Little Things season 2 review: Netflix takes Mithila Palkar, Dhruv Sehgal’s delightful show to the big time
Little Things (Season 2)
Cast - Dhruv Sehgal, Mithila Palkar
Rating - 4/5
Contrary to what you might have heard, Little Things has always been a mature show; and now its characters have caught up with it.
It’s a show that has never let the temptation of mass appeal affect what it is intrinsically about - a young couple, struggling to adjust to independent life, burdened with more money than they’ve ever seen and terrified that one day, it’ll all go away.
It’s a show that has, despite a major change behind-the-scenes, maintained a singular focus to tell the stories of very specific characters to a very specific audience - which is ironic, considering Little Things got its start on the most in-exclusive venue of all: YouTube.
It isn’t interested in that old four-quadrant approach of having something for everyone, but it wants to be the best version of itself for the people to whom it is speaking to; the people who will find in its characters shades of themselves.
Watch the Little Things Season 2 trailer here
For example, the first season - and to an extent, even season 2 - makes no fuss about the fact that Dhruv and Kavya are in a live-in relationship. Anyone who has experienced firsthand the sheer travelling power of neighbourhood gossip would know how remarkable an achievement this is. In India, no one is spared the bored aunty’s judgement, whether you’re a homosexual couple still learning to live legally or the retired Supreme Court judge who passed the law in their favour.
Season 2, acquired by Netflix and rebranded as an original, continues to make smart, insightful observations about modern romance and gender politics, without ever losing the lived-in charm that made Little Things so wonderful in the first place.
Kavya, for instance, spends most of the second season’s eight episodes playing what would traditionally have been the man’s role. But like its treatment of live-in relationships, this, too, is shown more as a matter of fact than a stinging takedown of modern Indian society. Of course, it couldn’t have always been smooth sailing for them - an entire episode could be dedicated to their house-hunting adventures - but that isn’t a story Little Things wants to tell. Its focus, as always, remains on Dhruv (Dhruv Sehgal) and Kavya (Mithila Palkar).
And things aren’t as ideal as they used to be. Dhruv, in an impulsive fit, has quit his job because he no longer feels motivated to continue. To many, his excuse of ‘mazaa nahi aa raha tha, yaar (I wasn’t having fun),’ might suggest privilege. Dhruv and Kavya’s clique of friends, with their fancy Mumbai apartments and suspicious wealth, might even remind you of the characters in Lena Dunham’s Girls, but the truth is that both shows are simply an accurate representation of millennial values. Money for us is not as important as it was for previous generations; we find our spirituality in experiences.
In strangers’ loos, in hotel rooms on a destination wedding; in nighttime cabs and on lazy Sundays at home, there are no four walls in Mumbai within which Dhruv and Kavya can’t dive into a heated discussion. And it is through these scenes that the cracks in their relationship are revealed.
Dhruv’s reluctance to discuss his decision to quit his job with Kavya backfires on him, and changes the dynamics of their relationship. Suddenly she is burdened with the responsibility of being the primary breadwinner of the house. So while she goes away on off-sites and returns home late after long days at work, Dhruv watches the Premier League and fantasises about his favourite mutton cutlet.
This unorthodox arrangement gnaws at Dhruv, not because he has a problem with (mostly) staying at home while Kavya works hard all day, but because he hates being seen as careless. And of course Kavya makes more money than him - but it’s a message that had subtly been delivered already without Dhruv having to bring it up in a particularly heated moment towards the end of the season.
This last-moment performance anxiety isn’t new to Little Things. Far too frequently - perhaps because of some understandable hesitancy - the show feels the need to spell out ideas that it had already perfectly conveyed. The writing is otherwise so strong that whenever Little Things defaults to the safety of conventional storytelling, those moments sticks out.
Because Little Things is hardly a conventional show - its sensibilities are decidedly high-brow, having - consciously or not - borrowed the vignette-y structure of Louie and the freewheeling dialogue of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy. In Dhruv Vats, Dhruv Sehgal has created an alter ego of himself similar to Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Paul Rust (Love) and Aziz Ansari (Master of None). And this melding of styles and tones is especially apparent in one scene, in which a desperate Dhruv is propositioned by a couple of shady ‘Dilliwaalas’ to join them in certain illegal activities and earn a quick buck, but ends with him returning home and listening to a Spanish song on his gramophone.
Little Things is a show that relies more heavily on performances than most others. Perhaps because of the no-frills direction and the rudimentary approach to even the heaviest scenes, but most of the heavy lifting is done by Dhruv Sehgal and Mithila Palkar. They’re completely in command of their characters, often taking scenes into unexpected directions with just their eyebrows and their body language, through raw fumbles and nervous laughter.
Kavya and Dhruv are better than us because they are more resilient than us. Their strength comes from the security that they have in their relationship, while our weakness is usually a result of our insecurities.
Lessons are learnt, broken bridges are built, and maturity, whether they like it or not, is confronted - most of it very conveniently. The shower, however, remains broken.