Taking a nostalgic look at Mahi Way, a show that was ahead of its timeReleased almost a decade ago, Mahi Way is one of the most poignant Indian shows ever made, dealing with pertinent issues like body shaming, fixation with unrealistic romance, and the need for self-love.
Years before Naagins and Gopi Bahus hijacked Indian television, with their nerve-racking, idiotic content, there were smartly written and well-performed Indian shows like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Rishta.com, Powder, and the popular classics like Saans, Hip Hip Hurray, Aarohan.
But over the years, these kinds of shows, which were filled with complex writings that dealt with pertinent issues, stopped being aired on Indian television. Then in 2010, amidst the changing milieu, Mahi Way began airing, stepping into our living rooms like a breath of fresh air.
So, what was so special about this Sony television show?
Directed by Nupur Asthana and produced by Yash Raj Films, Mahi Way, at first glance, is a pretty simple story. Mahi Talwar (played by Pushtiie Shakti) is a 25-year-old aspiring journalist/writer and she is unhappy with her life. The writer of an ‘agony aunt’ column, Talwar is dealing with her weight issues and lack of self-confidence. And to add to her problems, her mother has given her an ultimatum to get married in six months.
Meanwhile, she’s madly in love with Ishaan Singh Alhuwalia (played by Siddhant Karnick), a business person, who has no clue about her existence.
Will Mahi succumb to her mother’s pressure and the unrealistic and obnoxious standards of society? Or will she choose her own path and do things she wants to do? And what will happen between her and Ishan? The 25-episode series is dedicated to the central character’s journey of self-love and the choices she makes that help her to get in touch with her real self.
There’s no doubt that the series is too long and lacks subtlety at times. But in its melodramatic tone and presentation, we get to witness significant issues like eating disorders, unrealistic ideas of love set by movies, the convoluted notions of marriage and the need for self-love—all issues discussed for the very first time in an Indian television show.
For all those who couldn’t watch the show on their television screens, here’s a breakdown on why the show is a good watch and it won’t be a bad idea to binge-watch it during the weekend.
A never-seen-before representation
How many good and progressive shows are there that actually have a curvy woman as a central character? There are hardly any.
But Mahi Way is one such rare case, a show which was way ahead of its time in terms of representation. From depicting how people fall into eating disorders to the need to empathise with them rather than making them feel low about their habits, this show is filled with heartfelt relatable moments, helping everyone to understand such issues more sensitively.
Similarly, Mahi’s character is also beautifully written and shown in the show, as the makers never limit or box her into her weight. She is projected as a smart, witty individual who has a flair for writing and is determined in life, giving her a wholesome personality, a representation that is still rarely seen in the media when it comes to full-figured women.
Handling pertinent issues without being preachy
What made Mahi Way special was also its depiction of pertinent issues. Hardly were there any preachy or heart-thumping dialogues in the series. Instead, the show’s makers used a straightforward approach to highlight social issues in a way that the audiences could relate to by subtly inserting them in the plot.
Be it society’s outdated obsession with getting a woman married, believing that it’s the solution to every problem she’s going through, or society’s approach of body shaming people, ultimately forcing them to have low self-esteem, the show dealt with many issues.
But these issues weren’t shown in a preachy tone with an intention of making people feel guilty or sympathise with Mahi. Using melodramatic elements, be it the back and forth scenes, where Mahi starts imagining things in daylight, or through the letters she writes for her column, the makers made sure that along with enjoying the show, viewers can also retrospect themselves and empathise with curvy people and treat them with equal respect and dignity.
Similarly, another issue the show touches on is self-love. As Mahi is constantly reminded of her weight by her family and colleagues, she has developed low self-confidence, so much so that she thinks of herself as a nobody. She fears eating things she likes, goes on diets, and is even scared to visit a swimming pool.
Her low self-esteem impacts her so much that it affects her professional life as well. But eventually, when the plot thickens as she passes many hurdles in her life, she slowly discovers the path towards self-love and starts loving herself and through her whole journey, the audience gets the message of how self-love requires time and patience and the positive impact it can have on one’s life.
A relatable heartfelt plot
What made Mahi Way stand out even at its time of release was the story it was telling. We hardly see stories of young independent people who are figuring their lives in Indian shows. And in such an environment, there was Mahi Way, with its relatable and heartfelt story that many young people can connect to.
While at the core, the show depicted a coming-of-age story of a woman who overcomes her low self-esteem and body weight issues; however, the plot can be relatable to many young people, who are at the age of discovering themselves.
Whether it is society’s obsession with making young people get married or the realisation that love isn’t the same what movies project it to be, or the warmth we share in friendship or the issues we face in our workplace and even within our family, the story the show projected is of every urban millennial, who is at the verge of their adulthood and discovering their life.
Complex and multi-layered characters
Since Mahi is the protagonist, we see mostly everything from her eyes. But this doesn’t stop other characters from shining or making any impact. Be it her loving grandmother, who always tries to cheer her up, or her friends, who stand by her, or her childhood buddy, Shiva (played by Viraf Patel), who makes her realise her self-worth, all of the characters in the show stand out individually helping Mahi realise her capabilities.
Meanwhile, another admirable aspect of the show was also the fact that it never made Mahi pitiable. She wasn’t presented as a ‘bichari’ who is living a miserable life, and all of the people who were around her were there just to help her. She is an individual on her own, a loving and giving personality, who had her own talents and flaws.
But she wasn’t perfect either. At times she makes selfish decisions as well as judges others, and this actually makes her character very real and relatable as well as multi-layered one.
Her character arc in the series is equally motivating, as seeing her transform from a shy, timid individual who’s made to feel insecure about her own body to a confident woman, who wants to carve her own path, is inspiring.
And hence, even if it’s a little melodramatic, Mahi Way still is one of the finest Indian shows ever made. If you are feeling low and want to watch something heartwarming, this show can be a great choice. Maybe like Mahi, you can choose your own way. Because that’s the way... Mahi Way.