If contemporary content is to be believed, women are having more fun than ever before. But, pray enlighten us to the allure of the number 4. If one is to go by all the glamorous girl power movies and shows dominating the collective consciences of both, content producers and consumers, 4 is the magical number that ticks the right boxes and hits the right notes of what constitutes a successful girl gang.
Let’s see, Sex and the City had the most popular awesome foursome in the history of the genre. Though a bit jaded (after all, it first started showing in 1998), it still ranks right up there as the one that left a lasting legacy and an indelible impression on the minds of millions of young women across the globe.
Then there was Girls, hewn from the same mould as SATC, and featuring another awesome foursome, along with the stereotypical flashy lifestyles and glitzy glamour. Veere Di Wedding introduced us to our very own version of a fashionista foursome of girls who just wanna have fun.
Four More Shots Please, Amazon Prime’s latest Indian Original, is yet another production celebrating girl power, with humongous dollops of glitz, glamour and sex thrown into the mix. And yes, you got it right– it is another fabulous foursome that runs the show here. And not only is the lead cast all girls, the show is even helmed by an all-female crew.
Anu Menon is the director, while Rangita Pritish Nandy is the showrunner. Writing credits are shared by Devika Bhagat and Ishita Moitra, while Antara Lahiri is the editor of the show. The show is produced by Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd.
All the aforementioned shows and flicks have a common underlying thread to them – they show society a mirror to the misogynistic patriarchal streak that runs through the most sophisticated settings there are – be it Mumbai or Manhattan. Beneath all the gloss and glitter and iterations of women’s lib lie blatant sexism and misogyny, traits of a male-dominated society that raise their ugly head, each time, every time. Maybe not in the beginning, but somewhere down the line when things go wrong, it is always the female who is blamed for everything – as happens with our protagonists in Four More Shots Please.
Damini, Anjana, Umang and Siddhi are four girls, as different from each other as chalk from cheese, who spend an unconventional night together at the Truck Bar. The unusual getting-together leads to them becoming bffs; and the Truck Bar becomes their favourite watering hole and rendezvous spot. They also develop an intimate, comforting relationship with the bartender-cum-owner, Jeh (Prateik Babbar). The girls wanna enjoy life on their own terms and are high on the heady hedonistic pleasures the world has to offer. They celebrate small, hard-earned victories or drown crappy woes with endless rounds of shots at the bar, hence the name of the show. Kirti Kulhari, Sayani Gupta, Maanvi Gagroo and Bani J headline the 10-episode series.
Damini Rizvi Roy (Sayani Gupta) is a high-flying super-ambitious founder of an online news portal, who thrives on delivering hard-hitting, investigative breaking news. She’s won the Fearless Reporter of the Year award four years in a row, and yet has to let go of the startup she founded all because of a difficult board that wants to rake in the moolah via sleazy gossipy reveals. She’s replaced with a changeling (Sapna Pabbi) who has a nose for all the shocking society gossip out there. Damini has OCD, and a sex life most women can only dream of.
Heck, all the men she beds (three, at last count) are only too eager to pleasure her and ensure that she reaches charam sukh, to borrow from Veere Di Wedding’s quaint lexicon.
Anjana Menon (Kirti Kulhari) is a senior associate in a law firm, divorced and taking care of her daughter single-handedly. Her ex-hubby, Varun (Neil Bhoopalam) only shows up to spoil their daughter silly, or to spout gyaan at her about her affair with a younger man. It doesn’t matter that he’s been carrying on with a much younger woman since ages. Anjana hasn’t had sex since the last four years. She addresses her deprived lady bits as Ms Weewee, checks to see if there aren’t any spider webs down there, and finally resorts to that saviour of sex-deprived women – the vibrator! Yes, it had to make an appearance; and nope, no show on female power is complete without its ubiquitous presence. Eventually, Anjana gets her own toy boy in Arjun, a hunky law student she hires as an intern in her law firm.
Umang Singh (Bani J) is a gym instructor, a personal trainer to the Bollywood superstar, Samara Kapoor (Lisa Ray) and a bindaas bisexual. She embraces her sexuality with an unabashed in-your-face impudence. Siddhi Patel (Maanvi Gagroo) is a slightly healthy Gujju girl with an overbearing mother (Simone Singh) whose only aim in life is to get her daughter hitched as quickly as possible. She body-shames Siddhi in every possible way, keeps a strict eye on her diet and doesn’t miss a single opportunity to make Siddhi feel small and useless. Siddhi discovers her own unconventional, clandestine means to feel desirable and wanted.
While the story has nothing to offer that we’ve not seen before in some or the other setting, it is punctuated with interesting asides. Damini has the hots for her gynac, Dr Aamir Warsi (Milind Soman), has wet dreams wherein he tears off her clothes in the midst of a board meeting and makes wild, unbridled love to her. Her dreams come true and she even gets her G-spot pleasured by the man who knows everything about a woman’s pleasure spots. In that sense, the show is quite radical; and also far-removed from reality. All the men that feature as leads in the show are generous lovers and take care of the woman’s pleasure before their own. If only real life was as nirvanasque as the show’s reel life.
