Named ostensibly after the game almost every kid in India played on the back pages of notebooks, the show is soaked in nostalgia and the memories of a bygone era.

FLAMES review Not much fire in Season 2 of TVFs teen romance
Flix Entertainment Friday, October 18, 2019 - 17:34

You know you have clearly crossed a life stage when you start getting more interested in the parents on a show than its innocent, charming young cast. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of parent I would turn out to be as I watched the brand new episodes of TVF’s FLAMES, Season 2, all 5 episodes now streaming on TVFPlay and MX player.

Season 2 takes off from where the first season ended. Rajat (Ritvik Sahore), Ishita (Tanya Maniktala), Anusha (Sunakshi Grover) and Pandu (Shivam Kakkar) are still students at Sunshine coaching classes getting the additional help they need for chemistry and mathematics.

Rajat and Ishita are now dating and are in the proverbial haze of first love, while their friends Pandu and Anusha are the now-on-now-off couple that almost every group of friends has at that age. Just when all is well and rose-tinted with the lead pair, their respective parents, or in the case of Ishita, parent, finds out about their relationship. Rajat’s parents are the strict tyrants who ground him and take away his phone and freedom to step out of the house, while Ishita’s father, the cuddly and cool dad, passes no judgement and just hears her out instead. There is heartache and heartbreak, but will love triumph all in a happy ending?

FLAMES, named ostensibly after the game almost every kid in India played on the back pages of notebooks and scraps of paper, is soaked in nostalgia and the memories of a bygone era. This show could easily be set in the ’90s, minus the smartphones of course, and no one would really find anything amiss. There are sweaters, baggy jeans, middle-class homes, Delhi street food and baskets being lowered down walls of homes to pass on birthday gifts. It’s all very feel-good and fuzzy, but in terms of ideas or execution, there is very little that is original.

A tyrant father who is hell-bent on making his son an engineer, a single parent who is more buddy and less dad, a mother caught between father and son, and the foul-mouthed but good-hearted best friend. We have seen all these characters and situations before. While the season begins with Rajat and Ishita’s romance being the focus, somewhere along the way it shifts focus to the parent-child relationship. We have seen this play out in movies like 3 Idiots and Dil Dhadakne Do, and Prime video’s Laakhon Mein Ek, which coincidentally starred Sahore as Aakash, a boy who is being forced by his father to join IIT and become an engineer.

Sahore and Maniktala are both talented young actors and their fresh-faced innocence makes them easy on the eye. Maniktala especially stands out with her expressive face and tremendous screen presence. Amongst the supporting cast, Neelu Dogra as Rajat’s mother, Raj Sharma as Ishita’s father and Deepesh Sumitra Jagdish as Kaushal Sir are good in their roles but are saddled with character types that don’t offer too many challenges. We also learn little about Pandu and Anusha in the course of this season apart from their insecurities as a couple.

Very often the scenes look like the actors are in an acting class and have been given a scene to perform. The camera work and lighting don’t help matters very much, often giving shots an amateurish feel.

What I really liked was how matter-of-fact the makers are when talking about a character being diagnosed with depression and being open about getting therapy. It’s perhaps the only story idea that felt truly relevant and crucial in the times we live in. It’s a really mature approach and I wish the entire show could have taken itself a little more seriously. A couple of scenes do stand out, especially Ishita’s conversations with her father, but the characters are never given challenges beyond the now cliched ‘forced to be an engineer’ and ‘troubled past with mommy issues’.

FLAMES season 2 has its heart in the right place, and director Apoorv Singh Karki keeps the pace slow and leisurely, creating characters that live in a part of Delhi that is still seemingly uncorrupted by the millennial epidemic. He is focussed on building mood and keeping things very slice of life, but it needed a little more meat and depth for viewers to sink their teeth into. Also, can we do away with voice-overs unless they are absolutely necessary? Very often viewers get the point without having to have a character spell out everything for them. The chemistry metaphors get especially annoying after a point because I really don’t want to keep hearing about how someone is a hydrogen molecule or how someone else’s composition is unstable.

This could have been a simple frothy story of teenage love or a story of families with teenage kids and the problems they face. But with just five episodes to play with and too many molecules in the air this chemical equation stays unbalanced.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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