Decoupled Review: The breakdown of a marital relationship given a fun overtone

In an urban pocket of new-age India, the breakdown of a marital relationship is given a fun, almost celebratory overtone. If you think that’s a tough ask, watch Decoupled


Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 6:48 PM

Breakup and divorce parties may be a ‘thing’, but if you don’t know how to react — with horror, an eyeroll or a laugh? — Decoupled shows the way. In the most unpretentious manner possible. A super-smart and irreverent screenplay — penned by India’s pre-eminent journalist/writer Manu Joseph — that factors in class foibles, social niceties (or the lack of them) and relationship realities coupled with a stellar cast pull off a coup of sorts at a time when the world believes India is regressing to the Dark Ages.

Arya (R. Madhavan) and Shruti (Surveen Chawla) are an urbane, upper middle-class, good-looking couple living in the satellite city of Gurgaon (or Gurugram, as it is called these days), on the border of New Delhi. They are bordering on middle age, but it’s the new-age middle age where people don’t really look their age since they are “taking care” of themselves. They are both successful in their own rights: he’s a bestselling author, though always falling behind in the popularity stakes to (India’s ‘most loved’ fiction writer) Chetan Bhagat — who plays himself in the serial with aplomb; she’s a savvy venture capitalist about to hit the big league with a Korean corporation. They were, perhaps, at one time, in love. But now they are bored and emotionally jaded (with each other).

Right from the beginning, it’s made clear that Arya and Shruti are living together as man and wife for the sake of their young daughter Rohini (Arista Mehta), and are looking for a good time to spill the beans to her: that they plan to divorce, but in a nice way, and intend to remain friends and be co-parents and even throw a decoupling party in Goa where they will take off their rings and throw them away as a sign of breaking free — while clinking glasses.

Decoupled showcases a modern face of urban, English-speaking India, where married couples trapped in recognisable dysfunctional marriages talking freely about seeing other people doesn’t evoke sentiments of “cultural” devaluation. The astute characterisations, starting with The Couple and their individual insecurities, and extending to a quirky family circle, eccentric friends and nosy neighbours, alongside a brilliant lineup of ‘working class’ faces (drivers, domestic helps etc.), are factory-fitted to lift the ambience out of a mire of tired morality to innuendo-ridden levity. Even the ‘stereotypical’ button-holings are done so cleverly that you immediately stop short of judging and, instead, laugh out loud.

Arya’s character — played with absolute zany flair by Madhavan — is posited as being misanthropic, but he’s really not negative, he just happens to speak his mind in an attempt to shock… probably because it’s his idea of fun. He basically encapsulates the dialectics of a millennial lifestyle with his lop-sided swings of pace and tempo as he embarks on an unapologetic journey of soul-searching sans the agony of philosophising.

In many ways, Decoupled is also a commentary on urban Indian — especially north Indian — gated communities, where almost everyone exists in a bubble: there are Earth Day celebrations, WhatsApp groups where housewives trade up as gossip girls, pretty aesthetics, perfect parking slots, creature comforts etc; it’s a reality far removed from the chaos right outside the gates. But the good thing is this is not activism, doesn’t try too hard — you can take it or leave it, the moot point is: you get entertained because the concealed layer is only humorous socio-economic insight which doubles up as a great backdrop.

More news from Entertainment