
For the past several months, streaming platforms have been awash with post-Covid material dealing with lockdown-related themes of isolation, loneliness, resilience. In its five-part anthology, Unpaused mixes all of the above with news that has made headlines in this terrible virus-laden year, with average results.
Richa Chadha and Sumeet Vyas play a couple riven by Me-Too allegations, the fact of their being part of a publishing house feels like it has been ‘inspired by’ real-life characters in similar situations. She blames him for taking advantage of young women half his age; he turns around and tasks her for not ‘stopping him’. The entitled, gaslighting male is stock; Chadha’s grappling with her own guilt is the interesting aspect of this piece.
What if this virus is here to stay? The characters played by Gulshan Devaiah and Saiyami Kher look futuristic in the way they create a ‘bubble date’ in a bar/lounge. Or in the way he, a ‘hypo’, refuses to leave his apartment, or she, a ‘warrior’ is at work in a lab, talking about heroes who don’t ‘wear a cape but a PPE’. Fear of infection is all around, but the longing for companionship is stronger.
A rat drives a young girl (Rajguru) out of her apartment. An acerbic elderly lady (Dubey) starts out growling, ends up smiling: this one is the least engaging of the lot. Another segment uses another acerbic elderly lady (Shah) being drawn to a younger human, an auto-rickshaw driver (Bhardwaj), who happens to be poles apart, class and religion-wise. And a migrant couple (Banerjee and Ohlyan) get stuck in the city, with nowhere to go.
I liked the last two the most. Though the story of a woman who lives in a posh flat and a roza-breaking Muslim auto-driver has a predictable arc, starting off with irritation and ending with affection, both Shah and Bhardwaj (so good in Prateek Vats’ Eeb Allay Ooo, out today in theatres), make us watch. As do the migrant couple hiding out in the city, in a luxury apartment kitted out with jacuzzis and modular kitchens: when you cannot switch on fancy gas stoves, you light fires on the floor, which also doubles up as your bed. How will these two get used to their lives in the village, which lies at the end of a long walk home?
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