In the final few minutes of the climax, both of the show and the fourth season of Little Things, Dhruv and Kavya find themselves rising from a slumber in their car. Engaged the previous night, to realise the apparent but untold reason for a party in the house, their night-out has lasted up till daybreak, when they’re to finally drive homewards. The revelation is imminent, the sentiment of homecoming brimming. Having moved away and away from home in the final episodes of the previous seasons, the couple is returning at last, their lives coming ‘Full Circle,’ a title of the episode so fitting. Dhruv asks Alexa to play the song they’d only co-incidentally come across the previous night as they exchange rings, completing, to the satisfaction of their families, the conventions of engagement. There are smiles, banter, a tinge of humour — all characteristic of the Little Things world. The song, Ek Din Aap Yun Hum Ko Mil Jaayenge, melody containing the hope of finding love, continues to play even as the curtains close. The scenes, as any other, are laced in undertones: in the impulsiveness of Dhruv remembering the song from the chai corner, in the innocuous questions of Kavya’s mother, in the laughter that follows. Tiny parts that make the whole memorable. The ‘little things’ that make the show and its depictions a millennium treat(ise).
Kavya and Dhruv on their balcony in the penultimate episode of the series, minutes before engagement (Dice Media / Netflix)
Few shows embody the coming-of-age principle as Little Things does, both in its storytelling attitudes and cinematic framing. A show that started in 2016 on YouTube, amidst the many other shows that stray indistinguishable from the video content on the open-to-all platform, Little Things’ graduation to Netflix was momentous for both the creators and its viewers, a stamp indeed of the love and trust the show had received from all corners. On the contrary, however, it was—still is—tricky to identify the underlying story, or plot rather, of a show as ubiquitously appreciated.
Four seasons, five years, and the wind-up later, it’s worthwhile to ask what made Little Things tick, and find, cement, a place in the heart of its viewers? The answer perhaps lies in the very elements that were missing: a singular story, a base of a plot, resources that rom-coms inevitably harness. Little Things, by choosing to forgo either, allowed itself to cover a wider ground more freely, in directions that were multiple and uncharted—a labyrinth for the viewers, to be traced with Dhruv and Kavya, and all their accompaniments. Much alike the everyday human life, there were a multitude of strands the show wrung in each episode, every season, straddling as much mess in the couple’s world as the neatness in its acute writing. With every episode a new day — independent of its predecessor, unconstrained by what was to come — it bore something for everyone everywhere, saying a lot in little, playing akin to an interrelated anthology as Dhruv and Kavya’s world shifted and took shape.
The emotional tides in the show, high and low, run across its length as a recurring feature, with Dhruv and Kavya breaking into fights every now and then, resolving before repeating them. These stiff moments stem from the unseemliest bounds, from the minor differences that make a difference: the nonchalance of Dhruv to Kavya’s drowning in work (best told in the will, or lack thereof, to keep up with the balti and the magga), the weirdness of a home without a television in a Bombay tad noisier than Bangalore, the subtle variation between talking vs. updating each other. A couple seething with ruptures as many and frequent as these, still finds ways to hold on to each other, imparting what could be called the millennium nuggets of practical wisdom. To the viewer it can send plural meanings: a recognition of the heaviness, a predisposition, or answers, at its best, in the smallest of instances from their personal relationships. For in a life that seems to rush past us in a flurry, Dhruv and Kavya’s world projects modern love in its most microscopic form, giving viewers, irrespective of what they make, a homestead to go back to, where both art and life imitate each other.
