Ishq Satrangi Review: Cliched Romcom to an Intense LGBTQ Drama

The writer of Ishq Satrangi, Manawz Ashodia, whatever that name means, seems very confused here. He’s struggling constantly. Its a cheesy Bollywood romance vs the class of Blue is the Warmest Color.

From the borrowed filmmaking style of 90s Bollywood to Postmodern French cinema. The transition is quite interesting to say the least. But whether it’s good or bad, that is quite an ironic thing- just like lead girl Joe’s moral compass.

ishq satrangi web series

This LGBTQ story is simple, organic, honest and most importantly, confused, just like most LGBTs in India.

The story begins with a young skinny dusky skinned teenager named Nick, Nikita, played shoddily in the first episode by Sreshtha Banerjee.

She lives with her parents and a younger brother Bunty (Dron Bahl) and is in love with her best friend Joe, Jyotsana, played deliciously by Ana Ilmi. Jealous of her boyfriend, Nick frowns when Joe invites her best to be introduced to her date. But things don’t do too well and by the end of the first episode, things get rolling when Nick kisses Joe while sleeping.

Not taking it right, Joe snaps and thus begins a tale that offers us nothing and too much at the same time.

Watch the Teaser of Ishq Satrangi

The first season, laden with some unnecessary, and sometimes funny, humour, some bold musical choices and some good acting. The dialogues are somewhat generic but good in places.

The entire first season relies on the able shoulders of our two leading young women, with Ana standing out like an absolute winner while Sreshtha shines in parts. And yes, there is also this best friend, Vishal, played by Vishal Garg.

Almost a side character and a comic relief, but you’d be surprised to know how crucial he becomes to the plot later on and how well he acts.

The first season ends with a painful cliffhanger. And to Ishq Satrangi’s credit, we did not know when we got so sucked into the story. We feel the unease, the heartbreak, the intrigue, the love and we absolutely have come to adore this low budget web-series made with pure intentions.

The second season doesn’t waste any time establishing its mood- its darker, brutally real, and made with much more technical finesse. Vishal takes over as the main character this time as he lures the story towards himself.

The LGBT factor takes a backseat and it becomes an intense, dark, fascinating and real story about confused people, and their more confused emotions.

Towards the third episode, there is a heartbreaking scene that hits you like a hammer on your head and your emotions break apart.

It wont bring tears, but the director has tastefully carved out an entire episode dedicated to one sequence and the beautiful cinematography and the sound design takes the slow burning episode to whole another level of class. Kudos to Manawz and Vasu, the directors I assume (they never mentioned who the directors are).

The cinematography in both the seasons is marvellous and seeing as its a clearly low budget affair, we can’t complain. This is too bold a story to acquire funding from the big fishes. That shows in some weak technical aspects, mostly in the first season.

The second season is a huge technical improvement. The writer was at his creative best as we enter a somewhat- non-linear Pulp Fiction-ish zone. But he’s no Tarantino, and he is not making it for film fests. But full marks for trying this with such low production values.

To the makers credit though, we see some amazing set pieces and locations, making us forget all about the budget factor.

ishq satrangi lgbtq drama

The series caters to the average Indian, the average teenager who might be dealing with identity issues of being accepted in a society of straights. Even as the 377 is abolished is there still social acceptance? The series does not deal with these questions, it deals in human emotions and their internal moral conundrums, and that is where it emerges as a winner.

Things end in circles in Ishq Satrangi. The writer subtly and meticulously places actors in the same situations, repeating the same lines, but only after Karma has hit them hard and they have switched places. That said, the writing is uneven.

Whenever it tries to venture in the romcom territory, it fails. The real fun, for this writer it seems, lies in the intensity, the internal conflicts and the ‘circle of life’. Only if we had a different writer for some scenes.

The actors have throughout been good. Vishal, Ana, Sreshtha, Sonu (the father), Dron (the brother). Everybody does their part sincerely, with a special shoutout to Ana Ilmi. She nailed it!

The music is more mainstream towards the second season. Its good. But some bold and unconventional musical choices can irritate some, in the first season but can also entertain many.

The moods shift, with the music. And here, we see a pleasant change in Hindi filmmaking sphere as music dictates the mood here, rather than other way around. Full marks to the music.

Direction by Manawz Ashodia and Vasu Ananth Bhardwaj is confused at places, but amazing in some scenes, especially the second season.

Editing is good, so is the sound design, barring the last episode. They messed up the sound quite a bit. But don’t let that from enjoying this small, intense, important web-series on GoBindas Movies that somehow tells us being a homosexual is normal.

As the story progresses and culminates with an unpleasant end, we have forgotten about the absurdity of the series being about homosexual relationships.

Thats probably the biggest achievement of this slightly above average web series. Ishq Satrangi asks a simple question in the simplest manner, ‘Why the world must dictate whom should we love, and how much?