It’s quite difficult to find stories set in non-Western settings in mainstream media, and LGBTQ+ stories are even more rare. So, today I want to share with you all a little gem of a webseries called The ‘Other’ Love Story. Set in India in the 90s and featuring two young women falling in love, it’s sweet, tender, and, yes, sad, but beautiful.
Some spoilers below.
As I already mentioned, The ‘Other’ Love Story is set in metropolitan India during the 90s, before cell phones and laptops. The main characters are Aachal and Aadya, who each live with their parents in the same neighborhood. They only know each other in passing, but one day Aachal asks for Aadya’s phone number and their friendship grows close and intimate very quickly. This story doesn’t have that much of a plot, just episodic documentation of the girls’ lives, their meetings and phone conversations, skipping classes to spend time together, and so on.
The ‘Other’ Love Story was created by a team made up entirely of Indian filmmakers, led by writer and director Roopa Rao, and is the first of its kind in Indian cinema, according to their website. It was filmed in India in 2015–2016. The characters speak in a fast-paced mixture of English and Hindi (don’t worry, they have subtitles). We get to see glimpses of everyday lives of two different families, one large with extended family living close by and one with only one child. The series was made by Indian creators and filmed on location in India, so it all feels totally natural—they did not have to force in cultural tidbits, because the story is totally submerged in it; it’s just people living their lives surrounded by their culture. It presents a bit of a challenge for an outside viewer because the series doesn’t explain anything; for instance, I spent a good few episodes confused as to whether Aadya and Aachal were actually related only to realize that apparently “aunty” is a polite form of address to older women. But the authentic setting, which is almost devoid of modern technology, pairs with well-chosen music and a script that sometimes reads a little like poetry to create a dreamy atmosphere full of intense feeling. It’s completed by the actresses playing Aadya (Spoorthi Gumaste) and Aachal (Shweta Gupta) who have great chemistry.
Aadya and Aachal’s relationship is just so beautiful to watch. Aachal is the one who initiates their friendship, but it’s Aadya who first expresses romantic feelings. All throughout their relationship, they’re always very mindful of the other’s feelings, always checking in with and reassuring each other and making sure the other is okay. It’s such a great message to send about relationships at any time period and any culture.
It’s interesting to see such a relatable love story set in a different culture. It’s quite clear that Aachal and Aadya have to keep the nature of their relationship a secret because their families wouldn’t approve. As a queer person, I just kept waiting for the bomb to drop and for the families to discover them, given that they all live in such close quarters and the parents have so much say in their grown children’s lives. I’m going to spoil you all a little here, because I feel like some of you might appreciate being able to prepare for it, and say that Aachal’s family does find out and it’s very painful to watch. However, even though the ending is left quite open, it’s not totally hopeless as the two girls have friends who are supportive and willing to help reunite them despite not entirely knowing/understanding the nature of their relationship.
The 12 episodes of The ‘Other’ Love Story tell a beautiful tale, both different and very familiar, at least to us LGBTQ+ folks. It shows us an environment, culture and characters we’re not used to seeing on our screens. Unfortunately, while the open ending leaves me craving a second season, it appears that the creators have no immediate plans to continue this story (although that also depends on the response they get for the first season). But even though it’s somewhat sad, I couldn’t recommend the series more. You should all go watch it! Check out their YouTube channel, website, and Facebook for behind-the-scenes content and more about the project.