Disclaimer: The following article contains text and images that may be triggering for some readers.
Mental health issues aren’t always given much importance, even if they’re shown, they come up as a mocking factor in the storyline of most Bollywood content. However, Mismatched Season 2 tries to do things differently, by focusing on them and treating them with sensitivity. The show’s highlight this time, was not just the romantic storyline or everything that followed, but also the scenes that focused on mental health.
Dimple, whose app got leaked in the last season, resulting in havoc in her personal and professional life, is seen dealing with constant panic attacks. This is established in the first episode itself but doesn’t become the only thing that defines her. The fact that she gets panic attacks isn’t treated with over-the-top acting or hysterical characters. She shares how there’s a history to it – it started with the pressures during exams. Dimple is shown as someone who stresses over being the best at academics, and how her life revolves around it. So, when she talks about its impact, it becomes more than just something important to talk about, somewhat relatable to watch. Meanwhile, there’s Harsh who tries to figure out a way to help Dimple, by searching for methods online to deal with a panic attack – this makes the scene very organic to watch, like something one would do, in a situation like this.
Battling with anxiety, knowing that one has little to no control over the impact isn’t the easiest to portray. When it comes to showing this on-screen, it becomes important to keep it authentic and at the same time, to not treat the topic like some taboo. In a society that hardly gets or knows about mental health in general, most of these issues when associated with ‘Gen Z’ are blamed on our lifestyle and choices. However, Mismatched doesn’t leave us with that. For instance, Taaruk Raina’s character Anmol was shown to have anger issues, even through the first season. In season 2, when he loses control and gets into a tussle with a classmate, the character is advised to attend therapy in order to continue his classes.
Anmol’s character development becomes a part of this specific storyline. The part that connects the most here, is the understatement, given that we do not see a changed Anmol after one day in therapy. Like any person who doesn’t believe in the idea, he’s reluctant about it. In the first few sessions, he hardly opens up, and only tries getting away. But later, this process of denial helps him get to a point where he can at least address the reasons causing all the anger. Here, Akarsh Khurana’s (also the director of the show) Dr. Suri is a therapist who doesn’t preach life lessons or the need to ‘stay happy’. So instead of a toxic positive character in the form of a psychologist, we get a very honest, and real character who’s doing his job, while also showing the empathy that one might expect. He creates a space that’d make you want to talk to him – and well, THAT is proof of the portrayal being right.
The evolution of Anmol’s character feels organic – given how he changes from someone who almost insults the idea of counselling and the counselor himself, to someone who starts to see people around him. These are changes that happen but they’re not treated with the usual in-the-face kind of development. Perhaps, making his character’s journey one of the most nuanced and important things about the show.
On the other hand, there’s Simran, who had been dealing with body image issues since the first season. From the need to look ‘perfect’ for a boyfriend who can be superficial to the followers online who rely on her content – she battles with making that image a part of her life. In this season, the character is shown adopting methods that are not only toxic but unhealthy – like wanting to get skinny in a week. The good part however is the resolution, where Simran finally faces the need to be herself and not let people decide the idea of ‘perfect’. Even if it is someone she loves, and even if it is giving up on that person.
The nuance and depth of these characters, and the scenes exploring their issues, feel like something very close. It was more than just relatable, it hit home. Usually, when Bollywood decides to talk about mental health, it either becomes something that is treated with insensitivity or if there’s any effort at all, there’s a sense of gloominess that hounds the characters, and hence the viewers. Mismatched somehow managed to avoid both – as if answering the very usual question that people with mental health issues face, “but problem kya hai?”
Whether it is Prajakta Koli’s Dimple showing what the constant juggle between internal and external pressure feels like, or Simran coming to terms with her body and the issues that she had been ignoring, Mismatched does things with subtlety. For me, it is Taaruk Raina’s character facing the reason behind his anger, and talking from a perspective of a person with a disability that stayed even after watching the show. He voices how taking help and being made to feel like someone ‘lesser’ than the rest of the people around him adds on to his internal guilt. He’s done with it, and we can see it.
Often, these issues are internalized demons that are sparked off by external circumstances, and Mismatched could show this complexity without being dramatic or hysterical.
The thing, however, that creates a difference here is, that talking about mental health with a sense of normalcy might start a conversation somewhere out there. It might just make someone come to terms with the need to consider therapy or at least the need to talk about it like any other health issue. It’s shown like it is, ‘normal’ and not something different or problematic. Because, it is not a hush-hush topic, and it’s time that we stop portraying it as one.
All images are screenshots from the series on Netflix.