A still from the first episode of Little Things; the show premiered on YouTube in 2016. (Dice Media / Netflix)
Momo and Kavu–the nicknames Dhruv and Kavya address each other with–are two characters carved with an innate sense of human follies and trivialities, of people who tip over, stumble, and land back on their feet, or sometimes don’t. The uniqueness of the show perhaps lies in not centring itself on any of these features or the situations they give rise to, making itself, paradoxically, about nothing singular per se, but everything it can be. At one point in the show, Kavya finds herself being drawn, at least momentarily, to another person at a conference, only to discuss with Dhruv the possibility of a better life, a better life partner. Dhruv’s response to this conundrum sums up the tapestry of the show’s many affable moments: in that he reminds Kavya of their averageness that is unlike Kohli-Anushka, and the constant striving to find joy from what is available. To love, they reaffirm to each other, is to persist.
Dhruv and Kavya contemplating the foundations of their relationship at the dinner table after the latter ‘hit-it off with another man on the work-trip,’ (Dice Media / Netflix)
Confining Little Things to a show that grapples with only the notions of love, however, can be a reductive exercise, for Dhruv and Kavya’s world rests on both their inward and outward travels, the latter taken in unison with friends and families, besides each other. Friendships, peculiarly the old ones from childhood, play an important part, as Dhruv faces a friend he believes to have outgrown. Kavya too is reminded of the old pet upon her visit to Nagpur, pressed later by his ailments to take a transfer back home. In situations as these, a sense of bewilderment prevails at the outset for either, before giving way to a pacifying reassurance—a rootedness that is rare. Throughout the show, Dhruv and Kavya, while eager to move forward, keep looking back, in a progression that hinges on the constants and variables of their lives equally. This constancy comes alive the most in their exchanges with the families, in the generational gap that makes them weary at times but provides in the hour of need a lap to lay on. The larger glean from this expanse is Dhruv and Kavya’s unending negotiation with the topsy-turvy life, or the necessity as Kavya’s mother puts it, to ‘be with each other in their growth.’ Modern love, the show compels, happens in tandem with the life around.
It’s anybody’s guess to ascertain why Little Things drew to a close where it did, at the juncture of the announcement of a marriage between Dhruv and Kavya. The bonhomie between the families of the couple phased out to the ultimate black screen, displaying a timer, clocking the months and days to go to the tie-up. Marriage, unlike the unhitched lives of the couple the show seared into, was left as a black-box for the viewer – a black screen with a timer that only cued its coming. Did the prospect of marriage not align with the concept of the show? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe marriage and life afterward were too large an event to be captured by its littler constituents. Across its four seasons, the show traced and tread a host of junctions: long-distance discord, visits to hometown, transfers and tiffs in the office, a remote glimpse of the life of a researcher, etcetera. What stayed common, however, was the independence of these junctions in spite of their sharedness, in that they were not always leading to something larger—a destination. Marriage then may have become a burdensome check post to reach. The show, nonetheless, managed to extract the essence from the ordinariness of life it gave to its characters, closing in on Rooney’s Normal People and Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (2021), two other artworks of the millennia to have attempted the same, albeit in their western contexts.
The final shot at the closing of the show (Dice Media / Netflix)
Normal People narrated the coming-of-age story of a young couple, separated by their class, united by their reciprocal affection. At its core, it brought into question the notion of ‘Normal,’ while also circumscribing the ordeal of loving, loving back, not loving. If Dhruv and Kavya fought over the most trivial, Connell and Marianne couldn’t utter the most obvious. For them, the tensions often lay in not what was said, but what went and remained unsaid. Scenes from a Marriage in that sense was a complete contrast, for it chose to focus its gaze on the chaos of a dying marriage, questioning the very ephemerality of love. “We should teach kids that love ends,” one of the leads of the show proclaimed.
(Clockwise) Scenes from a Marriage; Normal People; Little Things
Little Things, while placing itself in the bracket of these pathbreaking artworks, remained unique; for while Rooney and Bergman’s works didn’t answer the questions they posed, Little Things did so — by resolving the very conflicts it created, using its deft anthology-esque character, and the narrative bind. This desi counterpart was both imperative and timely, filling the void in the Indian rom-com genre, all while reminding that ‘nothing really matters, ‘cept the Little Things’.