Set in the ‘90s in Bangalore, The ‘Other’ Love Story is supposedly the first Indian web-series on typical landline calls – handwritten letters kind of ‘90s love. The kind of butterflies-inducing mushy first love, except that it is between two women. A crowd-funded project, written and directed by Roopa Rao, the series released in August 2016 with 12 episodes, each around 10-12 minutes long.
While the protagonists Aadya (Spoorthi Gumaste) and Aachal (Shweta Gupta) do belong to relatively privileged middle-class families, what the series successfully does is that it eliminates a lot of elitism which is usually found in generous amounts in contemporary LGBTQ portrayals. It is this void of elitism that makes the series so real.
Also, it eliminates the dependence on western shows for LGBTQ narratives, which are often not as relatable, but the only reference point for a lot of people in the mainstream. It shows how different the struggles and negotiations for Indian lesbian women are for the first time.
For instance, how we have to worry about getting home at a certain time, how telephone calls post 10 pm raise suspicion, how there is an acute lack of privacy, how families dictate our choices and how to negotiate despite these obstacles. While there were a lot of difficulties in the production process of the series, for the fear of association with a project involving the theme of two Indian women in love, the final product has turned out to be something that was much needed.
It is this void of elitism that makes the series so real.
Another thing about this love story is that it just like a mainstream love story, with romance, drama, humour, tears, pining, and intimacy. It doesn’t need to use typical tropes of LGBTQ portrayals of people having to be visibly ‘different’ or life revolving only around their acceptance of any ‘difference’, or of coming out for that matter.
The subtlety of the story and its emphasis on it being the story of the first love between two people, without shoving archetypal lesbian themes at every given opportunity, is a great step towards mainstreaming such stories and making them enjoyable for everyone. And the best part is that it also has a happy ending when the two of them set out on their journey to Mumbai.
The story focuses heavily on the two women, and we barely see men or any other people get too much screen time, which again is excellent. Besides that, the writing is extremely powerful. There was no obvious femme-butch kind of stereotyping which is otherwise very common in western mainstream lesbian portrayals.
The episodes are short, crisp and real. The story develops slowly, but the lack of pace isn’t a bother since the characters are so well-written and delightful.
In a country where any kind of LGBTQ theme goes into the parallel cinema bracket by default, The ‘Other’ Love Story is a refreshing treatment of the theme, that actively seeks to normalize these stories and that is exactly why we need a lot more of these.
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