Biweekly Binge: A show about the little things in life
A fortnightly column on what’s good – old and new - in the vast ocean of content in the streaming platforms around you
The web series and direct-to-streaming content in India has some way to go. It has both technical and financial challenges, but this column will prioritise the former. Baring big productions like Sacred Games and Ghoul, the technical and visual mastery has been found lacking but content of varying quality seems to be on endless supply. And more often than not, the writing is more rewarding than the cinematic capabilities when it comes to these shows. Little Things is one such show that had its first season on YouTube, and after stupendous success, has moved home to Netflix for the sophomore season. It is still about the live-in couple - Dhruv and Kavya - played by Dhruv Sehgal, who has writing credits for all the episodes, and Mithila Palkar, respectively, their everyday lives chronicled in a series of eight episodes. It is so focused on the domestic, daily drudgery that it is literally about what it calls itself - the little things.
The little things we tend to do or indulge in subconsciously, the things we may not stop and think about. Everything from how we make small talk in a party to how we react when an Uber driver is unable to find our location. Or which restaurant to go to and how to sidestep awkward moments while playing city guide to our partner's mom. Dhruv Sehgal documents such minutiae of the modern, urban relationship. Dhruv and Kavya are a live-in couple and season 2 is more about their mundane daily life. It stoically refuses to make any grand pronouncements about the absence of marriage or any societal pressure that comes with such a set-up. The makers treat Dhruv and Kavya like any other couple of their age battling the vagaries arising from living together -- work-life balance, mutating friendships, competitive mindsets and different levels of orientation towards career. The episodes therefore work like an anthology series instead of one long story thread through a season.
Each episode works like a day in the life of Dhruv and Kavya, all of them directed by Ruchir Arun. The first few deal with the couple's interactions with the outside world and the questions that those exchanges throw at our protagonists are very current. A long-forgotten school friend of Dhruv comes on a flying visit from Delhi and Dhruv discovers how far apart they've grown -- as individuals, as politically and socially aware beings. It's a quintessential post-truth world of wokeness coming in the way of family and friendships. To its credit, Little Things takes a more empathetic viewpoint, never crossing over to the judgmental territory. Dhruv's friend comes across as a classic homophobic but Dhruv, on Kavya's advice, chooses to see through his friend's trip and worry about these potential deal breakers later. That is another remarkable aspect of the writing here. Kavya is the sure-footed, career-oriented and more assertive person who has clear opinions with the ability to convey them just as well. Dhruv is still unsure about his career, and while that is not shown as a limitation, it does briefly harm his relationship with Kavya. He is also the more capricious of the two, unable to communicate as effectively and as often as he is needed to.
Little Things is unabashedly urban and self-aware that it is detailing the lives of extremely privileged people, both socially and economically. One even wonders where in Mumbai do you get an apartment like that and how Dhruv's still-on-the-runway career, loans and all, makes any meaningful contribution to the lion's share that is Kavya's. In one of the episodes, a character casually throws a comment and says, "Wow, what a privileged-sounding statement to make!" The series doesn't make excuses for it and that's probably its most honest trait.
Sehgal constructs a neat trajectory as we learn about the couple via their interaction with others around them -- their friends, colleagues, a parent -- and slowly move inwards towards a discord between them. The first four episodes track Dhruv and Kavya with different people in different settings and only occasionally together, and the last four episodes become more domestic in nature with them spending full episode lengths only with each other and sometimes in the same space, when Kavya is down with fever or when they are both attending a friend's wedding. We see a stressed Kavya shouting down at her colleagues and coming home to Dhruv. We see Dhruv trying to think about quick bucks--he has loans to repay, another grind this generation is cursed with--and an innocuous morning exchange with Kavya giving him more clarity to abort that decision.
Little Things can be obdurate in its vision, it makes you wonder if when we move past this generation and its heirlooms, will it hold any value? If we see it years from now, will there be a connect as familiar as is present today? A lot of locally-produced web series are not built to answer this question. They intensely focus on the present--partly down to them training their lens only on a particular section of the society--and Little Things is no different. But one suspects that despite the tools and artefacts it holds on to, Little Things will age well because at its centre is a relationship story between two people who understand their strengths and weaknesses, and are mature--at times it feels like they are too mature for their age--enough to wade through every wart. Palkar and Sehgal have grown through the show to manifest an easy chemistry. Between clicking food pictures for Instagram and Kavya berating Dhruv for stalking a girl on social media, they bring alive a comfort that is all too real and familiar. A lot of Little Things happens within the confines of home and for a particular generation of Indians, it might also feel like one.
Little Things 2 is streaming on Netflix.