Taj Mahal 1989, a Netflix India original, is a story set in an era before online dating and casual hookups, in an era when love wasn’t disposable but required effort, patience, and skill, an era when finding love was a task but sustaining it, even more difficult. Set in Lucknow of 1989, the series revolves around an ensemble of characters and their perceptions and views on love as they explore it through different kinds of relationships like marriage, romances, and friendships.
It is a story that portrays one of the most baffling yet evergreen emotions through sepia-tinted lenses, Urdu ‘shayaris’, and simple yet powerful words that are bound to leave a powerful impact on you.
The series Taj Mahal 1989 is comedy, drama and romance packed in a 7 episode ordeal which deals with the relationships of characters who all have different takes on love. It reinforces faith in patching-up relationships instead of giving up and letting go. The series has one of the most realistic takes on love, where we can see married couples fall out of love and then fall back in love. We see a boy who believes he has ‘no feelings’ transform into an amorous youth; we see couples break because of outer negative influences and we also see how relationships remain true even when the society judges and demeans them.
The innovative methods to characterize “love” in Taj Mahal 1989 while keeping with the atmosphere of India during those times reflect the commendable research that has gone into the making of this series.
The show mainly focuses on four couples – Sarita and Akhtar, Rashmi and Dharam, Sudhakar and Mumtaz, and Angad and Mamta. Other than these, it also pinpoints different friendships throughout the episodes like that of Rashmi and Angad, Sarita, and her colleague Steve and Akhtar and Sudhakar.
All the relationships portrayed are tasteful and realistic; they help the viewer relate them to their current lives too, despite the show being set in the 1980s. Be it Angad’s ‘sex and love are the same thing, aren’t they?’ philosophy, or Sudhakar’s acceptance of his wife’s varied past, Sarita’s love for typical Bollywood masala films or Akhtar’s beautiful poetry, there is something in the effortless and delightful portrayal of Taj Mahal 1989 which latches on to the minds of the viewers and makes them believe in love.
Taj Mahal 1989 Cast
The series features an ensemble cast of several new and a few old and immensely talented actors like Geetanjali Kulkarni as Sarita, a Lucknow university physics teacher who loves watching films at the theatre and is almost always upset by her husband’s, Akhtar (Neeraj Kabi) lack of interest in their life. Akhtar is a philosophy professor at Lucknow University and is an avid lover of ‘mushairas’ and Urdu poets. He does not understand his wife’s love for trashy Bollywood movies.
Danish Husain plays the role of Sudhakar, a college friend of Akhtar who is married to Mumtaz, portrayed by Sheeba Chaddha, who used to be a brothel worker before her courtship and marriage to Sudhakar. Anshul Chauhan plays Rashmi, a college girl who is in a relationship with fellow student Dharam, portrayed by Paras Priyadarshan in the love-filled Taj Mahal 1989. They are best friends with Angad, portrayed by Anud Singh Dhaka, as the quintessential player. He believes that love is overrated. Shirin Sewani plays Mamta, the president of the Communist club at the University who later poses as the love interest of Angad.
Vasundhara Rajput and Mihir Ahuja play the roles of Sunaina and Shalin, the former being a school going girl dating the latter, a boy from Mumbai. While the cast is elaborate, they do justice to the varied representation of the characters and give a typical flavor to the show.
7 Love Perspectives in “Taj Mahal 1989”
Since the series focuses on the different perspectives on love, we see several types of love shown throughout the episodes. A few of them are :
1) Love is ‘friendship’
One of the most obvious types of love is friendship; be it in the current times or thirty years ago. Perhaps the most important part of a friendship is the assurance that no matter what you say or do, you won’t be judged by your actions. These are some of the aspects of love seen in Taj Mahal 1989. Be it the playful, teasing friendship of Angad and Rashmi, or the cute, trusting rapport between Sarita and her colleague Steve, or even the deep, almost philosophical, understanding, and supportive bond between Akhtar and Sudhakar – there is something that people of all ages can relate to. And whatever you do in life, it’s not legendary unless your friends are there to see it.
2) Love is ‘lust’
Often times, when relationships start out, there is the superficial attraction phase which quickly transforms into lust. Some relationships start with lust whereas, in other relationships, it comes at a later point. Rashmi and Dharam’s story starts with a very obvious declaration of lust, where Rashmi talks to the viewer, expressing the misbelief that guys are more interested in sex and girls are more interested in love. She adds that girls like men with good bodies and good looks. In the later episodes of Taj Mahal 1989, it is also observed that Rashmi and Dharam’s physical relationship leads to the notion that humans often mistake lust i.e. physical attraction for love.
3) Love is ‘deceptive’
We only see what we want to see when we want to see it. A relationship can be toxic and unhealthy and yet unless we realize it for ourselves we will never know its negative impact. Such is the matter with love. In the series Taj Mahal 1989, we find the deceptive form of love in the relationship between Sunaina and Shalin. They date each other and plan to run away to Mumbai due to problems posed by Sunaina’s family, only to learn that blind trust often leads to disappointment.
Sunaina wanted to be in a relationship, and this was her first one. The feeling of caution is surely not on any young one’s mind. Shalin deceiving her proves that if we really want something, we sometimes turn a blind eye to how that thing sometimes might do more harm than good.
