The best thing about the Permanent Roommates saga has been its relatable characters. The series, whose previous two seasons were critically acclaimed, is now back with a third season. The first season had been released at a time when the web-series format was relatively new and The Viral Fever, aka TVF, had cashed in on the vacant space on YouTube. At the time, the characters of Mikesh, aka Mikki, and Tanya, aka Tanu, had captured the zeitgeist of urban India in a very endearing way. Season 2 was not that well received, but the makers have now decided to add to the story by bringing in the third season.
It’s hard to see the series with a fresh lens. The characters evoke a strange sense of nostalgia. Mikesh and Tanya had become the quintessential live-in couple. There have been other shows as well that have tried to recreate the dramedy of living together in a metro, but Permanent Roommates stood apart with its impeccable sense of balance between absolute goofiness and heartbreaking and tender moments. The nostalgia that I referred to just might have tipped the new season into being a good one, but there is a gnawing feeling that something was missing. Firstly, Sumit Vyas is, as usual, great in this part. He is an actor of great caliber, but fortunately (or not), Mikesh is one role that he seems to have been born to play. In this season as well, he infuses the part with silliness, stillness, and style that only he could have brought. With a terrific sense of comic timing, even the dull scenes are made passable by his pauses before a goofy remark. His eyes have Mikesh coming out of them through and through. Tanya, played by Nidhi Singh, doesn’t have the same acting chops as the other players in the series, but she fits the role so well and complements Sumeet Vyas so impeccably that there is not a single frame where they don’t seem like a couple.
TVF has made a name for itself in the market with its writing. The big names in TVF are Arunabh Kumar and Biswapati Sarkar. They have created most of the memorable characters TVF is known for, whether it be Mikesh, Jitu Bhaiya, or Tanya. This season was written primarily by Shreya Srivastava and Vaibhav Suman, and the economical style of storytelling seems to be back. The second season had a plethora of characters, and the noise lessened the impact. The third season is lean and neat. There is a single conflict that spans across the five episodes, with an emotional revelation in the middle. TVF is very smart when it comes to structuring their shows. Season 3 is a testament to simply following the characters’ journeys without trying to create an emphasis by harping on their past or through non-linear storytelling. There are no flashbacks in the show, and frankly, it doesn’t need them. The characters are lovable, and we are willing to see them solve their conflicts.
The plot revolves around Mikesh and Tanu, although there are other known characters in the show that serve our nostalgia. For example, there is Purshottam Ji played in his inimitable style by Deepak Kumar Mishra, and there is a cameo by Lleo played by Anandeshwar Dwivedi. Tanu had plans to shift abroad, but Mikesh didn’t. This escalated into them having daily fights, which were witnessed by Mikesh’s mother, played by Sheeba Chaddha. Shishir Kumar as Brijmohan is pitch perfect, even though there is little to do, and Ayesha Raza Mishra shows up briefly as Brijmohan’s partner. The conflict is deep enough that it doesn’t outstretch itself, and there are just 5 episodes instead of 7 like that in the previous season, which helps. The problem lies in the filler scenes that are there almost without rhyme or reason. Lleo’s character does some funny things that may be for a pure TVF audience but add nothing to the story. Purushottam’s character is wasted. The new addition of Sachin Pilagaonkar had potential, but ultimately he too didn’t have much of an impact as the role was unsure of its place in the narrative. There was also Ambrish Verma, who got to play Pranav in a couple of crucial scenes in the show. The editing of a few scenes felt disjointed, which was a little jarring. This is why the show felt like it depended a little bit on nostalgia and familiarity to fill in the gaps that were created by the shallow characters and hollow comic scenes. Also, times are changing rapidly. People who have laughed at toilet humor before may not find it particularly funny anymore.
The show had a theme of ‘grown-ups’ revolving around Mikesh and Tanu this time around. It seemed like the idea being driven home was the idea of having real stakes this time. The show has a couple of brilliant scenes that really do justice to the ‘grown-up’ subtext because of the sheer psychological depth they try to reach. Both Mikesh and Tanu have their ‘catharsis’ and the actors do a terrific job at providing authenticity to the scenes. Permanent Roommates season three learned from its mistakes in season two but couldn’t tweak the parts that had worked so well in the first one, but don’t anymore. Both changes were required. This new season is a good watch, but there is no doubt that it could have been way better had the comedy had a little more depth. The series hasn’t reached its end, by the way, and there is a great chance that there may be a fourth season, but the writers in TVF are known for meticulously planning the character arcs, so the next season could take a while. But this season felt hasty in its writing, like the approach to Mikesh’s father’s character. Perhaps there was no way to circumvent the role, which will be clear once you watch the show. Everything said and done, the show holds a mirror towards the messy urban live-in relationship. It may not do so in a very serious manner, but there is a sincere representation of the idea of an unmarried couple living in high-rise apartments. The show doesn’t speak to all, and that was never its intention, but it’s enjoyable and always has a meaningful conflict at its center. The characters do the rest.