There’s a lot to admire about Shreya Dhanwanthary’s micro-series, A Viral Wedding, which was reportedly produced entirely during the nationwide lockdown in India starting March 23. Actors have filmed and directed themselves with the episodes lasting between seven to 10 minutes. One could simply ‘binge’ the show in a little over an hour, which is of utmost convenience to a viewer already swimming in a deluge of shows/films/documentaries. Putting together a web series as all members of a production work remotely from their houses, A Viral Wedding is definitely a triumph of technique. But does it milk the lockdown predicament in the most holistic way possible? Nope.
Streaming on Eros Now, the show starring Shreya Dhanwanthary, Amol Parashar and Sharib Hashmi among others, tells the story of an Instagram influencer, Nisha (played by Dhanwanthry) and her impending wedding to Rishabh (played by Parashar) in the times of the coronavirus pandemic. With all plans going into disarray after the PM’s speech announcing a 21-day lockdown, the couple decide to go forth with an ‘online’ wedding. It’s an interesting premise, but a lot of the show’s credibility fully rests on the moment when the couple discuss an ‘e-marriage’ as a valid option. When that moment arrives in the second episode, it’s hard to buy as something people would just say in the spur of the moment: “Let’s get married… online”.
The writing is thin until then, and the conflict is shoehorned into this supposed ‘new-age’ series. The lack of conviction in this central conflict makes it feel like an exercise in accommodating the gimmick of India’s first ‘shot-during-lockdown’ series.
Even though it’s fair to say that in spite of the brevity of a show that wraps up in less than an hour, A Viral Wedding isn’t completely tone-deaf about what’s happening outside. It delivers the ‘right messaging’ in episodes that (over)emphasise washing hands, maintaining social-distancing, and sanitising packages from the outdoors. There’s even a hint of the introspection that the lockdown seems to be imposing on us, something we see through Nishant’s (Sunny Hinduja, playing Nisha’s brother) sudden existential crisis. There are some predictable sub-plots of an Indian shaadi, featuring the ex-lover (Mohit Raina), the overenthusiastic friends (Aritro Banerjee and Aishwarya Choudhary) and the ‘funny-talking, progressive’ pandit (Sharib Hashmi).
A rare virtue that A Viral Wedding seems to possess, is its mindfulness about its characters
privilege. Which is why in its confined setting of suburban apartments, where most characters seem to be grumbling to each other on video calls, it makes the effort to lip-service the struggle of the millions and their sustenance. These glimpses highlight how the show isn’t consistently inward-looking, to be an observant portrayal of this lockdown. The presumably rushed release of the show before lockdown ends seems palpable, and thus many subplots and characters don’t feel fully digested.
A Viral Wedding is the first step in putting films/shows together where everyone works from a remote location. But is it the most wholesome reflection of our times during the lockdown? Definitely not. In spite of the grace marks for trying, the show spreads itself too thin even for a feel-good romantic comedy. One can simply imagine ‘necessity’ calling ‘invention’ over Facetime.