Directed By: Palash Vaswani
Produced By: TVF
Cast: Aaryan (The Dog), Akanksha Thakur, Jitendra Kumar
Streaming on: MX Player
Spanning 5 episodes, each charting a duration of about 30 minutes, Cheesecake is an attempt at bringing light to the dog-genre, a niche and mostly unexplored one. (The ghastly Entertainment (2014) notwithstanding)
It begins with a perfectly manicured couple, Samera and Neil, on opposite ends of a dinner table, munching uncomfortably on breakfast. A voiceover hammers the point further: they are unhappy in a reconciled, rehearsed marriage. The reason is not mentioned, and perhaps is irrelevant. Distance often blooms slowly, but is felt suddenly. A dog will make its entrance, and per the trailer, after initial frictions, will heal the torment; the equivalent of traveling in an Imtiaz Ali film, the modern equivalent of parents advising early conception of children in an arranged marriage. (Both these suggestions are made to the couple)
But here is the difference. The dog would tap into the things that made you first fall in love with that person as opposed to distract from their flaws; over the course of the episodes we will find out that indeed, they were in love and decided to get married on account of the early hormonal highs of being together. But apart from “charming” there is little else to help us understand what truly bought these two lost urban souls together.
So the dog stitches together this worn out marriage, but not before some obnoxious story-line involving an “Animal Communicator” (or pet psychic) and an old vapid man throwing awful analogies at the young couple. An urban story of rational people indulging such stupidities is unintended irony. There is also an odd story-line in the last episode, obviously meant to drain the tear ducts. It not only falls flat spectacularly but is so obvious in its need to manipulate you that it almost makes you mad. Manipulation is an artform not many understand, and fewer execute deftly. The writing just comes across as shabby and convenient; easy solutions to deeper problems.
Though both Akanksha Thakur and Jitendra Kumar are easy, and effortless, their chemistry feels dated (the kiss they share is oddly perched on their virginal interactions), but so is the idea of an external agent fixing the internal problems of a marriage. Smiti Kaur’s styling caught my eye for the prints and pairing; odd but endearing like the two themselves.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Here, the dog isn’t the object of focus, but a prop. It’s the donation box that keeps the altar funded[/perfectpullquote]
I was thinking of Ram Leela (2014) that Sanjay Leela Bhansali dedicated to his dog, Lady Popo. The need to offer your time, blood, and sweat at the altar of love for one’s dog is moving. But here, the dog isn’t the object of focus, but a prop. It’s the donation box that keeps the altar funded. And it shows. They couldn’t even offer the dog a proud screenplay to whimper quietly through.