With the ubiquity of social media, millions across the world are seduced by the lure of a virtual world which promises instant validation in the form of likes, comments and retweets. Sony LIV’s new show, Chutzpah, explores how all that glitters is not gold, and how the envy-inducing online avatar is more often than not an #instasham. But in doing so, it uses hackneyed tropes, including a social media sensation struggling with body image issues and a John Tucker Must Die-esque conspiracy to bring down a misogynistic womaniser.
Directed by Simarpreet Singh, Chutzpah has distinct yet interconnected stories. Kevin Paul (Gautam Mehra) is a content creator, whose defining trait is reminding everyone to ‘like, share, comment’, and who is hellbent on getting the attention of popular influencer Deepali Shah (Aashima Mahajan). His flatmate, Prateek Chawla (Kshitij Chauhan), brags about being a Casanova who can charm any woman into his bed.
Rishi (Manjot Singh) is a shy guy who struggles to talk to women and turns to porn sites to fulfil his desires. Here, he meets camgirl Wild Butterfly (Elnaaz Norouzi), who harbours a secret of her own.
Vikas Bhalla (Varun Sharma) is a pampered Punjabi boy, who struggles to adjust to the ‘atmanirbhar (self-reliant)’ nature of Boston, while also maintaining a long-distance relationship with his college girlfriend Shikha (Tanya Maniktala).
From Bois Locker Room (changed to Guys Locker Room here) to vicious trolling, Chutzpah touches upon the dark side of social media, yet, barely scratches the surface. There are undercooked subplots about a man who grows obsessed with an influencer’s posts and a relative who keeps pestering Vikas for visa sponsorship that seem to be shoehorned in by writers Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Amit Babbar.
While Chutzpah takes a glacier-slow approach in some parts – Kevin’s repetitive live sessions, Vikas and Shikha’s video calls – it speeds through others. A revenge porn-like video of a woman is shared online but she shrugs it off. The only other reference to this incident is a brief scene showing the arrest of the man who features in the video, but the one who uploaded bizarrely seems to go scot-free. In another instance, a man displays a female stakeholder’s nude photos during a presentation in a bid to get fired but barely gets a rap on the knuckles. These are the sort of inconsistencies that define the show.
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The performances make up for some of Chutzpah’s flaws – Fukrey duo Varun and Manjot’s comic timing is on point, Gautam is convincing as the likes-obsessed content creator and Tanya has an endearing quality to her. However, the show never finds its way out of the pedestrian and does not have much to stop one from scrolling past.