Before India’s relations with Canada soured this year, that country was the first choice for newly married millennial couples from tier-1 cities to relocate to and start a new life. That’s also the conflict in Season 3 of TVF’s Permanent Roommates: to go or not to go. Sumeet Vyas and Nidhi Singh return as Mikesh and Tanya respectively, and their bittersweet bickering makes for an adorable, relatable, entertaining show.
The OG effect
The fact that Mikesh and Tanya have reached a place where one of them wants to branch out, feels organic as we’ve seen the two grow together after staying apart over the past nine years. Permanent Roommates was the first online show to come out of India on TVF’s YouTube channel in 2013. This was four years before the streaming giants made inroads into the country’s content space.
Unlike Netflix India’s Little Things, which also started on YouTube in 2016 but grew quickly into a four-season flagship show on the streaming platform, Permanent Roommates still manages to retain that matchbox-sized apartment’s intimate energy. Its third season is streaming on Prime Video India, yet it doesn’t get swayed by scale. This assurance stems from its origins from the pre-streaming era, unlike Little Things which coincided with the OTT boom.
Permanent Roommates feels like that millennial who never had the ambition for big things, in a good way. It’s the show that’s actually interested in the ‘little things,’ unlike others, who like the Gen-Z, aimed for bigger ideas with bigger audiences and caved in to streaming’s diktats of churning out content before experiencing the life that one could mine out of.
The last season of Permanent Roommates came out in 2016. It was followed by the streaming boom, and the creators took their own sweet time to gauge how they could hold their own in an increasingly populated streaming space. They tested waters with an audio show and a minor spin-off, and seemed to have studied the reception of both to come up with a season that feels both earned and organic, instead of tokenistic and rushed in.
Mikesh and Tanya FTW
While it’s been seven years since the previous season, Sumeet and Nidhi don’t show any signs of ageing as far as their characters and their chemistry are concerned. They overcome the seven-year itch with flying colours, slipping into their respective characters with the effortlessness of putting on a second skin. They share a similar energy to where we left them off last.
Sumeet is particularly impressive at holding on to that adorable inner man-child. One would imagine, like any budding actor, he’d not be able to go back to his humble beginnings. But he does what possibly an Alia Bhatt can’t do: go back to playing Shanaya from Student of the Year in all her childish, self-deprecating, yet affecting glory.
Nidhi, on the other hand, makes you question with her ease and emotional fluidity, why she wasn’t given as fair a chance for bigger things as her co-star. She not only excels in a performance that’s more internalised, but also makes Sumeet look even better with her nuanced reactions. Watch out for her in two scenes of emotional breakdown, in the first and the last episodes. They trace her unpredictable character arc and also make a case for her range.
This season isn’t written and directed by the OGs, Biswapati Sarkar and Sameer Saxena, who have moved on to other TVF properties. It’s directed by Shreyansh Pandey and co-written by Shreya Shrivastava and Vaibhav Suman, which lend the narrative a female gaze, one where the woman aspires, at odds with the man’s contentment. Little Things also touched upon that in its impressive Season 2 and 3, but Permanent Roommates also dwells more on how a woman often takes a step back for the sake of the man, and is as defensive of her recalibration as of her initial zeal.
The gaze also reflects in the character of Mikesh’s mother, played by Sheeba Chaddha. The actor is in her element throughout the show, as she strives for an independent life after her husband’s death, only to realise she’s now dependent on her son. Sheeba nails the moments of that sudden epiphany, particularly one where she coyly laughs at a brewing affair and then drops the grin to ask Tanya if she’s doing the right thing. It’s sweet to see her paired with Sachin Pilgaonkar, and I’d love to see a spin-off on their blooming romance as ‘building friends.’
The only bits that don’t subscribe to the intimate world of Permanent Roommates is certain slow-mo shots set to funky music. The humour lands every time it stems from Mikesh, but the occasional toilet humour of some characters reeks of a typical stench that TVF’s all-boys engineers club should start getting rid of now.
But kudos to The Viral Fever for retaining the inherent innocence in some of its flagship shows. Like its lead couple in Permanent Roommates, TVF must also feel divided by the urge to grow big and protect its humble roots. As long as it can do both in tandem, it’ll continue to be a story worth telling and sharing.