Whether they reside in New York City or Mumbai, dating in the modern world can get messy for millennials and zoomers alike. These folks must navigate ghosting, terrible dating apps, and even their parent’s judgmental glare. First-time creator and director Rahul Nair manages to present all these dating minefields and more in his new Netflix romantic comedy, albeit with a few glaring flaws. Though Eternally Confused and Eager for Love does an admirable job of showing what it is like for young urban professionals to date and fall in love in Mumbai, the series stumbles due to its wonky character depictions and dated views on women.
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love follows Ray (Vihaan Samat), an unlucky in love Indian man, as he tries to conquer the dating world in the bright lights of Mumbai. Pathetically awkward and unsure of himself, the hopeless 24-year-old does not know if he wants to fall in love, commit to a lasting relationship, or simply sleep with a woman. Thankfully, Ray is not alone in his pursuit of happiness since he has Wiz (voiced by Jim Sarbh), a physical manifestation of his innermost thoughts who presents himself as a cartoon wizard.
Though the voice in his head does not always give Ray sound advice, the mystical wizard is on the lad’s side, or so he claims. Even when his mentor of sorts fails him, the young professional has his coworker and wingman Varun (Ankur Rathee), childhood friend Riya (Dalai Mulchandani), and parents Gaurav (Rahul Bose) and Meena (Suchitra Pillai) to lead him on the right path.
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love provides an authentic take on being a young adult in Mumbai. Like many adults in his age group, Ray is college-educated, has a steady job, and participates in late-night activities like soccer practice and clubbing. Although Ray still lives with his parents, which is much more common in India than in the West, Gaurav and Meena give their son the space to live his life and make his own decisions—and mistakes. However, when Ray does screw up, his mother and father are always there to lift him off the ground.
One scene that fully encapsulates Ray’s positive relationship with his parents is when Meena walks in on her son as he tries to cover up a bruise he received from an altercation in Episode 6, “Homecoming.” Instead of judging Ray for his transgressions, Meena simply brushes her foundation across his damaged face. This scene is important because it shows the love between a mother and her adult child.
Speaking of Ray, Samat gives a convincing performance as the protagonist. The actor’s portrayal is equal amount awkwardness, self-depreciation, and low-key charm. Thanks to his comedic timing, Samat kills it whenever the series puts his character in cringy situations.
For example, when Ray learns that his date’s grandfather recently turned 92 years old in Episode 2, “Blind Date,” he jokingly tells her, “Wow! Happy birthday to him. It’s probably his last one.” Then to add insult to injury, Ray blows out the candle on their table as a way to signify the elder’s impending death. Yikes. Righteously offended, the woman immediately ends their dinner at the vegetarian restaurant and leaves.
What makes scenes like this one work is that it holds Ray accountable for his actions. Whenever the character makes a bonehead move, Riya, his parents, and his potential love interests call him out on it. Though Ray initially fights back, the young man slowly realizes that he is the cause of his problems. Instead of blaming everyone else for his troubles, he takes the necessary steps to grow up.
But despite Samat’s performance, Wiz prevents Eternally Confused and Eager for Love from soaring. Although Sarbh’s voice-over work is superb, the characterization of the wizard falters. Rather than rooting for Ray to succeed, he cruelly talks down to him in nearly every episode. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a character breaking the fourth wall to speak to their inner voice. Issa Dee does it with the mirror version of herself in Insecure. However, Wiz’s constant put down of Ray is a bit grating, if not downright annoying.
The only thing that works with the character is that he presents himself to Ray in different forms, such as a keychain, drawing, and action figure. This imagery is intriguing since it signifies how much Wiz is part of Ray’s life. Whether the Mumbai native is at work or out partying with friends, the wizard is always beside him. The poor guy cannot get rid of his imaginary friend because no matter how much he denies it, Wiz represents Ray’s immaturity. For Wiz to go away, Ray must accept that he is an adult and there are consequences for his actions.
Unfortunately, the romantic comedy’s treatment of its female characters does not fare as well either. Riya mainly assists Ray with his relationship problems, or lack thereof, instead of having a life of her own. The only thing we know about Pari (Namrata Sheth), the beautiful woman Ray’s parents set him up with on a date in Episode 1, “Origin Story,” is that her father has heart problems.
Ray and Varun use their working hours to leer at women’s bodies as they swipe right on a dating app called Homerun. Basically, the problem with Eternally Confused and Eager for Love is that it solely focuses on Ray. If the series grants Riya or any other woman a character arc, the series has the potential to improve.
There are quite a few significant issues that are hard to ignore in Eternally Confused and Eager for Love. However, its depiction of Mumbai is well done. It may be cliché to say that the series treats Mumbai as a character, but it truly does.
Nair gives the city the same type of love that Darren Star gives to New York City in his dramedy Sex and the City. Like the previously mentioned series, Nair and his crew feature various swanky restaurants and clubs, including Slink and Bardot, the Dragonfly Experience, and Soufflé. Watching Ray and his friend’s wine and dine at these locations may be superficial, but it also gives audiences an aspirational view of India.
Eternally Confused and Eager for Love may not be the best romantic comedy on Netflix, but the eight episodes available on the streaming platform are memorable. Despite its limitations, Nair provides an insider’s look into the lives of the young twentysomethings who work and play in Mumbai. It will be interesting to see what happens if Netflix picks the series up for another season.
All episodes for Eternally Confused and Eager for Love Season 1 are now available on Netflix.