4) Love is a ‘waste of time’
As said by Angad in the show “This is 1989. Right now, marvelous and outstanding things like Tinder haven’t been invented, so you have to make do with whichever person is in sight”. From the start, the character of Angad is a cynical, love-bashing one for whom sex and love go hand in hand. He believes that love is too complex an emotion to be understood, then why bother?
According to him, people look for certain things in the opposite sex. When those boxes get ticked, it’s love. Angad preaches to his friends that there are more important things to do than love.
5) Love is ‘unconditional acceptance’
“And when you love someone you just, you don’t stop, ever. Even when people roll their eyes and call you crazy, especially then! You just, you don’t give up. Because if I could just give up, if I could just take the world’s advice and move on and find someone else, that wouldn’t be love.” Ted Mosby truly realised it. Love means accepting all parts of the person, especially the terrible ones. And this kind of love can be seen in the relationship shared by Sudhakar and Mumtaz.
Sudhakar, a simple man from a respected Brahmin family, was expected to marry a woman of the same caste. However, he ended up marrying Mumtaz, a Muslim former sex worker whom he had fallen in love with. In several scenes, we see Sudhakar’s love for Mumtaz peek through, especially in the scene where she was publicly called out for the work she used to do. When she is hit on the head and hospitalized, we see Sudhakar worried out of his mind. When she asks him why her past doesn’t bother him, he doesn’t answer and instead shifts their house out of Lucknow so that she wouldn’t be judged for her former profession. He names their new house ‘Mumtaz Mahal’.
Instances like these in Taj Mahal 1989 reinforce our belief in the concept of love as acceptance, when, if you love someone you don’t care what the world thinks, as long as that person is by your side.
6) Love is a ‘struggle’
You might have heard a lot of couples, on-screen and in real life say that loving someone is a struggle. Well, they aren’t entirely wrong. When you have been with someone for a long, long time, things that might have seemed cute and quirky before, become irritating aspects. This isn’t the struggle though. The real struggle comes when, over time, the love that you used to share turns sour, when the “adorable” things just aren’t adorable anymore, when you stop doing the things that you used to do when you were newly in love. This is when the real question arises – is love worth the struggle?
We get a marvelous look at this aspect in Sarita and Akhtar’s relationship. Sarita, being a practical person, does not much understand poems and shayaris (short poems), whereas Akhtar, a whimsical soul, has a passion for the same. In fact, the shayaris play a significant role in the series Taj Mahal 1989. The two are married for fifteen years and were together for longer than that.
At the start of the series Taj Mahal 1989, we find that Akhtar had a notebook in which he used to write shayaris for Sarita in college. But so many years later, the romance and love vanished, just like the book did. In fact, they used to have intense arguments and fights which only escalated over time, to such an extent that Sarita wished to end their marriage.
This request made Akhtar contemplate his relationship with his wife, of her importance in his life. Before they decide to split up, Akhtar requests Sarita to accompany him to their honeymoon to Agra. The trip makes them realize that while there is a struggle in their love story, while a lot has changed; the one thing that didn’t change is love. Their way of expression changed, but what didn’t change was that they still loved each other in their own way. And that’s what’s important.
Like Sudhakar says, “pyaar bhi kya tedhi cheez hai (love is such a crooked, complicated thing)”. Sometimes, things have to fall apart to make way for better things. And sometimes, things fall apart for you to know that your “perfect” was with you all along; you just had to find it again.
7) Love is ‘feeling alive’
“Am I old enough to fall in love? I don’t care.” These lines by Sunaina perfectly sum up the emotion of love as synonymous with feeling alive. She knew she was too young to be in a relationship but it made her feel alive, excited and in the end, that’s what matters. As humans, we are desperate to feel something all the time, and if something makes us feel alive, why wouldn’t we want to feel it?
Another relationship that perfectly employs this philosophy is the one between Angad and Mamta. Angad steers clear of romantic feelings, preferring to be happy with the physical part of love. Mamta challenges him, questions him, and makes him feel dynamic, which slowly changes his opinion on love, resulting in them becoming friends/a potential couple.
Finally, we see the best example of love in Taj Mahal 1989 when Sarita and Akhtar go for their honeymoon. They rediscover the love they shared, learn to accept the other person’s wants, and quirks while also feeling acknowledged. The honeymoon was their second shot at romance, something that they salvaged and nurtured further, resulting in the cancellation of the divorce. Some people are worth a lot of work to keep around. For Sarita and Akhtar, the love that had become dormant made them feel alive again, and therefore this is the best example of all.
Love is a complex subject, with several definitions, types, and understandings. In the words of Akhtar “Love is a mutating virus. Ye kisi bhi umr me samjhe jaane wali cheez nahi hai (it isn’t something that can be understood at any age)”. People perceive love according to their experiences, their relationships, and their surroundings. But love… love doesn’t make sense. You cannot logic your way into or out of it. But, we have to keep doing it or else we are lost. Because love is the best thing we do.
Taj Mahal 1989 exquisitely portrays all these different types of love forms wrapped in a blanket of stunning poetry, life lessons, and drama. It brings back the belief that no matter how many hardships you face, you will always have love to support you. A series like this, which portrays the benefits of patching up relationships instead of giving up in this digital age truly brings back the faith in love and relationships and is a definite watch for people of all age groups.