Little Things season 2 review: Dhruv Sehgal, Mithila Palkar's grounded story doesn't run down the dreamers
Ambition is not a bad thing, especially when it does not come in the way of an everyday couple charming the hell out of you with their unbending simplicity.
There is not much that happens in the second season of Dice Media's Little Things. But that does not imply there is not enough to enjoy. It is an evolved version of season 1 that aired two years ago. While season one got the grammar of the slice-of-life genre right, its tone was not ambitious enough to reach out to those who want to have their cake and eat it too.
Dhruv Vats (Dhruv Sehgal) and Kavya Kulkarni (Mithila Palkar) have evolved as much as the actors playing the parts. The chinks in their armour are more visible, the conflicts are more aggressive and the resolution more gradual. But nowhere do these characters or the screenplay indicate that growing up only makes relationships messier. The way they make up with each other is endearing to a point that you wish to rush to your partner and give them an awkward hug.
Season two explores how a third wheel influences the dynamics of a relationship. In the first episode itself, Dhruv's chuddy-buddy from Delhi visits them but much to his chagrin, he realises that Dhruv has become more mature thanks to a number of factors. But his old friend still harbours regressive notions, like looking down on people who live in matchbox-like apartments (every Mumbai flat ever) and not letting "bhabhiji" pay for a restaurant meal (because hey, chivalry).
Kavya also has her share of intruding (though well-intended) relatives. Her mom visits them and Dhruv is forced to spend a day sightseeing with her since Kavya is busy working. The conversations between Dhruv and Kavya's mom are some of the best in he entire season and reflect accurately how two people having a different equation with the same person would break the ice when left with each other alone.
These third wheel characters not only add more colour to the narrative but also act as either catalysts in Dhruv and Kavya's relationship or fuel to the fire caused by their differences. These differences then become the focal point of the show where both of them realise how differently designed they are.
Having been forced into academics all his childhood, Dhruv is wary of compromising on the present in exchange of security in the future. He finds joy in the little things of life and does not mind quitting one job after the other, if it does not satiate him spiritually. Kavya, on the other hand, is an ambitious woman who wants to push herself, and wants Dhruv to push himself too, for she knows they are capable of much more.
The title of the show would suggest that the narrative is tilted towards Dhruv's approach (Sehgal is also the show's writer), but National Award-winning director Ruchir Arun ensures he conveys both the contrasting, and not necessarily conflicting, ideas fairly. He carries forward the essence of season 1 through Dhruv's character whereas Mithila's character is used to introduce a counter-view or just another lens to see life through.
Dhruv and Kavya's mechanisms to deal with each other's differences also stem from their approaches towards work life balance. Dhruv is content with earning a few bucks by working for an online education portal from home and looks forward to Kavya returning home from work. He may not go out of his way to fix the shower she has been reminding him to but does cook pithla bhakri to treat Kavya after a long day of work. Similarly, Kavya may not stop working late at night while Dhruv is struggling to sleep. But she would make sure that her ambition does not come into the way of her partner's comfort. Hence, she switches off the table lamp and goes out to the living room, and continues to work.
These are the little things they do for each other. But they cease to remain joy forevers unless the two parties are always on the same page. When she asks him to 'hurry up' during sex because she has 'some work', it gets to him. His formula of "This is not perfect but this is us" goes for a toss as he argues that she made him feel inadequate. Kavya, who often rises above Dhruv's I-say-quit attitude in hope of a better tomorrow, also finds it difficult to move on from Dhruv's allegation that she is working for 'herself', and not 'them' as a unit.
In Little Things, there is conflict, compromise, frustration and resolution. Every relationship goes through these stages and stands the test of time only when one partner takes into account the needs of the other. Though Little Things has always struck a chord with those who find fun and meaning in the mundane, season 2 builds on the same thought by demonstrating how those who are too driven to settle for small joys are not wrong either. Ambition is a sin only if it eats into other people's comforts. Thus, while season 1 was as breezy and restrained as Dhruv, season 2 has Kavya's ambitious streak, though not at the expense of what Dhruv stands for.
Sehgal has an endearing countenance and a vulnerability to his body language. That helps him in conveying Dhruv's one-day-at-a-time ideology. But he also displays a terrific range in the scenes where he is supposed to channelise all the pent-up anger, particularly in two breakdown scenes.
Mithila seems like a woman who would break down any time. But her craft does not let her. As easy as it is for her to resort to the crutch of screaming to steal the scene, she delivers a restrained performance. Her celestial chemistry with Dhruv is, needless to say, the prime highlight of the show.
Neel Adhikari's background score is minimal. Rather than pushing buttons, it merely enhances the emotion on the screen, wherever necessary. Aniruddha Patankar's cinematography is aptly intimate. The visual of Kavya's mother playing catch-me-if-you-can with sea waves refuses to leave my memory. Saumya Sharma's editing is particularly integral to the narrative as it allows enough breathing space to its characters and leaves a lot for the actors, who are expected to carry long takes on their shoulders, and they fail to disappoint. Nimish Kotwal and Riyaz Shaikh's production design paints a homely picture of Kavya and Dhruv's visibly posh flat and the modest costumes make the seemingly rich characters look relatable.
Clearly, they earn a lot to afford a decently spacious home in Mumbai. But as the show argues, ambition is not a bad thing, especially when it does not come in the way of an everyday couple charming the hell out of you with their unbending simplicity.
Little Things season 2 is streaming on Netflix.
After reflecting on his own history and the sources of his contentment, Jeremy Irons has, in recent years, chosen to work less, and revel more in immediate pleasures. “I act to live. I don’t live to act,” he said.
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