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What does it mean to be in love

Updated on: 14 May,2023 08:34 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Paromita Vohra |

Thand pao it seems to be telling all prim critics. Let pleasure, stories and emotion lead the way to understanding. Also, let the bodices rip!

What does it mean to be in love

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraQueen Charlotte, the prequel to the Bridgerton series of historical romances, announces its #BoreMatKarYaar agenda from line one: “This is not a history lesson—it is fiction inspired by fact. All liberties taken by the author are quite intentional. Enjoy.” Thand pao it seems to be telling all prim critics. Let pleasure, stories and emotion lead the way to understanding. Also, let the bodices rip!

And rip they do. Snappy banter, amazing wigs, sexual heat, romantic drama—Queen Charlotte sacrifices not a bubble of its froth. Midway through the show, the older Lady Danbury tells Lady Violet, “We are full of gossip and story. Yet we spend our time matchmaking for those who know nothing of love. What it is to not have it. What it is to lose it.” In essence, this is a show about women’s journeys into adulthood—their reckoning with power, love and self-definition.  What is beautiful is that it defines adulthood not as cynicism, but as experience. And it is through the journeys of these women that the show gives us rich understandings of love and politics.

The arranged marriage between King George III (often callled Mad King George) and Queen Charlotte, inaugurates “The Great Experiment” —wealthy Black families are brought into the aristocracy so the new queen might feel more comfortable. The marriage begins like a fairy tale rom-com, and soon shows its hand. King George is descending into madness and trying to conceal it from his bride, leaving her lonely and bewildered. As with marriage, so with The Great Experiment. Black families may have been elevated to nobility with the title of Lord, but have not been given the land or social acceptance that makes it meaningful. Yaniki, political correctness, like marriage, mostly serves to bolster privilege.

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It is love that provides a potent sense of possibility in the show. Charlotte and George grapple with both, the question of mental illness and also love. Love is not presented with condescension, as sacrifice or a mere vehicle of acceptance. It insists on making a place for itself alongside the mental illness of a partner, not in spite of it. Love’s ache and shimmer, its desire and tenderness fuel each woman’s capacity to understand herself outside the world of norms and expectations. Love itself is one of their many political journeys, alongside social question.

People are always trying to tame love by making it symbolic of either conservative or progressive identity. These somewhat capitalist approaches to love, are based on an efficiency model: love must yield a result in favour of conservative or liberal politics to count. This equips us only to constantly sort relationships into ‘problematic’ or not and see relationships as validating us. We denounce and reject relationships of romance or friendship using this discourse. Are we also rejecting ourselves, imagining ourselves incapable of navigating dissonance and difficulty—embarking on a risky political adventure in love, whose outcome is unknown?

The loves in Queen Charlotte are quite inefficient in that sense. Experienced with fearless vulnerability, love is always an unfinished business, often difficult, an ongoing imperfect endeavour. Like all politics it is alive with potent questions. What do we think love can do, after we have diagnosed the web of cultural exclusions? Who might we become, through love? What does it mean to be radical, the way love is radical?

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

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