Like a toned down Big Mouth targetted at your SoBo besties, Netflix’s Eternally Confused and Eager for Love is raunchy in all the right spots, but with a beating heart at its centre. The eight-episode sitcom isn’t without its problems—there is an undeniable sense of ‘and why should I care?’ happening here—but it’s a breeze to watch, has a true MVP voice performance by Jim Sarbh, and just enough pathos for even the most cynical of us to relate.
Tonally, it’s like an American high school comedy, but it features a cast of characters entirely in their mid-20s, because… India? It’s true that we, as a culture, take longer to evolve, but watching a bunch of 20-somethings who should be going through a quarter-life-crisis deal with teenage problems is a little odd. The characters in Eternally Confused—led by the trust fund baby Ray—are all gainfully employed and relatively independent, but they certainly seem to talk about school a lot.
But props to series creator Rahul Nair for not making his protagonist an easy person to root for. For one thing, he’s disgustingly privileged. He was sent to study abroad by his visibly affluent parents (Suchitra Pillai and Rahul Bose, who sports a Hitler hairstyle and a WhatsApp uncle attitude). Ray’s folks also arranged for him to get a job, and appear to be holding his hand through avenues of life that he should ideally be walking down solo. This would’ve been a bigger problem had the show been about Ray’s attempts at professional success, or if the writing never acknowledged the silver spoon in his mouth, but it does. Instead, the show trains its focus on the problems in Ray’s life that money can’t solve.
He’s 24, single, and sexually frustrated. While this might sound like one of the losers that Vikrant Massey plays in those godawful Netflix movies, Ray is the antithesis to the kind of male protagonists that Bollywood usually forces down our throats. Plus, Rishu from Haseen Dillruba and Sunny from Ginny Weds Sunny didn’t have the voice of Jim Sarbh guiding them through life’s trickiest corners. For instance, when someone tells Ray, “It’s so nice to finally meet you,” he replies in genuine surprise, “Really?” Sunny would’ve taken this as an invitation to stalk them. How refreshing it is to see someone so utterly unsure of themselves. That’s most of us, isn’t it?
There’s also a humorously ironic self-aware gag about Ray being so befuddled by heteronormative stereotypes (and the pressure to live up to them) that he has devised a strategy to make women feel safe at night. His game plan: whenever he spots a woman walking down the street all by herself at night, he makes sure to overtake her quickly, so that she doesn’t stress out about being followed by a stranger. This backfires on him later, of course.
Fortunately for Ray, he has his childhood best friend Riya to call him out on his BS. Played by Dalai, Riya is a radiant supporting presence, despite her limited screen time. I’d love to see her fleshed out more in future seasons, if there are any (there should be). Netflix India has wasted enough time producing shows such as Bard of Blood, Betaal, and Aranyak, when it’s so clear that it should instead be focussing on smaller-scale titles such as Jamtara, Bombay Begums, the recent Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein, and this.
A big reason why it succeeds—and yes, that Tiger Baby art direction is as spectacular as ever—is Sarbh’s voice performance as Ray’s imaginary best friend, a wizard named Wiz (as in, Khalifa). I wonder if they ever considered having him on screen, like the Hitler character in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit (apologies for mentioning the Fuhrer twice in one review, by the way). Every line reading is excellent, and goes a long way in crafting a rounded impression of someone we never see—even the Hormone Monsters from Big Mouth, although imaginary, are given a visual identity. But Sarbh had only his voice to rely on.
Sure, it often sounds like he is on the verge of seamlessly slipping into a reading of a Cred commercial, but then he knocks out throwaway gems like, “Cuckold? Is that a bird thing?” There’s also a deep-cut Osho reference that destroyed me.
But there are also moments of genuine feeling, and not just between Ray and Wiz. A tense scene in an auto rickshaw, in which Ray and Riya discuss something that I probably shouldn’t reveal here, hits a tad too close to home. It’s one of the many examples of how Nair makes sure to punctuate broad sitcom comedy with real character moments. Unlike Ray, the show knows exactly what it is.
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love
Creator – Rahul Nair
Cast – Vihaan Samat, Rahul Bose, Suchitra Pillai, Dalai, Ankur Rathee, Jim Sarbh
Rating – 4/5