Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: A Bubbly, Breezy And Occasionally Moving Coming-Of-Age Yarn

Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: It thrives on the simple and pertinent ideas that it espouses about the clash of tradition and modernity and the importance of balancing heritage with hasty models of urban redevelopment driven by greed.

Dil Dosti Dilemma Review: A Bubbly, Breezy And Occasionally Moving Coming-Of-Age Yarn

A still from Dil Dosti Dilemma. (courtesy: anushkasen0408)

Growing up and tiding over teenage angst is grist to the mill of a young adult drama. A certain degree of predictability is inevitable in a genre that has its own established rules but Dil Dosti Dilemma, helmed by Debbie Rao (Pushpavalli) and adapted from Andaleeb Wajid's 2016 book, Asmara's Summer, successfully skirts around most of them.

The tale encompasses larger themes that have resonance beyond the world the show is situated in. Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the series is a bubbly, breezy and occasionally moving coming-of-age yarn that also addresses intergenerational, class and cultural chasms.

Apart from pivotal performances by Tanvi Azmi, Anushka Sen and Kush Jotwani, Dil Dosti Dilemma thrives on the simple and pertinent ideas that it espouses about the clash of tradition and modernity and the importance of balancing heritage with hasty models of urban redevelopment driven by greed.

The seven-episode series, with a light touch, raises questions that matter. It adds significant layers to a plot that revolves around teenagers dealing friends, family and romantic partners and the emotional upheavals triggered by setbacks and forced course corrections. Their quandaries are caused as much by their own indiscretions as by the actions and decisions of adults.

Residents of a middle-class Muslim locality in Bengaluru are faced with the threat of being displaced when a redevelopment plan is drawn up without their consent. The builders are ready to swoop upon the neighbourhood with their demolition squads. Money has changed hands and some shops and homes have already been razed to the ground. The ones that are still standing are weeks away from meeting the same fate.

The young protagonist, a girl from a swankier, more privileged part of the city, and her two friends jump into the fight when they realise how high the stakes are. As the show nears its climax, the battle acquires elevating gravitas and urgency as the three youngsters learn to break out of their cushy cloister of class privilege.

Written by Anuradha Tiwari, Bugs Bhargava Krishna, Raghav Dutt and Manjiri Vijay Pupala (with Seema Mohapatra and Jahanara Bhargava serving as creative producers), Dil Dosti Dilemma revolves around a rich fun-loving girl, Asmara (Anushka Sen), who runs head-on into the orthodox world of her grandmother.

Her mother Arshiya (Shruti Seth) scuttles Asmara's planned trip to Canada as punishment for an act of indiscretion. She is sent instead to the modest home of her naani (Tanvi Azmi) and naana (Shishir Sharma) in Tibbri Road.

Farida (Tanvi Azmi), the grandmother, lives in a conservative and neglected urban ward where the daily grind of existence - potable water is scarce, power supply is erratic and nosy neighbours are a constant hazard here - tower over everything else.

Asmara, who sports shorts/distressed jeans and crop tops, clearly does not belong here although she was born here. Give her a chance to fit into our world, her ever-amiable naana suggests to his wife who frequently runs out of patience. That is easier said than done on both sides of the gulf that separates Asmara and her granny.

The weeks that Asmara spends in Tibbri Road turn out to be a life-altering adventure with its share of ups and downs, showdowns and misunderstandings, lies and discoveries. She makes new friends and even starts an unlikely romance while wondering, with a bit of help from the new environs, if there might be more to life than just dil and dosti.

Dil Dosti Dilemma is unpretentious but mightily effective in its portrayal of the two poles represented by the protagonist and her naani, who loves the girl to distraction but is at odds with the teenager's baffling lifestyle.

Three generations of women - mother, daughter and granddaughter - now live on the two opposite sides of the class divide. Thanks to the wealth and affluence in which Asmara has been raised, Tibbri Road is a world apart from Riddley Road.

Dil Dosti Dilemma is also about Asmara's two besties, Naina (Revathi Pillai) and Tania (Elisha Mayor), who are just as excited as her about her Canada sojourn. So, when the trip does not materialize, Asmara impulsively lies to her friends and pretends that she is in Toronto.

The endearing Naina is in love but in two minds about the boy in her life. The cynical Tania has to deal with the increasingly frosty relationship between her lawyer-mother (Dilnaaz Irani) and adman-father (Mahesh Thakur), which, she suspects, is the result of her dad's extra-marital fling with the creative director (Samvedna Suwalka) of the firm that he owns.

Asmara, even as she stumbles through the alien atmosphere that she has suddenly been thrown into, forges an unlikely friendship with Rukhsana (Vishakha Pandey), dismissed by her friends as "that clingy-blingy girl", and develops a relationship with the latter's mild-mannered brother, Farzaan (Kush Jotwani).

Rukhsana and Farzaan are naani's neighbours. Their grandmother, Akhtar Begum (Suhasini Mulay), a cantankerous and ultra-conservative woman loses no opportunity to give vent to her disdain for the rebellious Asmara.

The object of Naina's affection is a boy who trains under her father (Priyanshu Chatterjee), reputed to be India's best tennis coach. Rukhsana loves Suhail (Ritik Ghanshani), a tenant whose passion for music prevents him from joining his father's law firm.

And Tania gets into a massive tangle with an unassuming, chaste Hindi-spouting advertising intern, Dhruv (Arjun Berry), a small-town guy who she ends up exploiting to serve her own ends even as she develops feelings for him.

The girls are at times overly chirpy but they have their brushes with trouble - everything ranging from severe daddy/mommy issues to tentative longings that hover on the brink of heartbreak and unhappy endings.

Dil Dosti Dilemm saves its best for the last. It winds up on a riotous, rapturous and rousing note, with real-life Dakhni rap exponent Pasha Bhai putting in an appearance at a "Live Aid-like concert" and belting out a hip-hop number that not only cocks a snook at the politics of bulldozers and unsustainable development but also celebrates freedom and diversity.

The air of robust defiance that takes over the final act is tempered with a couple of reveals that leave the series open-ended and keep the possibility of a new season alive.

Dil Dosti Dilemma is peopled by a gallery of believable individuals with the power to draw us into their many worlds. An extension of the stories of Asmara, Naina, Tania and Rukhsana would definitely be in order - and welcome.

The characters and the actors - not the least of whom is Vishakha Pandey playing the girl whose rebellion is as gentle as it is essential - make a strong enough impression to merit another substantial chapter.

Permeated by warmth and vitality, Dil Dosti Dilemma showcases a world and a philosophy of inclusivity that are worth fighting for and preserving.


Anushka Sen, Kush Jotwani, Tanvi Azmi, Revathi Pillai, Shruti Seth, Dilnaz Irani, Suhasini Mulay, Shishir Sharma


Debbie Rao