There are pieces of content out there that are so bad that they are good. Decoupled lies somewhere on the way to that tag. The show is described as two people – one being a ‘writer who is a misanthrope’ and the other being his wife, who is an entrepreneur. The couple is in the process of getting a divorce and how they deal with the general idiocies of life.
It would be unfair to say that the show wasn’t engaging. It was entertaining in a certain sort of way. Now, as to what that way was and why it leaves you with a strong sense of cringe and irritation, let’s start by understanding the characters. Despite the expectation of it being the story of an ex-couple, it is clearly Madhavan’s character, Arya’s story, and Surveen Chawla, who plays his wife, takes on a more reactionary role, both to his antics and to the situations around her. Both the characters are ‘mentally divorced.’ However, they haven’t made it official yet. They are staying together for the sake of their 12-year-old daughter, who takes a stand on her father’s Twitter account against the ill-treatment of maids, is aware of Obama and Taliban, has seen ‘Mean Girls’ but does not know how to erase her browser history.
Maddy’s character Arya is unlikeable right off the bat, with a joke that is not exceptionally well-placed. As the episode progresses, we start feeling bad for Surveen Chawla for some of the lines she is given, as she is the only character that has managed to not irritate the viewer so far. Towards the end of the episode, as “Ludwig van Beethoven’s symphony no:5 in C Minor” plays, a specific sequence of events take place, which is apparently trying to be a clever comedy of errors but just comes off as a little lackluster, primarily because of the excessive social commentary that is more caricaturist than actually woke. But it is evident within the next few episodes itself that this show is not for the woke. It is to offend the woke.
Being ‘on the line’ Problematic
Arya will make you think of a teenage boy trying to be edgy and learning about women and feminism from Instagram. It becomes evident soon enough that the writer is trying to make us like Arya by hiding an obvious ‘I say it like I see it’ attitude behind the tag of the misanthrope. But the writer forgets that the reason people like Arya are disliked is because that ‘attitude’ has no nuance or sensitivity most of the time, and that’s precisely why he ceases to be tolerable after the first four episodes.
In the last four episodes, the misogyny one suspects become more evident, be it the way Arya nervously looks at a ‘Me Too’ headline after supposedly spending the night with a woman or when he relentlessly body-shames his ex-girlfriend. This gag includes his wife Shruti laughing at her as well or the very unnecessarily sexist joke that Shruti’s boss makes that is shown as working in his favor without being seen as problematic. However, when it comes to classism, there are both instances and acknowledgment of it, and it is done a lot more tastefully.
As we near the end of the show, though the characters are still not very likable, but as a viewer, we have found a rhythm with them. The viewer is attached to them, and by them, I mean Arya, because Shruti’s character is still very one-dimensional. This is where Maddy’s charm really shines through, in Arya’s most unlikeable moments, and makes the viewer want to give the character another chance and try to understand him, a feat that probably wouldn’t have worked with anybody other than the entire country’s ‘zara zara behekta hua‘ crush. We wish there was some backstory to Arya and Shruti so that we could understand what made them fall in love in the first place.
To Watch ‘Decoupled’ or Not To Watch It
It’s established by the end of the season that the writer chose this premise for the show just as a means to say all the things he has wanted to regard his contempt for ‘woke culture’ and also about how he ‘understands women.’ It’s more of a writer’s personal diary of thoughts than a story about a couple breaking up, and the reason it becomes clear is not because of Arya’s character but because of the way he is perceived and treated by others around him. He takes a certain pride in the ‘politically incorrect’ label, which brings the insufferable factor to the show.
It does get a little bittersweet in the last episode and a half. Some of the emotions shown come as a surprise, simply because they are a bit set apart from the show’s tone so far. We can only wish that they had spaced it out a little more throughout the eight episodes instead of wrapping it up in the end.
When it comes to the question of whether I would recommend this show to a friend, I will do it with caution. As we said earlier, the show means to offend woke culture and carries a certain degree of contempt for feminism that is in the language of a ‘funny’ WhatsApp message. It is also not without a certain degree of transphobia and body-shaming, including the unnecessary classist sub-plot.
We would recommend Decoupled as a palate cleanser show when you have been watching too many good shows and need to see what the other end of the spectrum can look like so that you adjust your expectations. And have a thick skin before you start watching and that too, knowing that the whole thing falls under ‘unaware problematic cringe.’ Otherwise, give it a miss. To sum it up, the premise of the show and the actors, could have been done with better writing. Until Netflix brings that to our screens, we’ll try re-watching some unproblematic films of Madhavan.
Read More – ‘Decoupled’ Ending, Explained
Decoupled is a 2021 Indian Romantic Drama Television Series starring R. Madhavan and Surveen Chawla. It is streaming on Netflix.