Despite a handful of Telugu web-series releasing over the last year on platforms like Zee5 and Viu, it would be hard to say if the regional medium has come of age yet. Yes, it is providing work to those actors who are otherwise relegated to a sequence or two in mainstream films, but the masses haven’t caught up with regional shows on an impressive level, at least in comparison to Hindi. The quest to tap the massive potential of original content in Telugu digital space continues with Aha’s Masti’s. It’s a rare show focusing on a gamut of urban relationships in a medium largely dominated by rustic content.
Inspired by the 90s US show Cheers, where a bar becomes the cynosure of all activity for people across various backgrounds, Masti’s casts light on a bunch of relationships that are in disarray. A bar that’s on the verge of closure is taken over by Pranav, the brain behind an ad-agency who plans it as a supposed anniversary gift to his wife Gowri. Despite the love for his better half, Pranav's playboy ways get the better of him – the list includes an affair with a waitress Lekha who has lofty ambitions of marrying him, a fling with a model with the lure of helping her find work.
The other subplots are about the internal struggles of a band whose two members fall for the same woman and are constantly fretting over it, and a good-hearted supervisor at the bar, Anand. On face value, the plot is reasonably arresting. The drama is underplayed, the treatment is lightweight and the performances, reasonable. The series doesn’t judge its flawed characters.
The ad-agency honcho is portrayed as a man who just doesn’t the bill for monogamy, while the wife is a woman for whom commitment means everything. The model, with whom the businessman has an affair, views the latter as an opportunity to climb the popularity ladder. The waitress, in her own words, wants to be the woman who gives the orders and not the one who takes it. The band’s lead singer Tanya plays it intelligently with two members of her band, both her exes who’re unable to move on. The conflicts aren’t treated in a heavy-handed fashion by filmmaker Ajay Bhuyan.
The weakest subplot in the film has got to be the one involving the band. Their singing remains ironically mediocre and the infighting about two men in the group for a girl seems very silly. The jamming sessions hardly give you an insight of the prep that goes into the performance of a band. Their shift from English numbers to Telugu film songs isn’t convincing. There’s no nuance in understanding the conflicts that could arise within a band, though you related with the plight of Tanya, its lead vocalist which is one among the better-written characters in the show. But could the makers have done away with the subplot of a paralytic mother? Probably.
The nostalgic throwback to Ilayaraja’s songs is a job done well, especially with the usage of songs like Hello Guru Prema Kosame and Jagadajagada in relevance with the plot. The show is at its juicy best during the portions about the leak of an ad campaign – the protagonist’s struggle to hide his dirty ways from his wife, the manipulative ways of the model, the whodunit-thriller like treatment about the brain behind the leak warrants your attention. The thread between Anand and Lekha has a reasonable closure too.
The show, however, has a clear star. It’s Navdeep. He’s matured well as an actor in the recent years and his ease in performing a role with several shades of grey shows. His uber-rich corporate styling works well for his part and his effort to humanise the perception of a casanova takes you by surprise. Chandini Chowdary’s depth as an actor finally gets a deserving showcase, though her part needn’t have had that melodramatic touch. Bindu Madhavi’s fluid performance, Raja Chembolu’s genuine effort to be the good guy and Hebah Patel’s effervescence bring the right balance to the show. Akshara Gowda has the right amount of suaveness in being a symbol of the ambitious, modern-day woman, who’d go to any length to fulfil her ambition.
The open-ended finish to the series sets the platform for several seasons ahead with a compelling mix of characters. Under just three hours, it’s an easy one-time watch that’s watered down by its simplistic conflicts. Give this one a chance, but don’t expect to be swayed.
Rating: 2.5/5 Stars