By its very Netflix description, ‘Decoupled’ doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t – the makers spell out it’s about a privileged rich couple going through a divorce and bizarre things happen along the way. Created by Manu Joseph, the series stars Madhavan and Surveen Chawla as the lead pair. “A misanthropic writer and his startup-founder wife juggle their impending divorce with the absurdities and annoyances of life in their affluent world…” reads the synopsis.
Problem is, the show itself gets absurd, but in an annoying way. The first few minutes are fun, the slow resentful banter between a couple that’s planning on getting separated elicit chuckles. Madhavan plays Arya Iyer, a best-selling author, second only to Chetan Bhagat (who plays himself in a cameo) in India, and seems to have a lot of issues. Surveen Chawla is his businesswoman Punjabi wife Shruti Sharma Iyer, who doesn’t get much screen-time, at least in the first episode. Maybe the show gets better, and I did try seeing a few minutes of the second episode too, but the makers try so hard to be ‘woke’, that it’s cringe-y, boring and irritating.
And now to spoilers from just the first episode to explain why exactly the show wasn’t enjoyable.
The story starts with Arya and Shruti going to a book-club reading. Shruti is pulling in a favor from her soon to be ex-author-husband for an investor who wants to surprise his reader wife. We soon start seeing what a pretentious asshole Arya is, which is fine, but the character is not written well. Let me break down the ‘trying too hard to be cool’ scenes down into points –
- At the book club, the sole male reader of the club asks Arya to meet his teen son who is a fan. Arya recoils in disgust when the boy puts forth his hand for a handshake. Now my first instinct as a viewer was to assume Arya is a germophobe. But nope. He claims he has “a policy of not shaking hands with teen boys”. It’s easy to understand where the joke is going, but the prudish father insists that the author explain. It gets not too funny by then.
- Arya dashes off from the book club because he has a flight in one hour. I assume the rich author has a chartered flight to himself, since he is chilling at a book club with a plane to catch in the next 60 minutes. Or is just too laid-back and optimistic (which is clearly not the case). Anyway… he reaches the airport 40 minutes before the flight. Luckily for him there is only a small line to get in and a CISF personnel is doing the regular job of checking tickets and identity proofs of passengers. Now Aarya spots the man scratching his pants near the groin area and gets disgusted, then creates a scene when it’s his turn. But he goes on a nonsensical tangent of ‘how do you know my ticket is real?’ and that ‘the government is wasting your time making you do this boring job’. A bunch of uncles get riled up, accuse Aarya of insulting a ‘jawan’ doing his duty and brand the author ‘anti-national’. And things go out of hand…. So are the makers trying to tell us that this rich author, who has to catch a flight for an important meeting in the next 40 minutes, has never been to an airport before? And if this man has such a problem with people putting their hands in problematic places, why doesn’t he just carry a fucking sanitizer? Also, there is definitely no traces of a pandemic going on, because nobody is in masks. But even before the pandemic happened, a lot of people (including me and most of my friends, who aren’t even South Mumbai/Delhi rich) did carry sanitizers.
- Now, Arya was catching that flight to have a meeting with Netflix bosses, who express interest in buying the rights of his books to make a series or whatever. But because of the scene he creates at the airport, he is immediately put on a ‘no-fly’ list. That no-fly list decision literally takes place in 10 minutes and makes no sense.
- I get that the makers are trying to show just how sensitive and unreasonable Indians can get over things, but it doesn’t land a punch if the protagonist is a sensitive jackass too.
- Now, instead of shitting bricks and calling the Netflix guys that he cannot make it to the meeting, the first thing Aarya does is call his wife up, to set up a dinner date. Someone lost track of the script for a bit? Okay then….
- The dinner date is at a super fancy Vietnamese restaurant. There’s a pretty girl at the entrance greeting guests with ‘Xin chao’, which is ‘hello’ in Vietnamese. Aarya asks her if she is from Mizoram and she says ‘No, from Meghalaya’. Then Aarya asks her if she feels bad that the owners have put her up in a costume, making her pretend like she is from Vietnam. Umm…. hello asshole, you thought she is from Mizoram and then you are trying to make the poor girl feel bad about her job? Why even go to a fancy Vietnamese restaurant in India? The hypocrisy, the assholery, it’s tiring to watch. Not entertaining. And things only keep getting more annoying. Or should I say Aarya. No wonder the wife wants a divorce.
- Oh and everybody who seems to know them also happens to be at the same restaurant. The prudish father from the book club who also happens to be Aarya’s neighbour. And Chetan Bhagat, Aarya’s biggest rival.
I could go on… there are 2-3 more points to whine about, but let’s call it quits. Not going to finish watching the show, doesn’t seem worth my time. Netflix has too many other shows I could check out and then there are multiple books waiting on my shelf to read.
Watch it at your own peril. Maybe it does get better.
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Pretty weird that only the critics have problem with this show while the general audience have been talking about it! If you hate the character of Arya I would say brilliant from the actor and director because that is the reaction they intended to invoke!