Just Another Love Story could have been more than just another love storyPriyanka Karki’s web series is a lazy and unjust attempt at representing queer relationships.
Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers. Please read at your own risk.
During the first-ever LGBTIQ flash mob in Boudha last month, the opening act featured Sajjan Raj Vaidya’s single ‘Pahar’, the official soundtrack for the web series Just Another Love Story, directed and produced by popular actor Priyanka Karki. The trailer of the web series and music video for the song, which have amassed 148,000 and 1.7 million views respectively, showcases a romantic relationship between two women.
The song, released a month before the web series was launched, found a coveted spot at the flash mob, which indicated how the queer community embraced the music and concept of Just Another Love Story. But now that three episodes of the series have been released since September 15 on Priyanka Karki’s YouTube channel, the series’ portrayal of queer characters is rather confusing.
In the first few minutes of the first episode, ‘Just friends?’, characters Amara (Priyanka Karki) and Maya (Shristi Shrestha) are established as close friends. While Maya seems fluid in her sexuality, Amara is seemingly straight as she grinds on men at a club and mentions her on-and-off boyfriend. But the episode ends with the two characters having sex, or so it is implied.
But the problem isn’t that the series doesn’t explicitly mention the characters’ sexual orientation—that is actually one of the few strengths of the web series. Rather than boxing people into defined genders or sexual orientations, it is important to explore them on a spectrum. However, it is still unclear whether it was intentional or just a side-effect of poor writing and character development, both of which persist until the end of the latest episode.
Even if one assumes the story will follow Amara’s journey into discovering her sexuality (as Maya seems to have more clarity in that regard), the writing is so lazy that there has been no attempt to winnow the character’s background. It’s an especially important facet, given how Nepali society is restrictive and discriminatory, and the trials and tribulations members of the queer community go through to assert their identity and sexuality.
Maya’s character is portrayed as a clear-headed but quiet woman, with evident feelings towards her ‘friend’. Amara, however, is more out-going, loud but equally confused about her emotions. In very stereotypical fashion, the quieter character is shown to be more understanding and deserving of the audience’s sympathy. Especially in the second episode, ‘Nothing Happened’, when Amara is distraught over not remembering what had happened between the two. As she sobs in front of Maya, the scene makes the audience sympathise with Maya because of the rejection.
But Maya was the one who took advantage of Amara when she was too drunk to even recollect anything that may have transpired between them the next morning. Such predatory portrayal of ‘love’ is nothing new in classic Bollywood-inspired love stories, but to start a web series about the queer community by showing the queer character in such a bad light is an odd choice, to say the least.
Apart from the character development and writing, the production team has given minimal effort to technical aspects—from set design to having a steady camera, even in single-shot scenes. The poster for the series does mention KGH Park Village Resort as its hospitality partner, but to not create an appropriate setting for multiple scenes fails to convince the audience of the world the characters inhabit.
The setting is fitting for Amara, who works in a resort, but to set Maya’s accommodations in the same location blatantly insults the audience’s intelligence. For instance, when Amara visits Maya’s place, the room number engraved on the opposite door is clearly visible in at least two scenes.
With the set design, the team has gone overboard on aesthetics. Maya’s room is filled with fairy lights and the headboard of her bed has four planters. It may be an Instagram-worthy look for a bedroom, but the decorations do not add to the character’s personality. Rather, they distract the audience from understanding the emotional intricacies the characters have. The team could have played this really well, given the sensitive issue they have tried to venture into—the wall posters, books and background music could have been appropriately used to induce queer representation in popular media. This could have been more effective as well as relatable to the audience and a powerful medium of representation of the queer relationship.
Until the end of the third episode, only two other characters apart from the main leads have been introduced—Amara’s boyfriend Aashu (Samyek Man Singh) and Maya’s potential date Aniket (Sanjay Gupta). Although Priyanka Karki is the most popular in the mix, Shristi Shrestha’s performance as Maya is more relatable. But with such limited writing, it is difficult to give a final judgement just yet.
The official soundtrack of the web-series is undoubtedly far more beautiful than the storyline thus far. The background score is also one of the highlights of the series. But in the third episode ‘Aniket’, that too wanes with the producers’ failed attempt to insert unnecessary comical sounds whenever Aniket speaks.
From queer representation to set design, the team has hardly put much effort in relating with the audience that it’s almost like Karan Johar’s romantic flicks like Student of the Year, where one is required to throw all logic out of the window and just immerse oneself in the make-believe world. But the worst part about Just Another Love Story is that it fails to do that either.
With the plotline moving really slow—even more evident with the number of times there are “exhales sharply” subtitles—the audience is left waiting to see whether the series will contain any redeemable qualities in the coming episodes, and that already sets a negative expectation. But only the upcoming episodes will tell if the concept and content of the series are as broad-minded as the number of chances its audiences are willing to give it.
Just Another Love Story airs every Tuesday on Priyanka Karki’s YouTube channel.
Just Another Love Story
Actors: Priyanka Karki, Shristi Shrestha, Samyek Man Singh
Writers: Priyanka Karki and Shan Basnet
Director: Priyanka Karki
Stars: 1 out of 5