Based on Manju Kapur’s A Married Woman, this Zee5-AltBalaji series follows two women, Astha (Ridhi Dogra) and Peeplika (Monica Dogra) falling in love against the backdrop of a nation burning over the Babri Masjid destruction.
A compelling storytelling done right
“Love has no boundaries,” Peeplika tells Astha as she explains their attraction to each other. The circumstances under which these two are drawn to each other are tragic. Set during the early 1990s in Delhi, the show focuses on Astha, a teacher at Delhi University, who is stuck in a marriage that has lost its charm. Her husband, Hemant (Suhaas Ahuja), equates being able to financially provide for her to marital happiness. Into her world enters Aijaz (Imaad Shah), a director working with her on a play for the university, who compels her to look at herself anew and realise her worth and importance as a successful and independent woman. Tragedy strikes when Aijaz is killed by a Hindutva mob during communal riots in Delhi during the run-up to the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Astha meets his widow Peeplika and connects with her the way she had with Aijaz. Peepli understands Astha, encourages her to stand up for herself and provides the emotional fulfilment that Hemant cannot. But that’s not all. Astha is also incredibly attracted to Peeplika, and once she makes peace with the possibility of being attracted to a woman, gives in completely and falls headlong in love.
Same-sex love stories are no longer a novelty on television, but well-made, nuanced ones are. Thankfully, this one falls in the latter category. The relationship between Astha and Peeplika feels genuine and organic as it evolves with time. You can sense their mutual attraction, the chemistry, the turmoil in Astha’s mind (Peeplika is pansexual and has an easier time accepting their love). Their interactions are built on affection and respect and not shown to titillate. Like any other couple, they discuss the possibility of a future together and work on resolving their issues. Another thing that’s enjoyable is the way Astha breaks the fourth wall and candidly addresses the camera regarding a certain situation that’s playing out around her, thus giving us a glimpse into her mind. Of course, the story isn’t without its flaws, chiefly in the form of unnecessary melodrama.
Actors, take a bow
The entire cast goes above and beyond what’s expected of them and elevates what could have been a good show to a great one. Whether it’s Nadira Babbar as Astha’s cranky mother-in-law, or Divya Seth as Peeplika’s disapproving mother who rules her house with an iron fist, or Imaad Shah’s immensely likeable Aijaz who brings up India’s struggle with secularism, arguments that hold especially true today – the entire supporting cast is commendable. However, this show belongs to the leading ladies. As the sultry, free-thinking Peeplika who is comfortable in her skin and doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind, Monica Dogra is completely believable. However, Ridhi Dogra is a complete revelation as she goes from a vulnerable housewife hesitant to voice her opinions to a confident woman who falls in love, not only with another woman but also herself.
Dogra squared equals sizzling chemistry
The chemistry between Ridhi and Monica is palpable, sensual and very believable. When they profess their attraction followed by love for each other, you can feel it. Not only do the two look fantastic together but their characters’ interactions are laced with humour, affection and respect. Astha and Peeplika are definitely our OTP (one true pairing).
Music to our ears
The Married Woman comes with an original soundtrack featuring composers such as Amrita Bagchi, Siddhant Sharma, Sneha Bose and Muskaan Tomar. Songs such as ‘Bematlab’, ‘Na Laage Jiya’, ‘Khwabon Ka Aashiyann’ and ‘Dill Ka Shaakh’ capture the essence of the story as it flits through a gamut of emotions and add to the ambience as well.
A beautiful tapestry of 1990s Delhi
Cinematographer John Wilmor and his team have rendered the Delhi of the early ’90s beautifully on-screen. Whether it’s the dewy streets of Delhi in the morning, Peeplika’s vibrant and bohemian abode where the lovers meet, Astha’s over-crowded, middle-class Delhi home bustling with more people than rooms, the soft light focused on Astha and Peeplika during their tender moments that gives way to a harsher counterpart when a discordant note enters the story – the camera caresses every actor, scenery and prop thoughtfully.
Director: Sahir Raza
Cast: Ridhi Dogra, Monica Dogra, Suhaas Ahuja, Divya Seth, Nadir Babbar, Imaad Shah
Streaming on: Zee5 and AltBalaji