One of the most hilarious sequences of the show is when Anjana decides to meet both, a prospective lover and a prospective law intern interviewee, at the same venue. In a hilarious comedy of errors, she mistakenly presents her prim and professional self to her tinder date for the night, while proposing hot, molten sex to a visibly shocked Arjun, the intern. The look on Arjun’s face was priceless, to say the least!
In another delightful sequence, while strolling down Marine Drive and discussing Anjana’s non-existent sex life, the girls take turns to shout out‘vagina’ loudly and ringingly into the darkness of the night, reveling in the liberating feeling of breaking the taboo associated with saying aloud terms that are only whispered, if at all spoken aloud. Although it’s a sequence borrowed from the exquisite The Vagina Monologues, which had even audiences being coaxed into shouting out the term, the sequence is invigorating to watch, nevertheless.
Beneath all the gloss and glitter and iterations of women’s lib lie blatant sexism and misogyny, traits of a male-dominated society that raise their ugly head, each time, every time
However, for a show that aims to bust stereotypes, Four More Shots Please reinforces startlingly standard stereotypes in glaringly obvious sequences – Anjana, the divorced, single mother, faces the spectre of being declared an unfit, negligent parent, and an ugly child custody battle with her ex-husband. Well, the show insinuates that with all the drunk driving, weed smoking and making out in public, what else did she expect? Huh, how much more stereotypical and judgmental can one get! Siddhi Patel is the quintessential poor little rich girl, cozily ensconced in her palatial, sea-facing Sobo home. Of course Siddhi is a gujju, a Patel to be more specific, and of course, the prospective groom must be a US returned eligible bachelor. And when things fall apart for Siddhi, guess who gives her the mighty shoulder to lean on – not her ever-supportive, ever-loving dad, nah. It’s her dragon-breath ogress-mom who stands by her in her most testing time yet. Let us tell you, we saw it coming!
The show tries too hard to take convention by the horns and put it in its place. Whether it succeeds or not is another question altogether and will require another long article to discuss the whys and wherefores. But where the show does succeed is in its casting. The casting is simply superb, and hits the sweet spot of casting coups. All the four girls are on top of their game, and make the most of the substantial roles they’ve been handed. Lisa Ray is like a breath of fresh air in the claustrophobic digital space, and lends ample credence to her character of the Bollywood superstar who’s not ready to come out of the closet yet. Casting real-life couple Simone Singh and Fahad Samar as the reel-life husband-wife and parents of Siddhi was another master stroke. The two bring their South Mumbai sensibilities to the show, adding a touch of genuineness to the proceedings. The waif-like Amrita Puri is adequate as Varun’s to-be-fiancé.
The male leads are another feather in the cap of the casting team. Prateik Babbar has the meatiest of the roles and sinks his teeth into the character with gleeful merry. Milind Soman is heavenly eye candy…that bod, oh that bod…..which hot-blooded female wouldn’t want a bare-bodied Milind Soman stride upto her in his tight little jocks and make smoking hot love to her? And he ain’t only about sexy; he’s got his acting chops in fine fettle too. Milind is one actor we would love to see more of, on the big screen, small screen, mobile screen…heck, any screen! Neil Bhoopalam is superb as the immature ex-husband, Varun, getting all the nuances spot on. Ankur Rathee is hunky and good looking, and perfect as the young trainee, Arjun. To cut a long story short, the casting of Four More Shots Please is singularly novel and much-needed relief from watching the same old faces on our screens. Casting Directors Shubham Gaur and Trishaan have done a great job in putting together the superb-looking ensemble cast.
That notwithstanding, for us, the real take-away from the show was its superbly real, non-judgmental and unprejudiced portrayal of the trials of the LGBT community in a still-majorly-homophobic country such as ours. The rest was just glorified window dressing
The premise of the story incorporates done-to-death tropes on women, their saccharine-sweet bonding, and their trials and tribulations. Nothing new there. The series is also high on sex and decadence, and we ain’t complaining.
If there’s one thing where Four More Shots Please actually scores, it’s in its arresting storyline about bisexuality in today’s world – a story which happens to be about the only one who isn’t a true blue Sobo-ite among the foursome – the firebrand from Ludhiana, Umang Singh. Umang is bisexual, badass and heartwarmingly unpretentious. She speaks English with a distinctly rustic tinge to it, no pretentious Sobo accents for her. The manner in which she comes out before her family was one of the best scenes in the series – seriously great stuff there.
Yet, the sequence of the love affair between a Bollywood superstar and her female bisexual personal trainer being outed had us stumped. That really is the stuff of Hollywood behind-the-scenes true stories. What is it doing in an Indian web series, of all places? The sheer implausibility of the sequence touches a nerve – ladies and gentlemen, no Bollywood superstar has ever owned up or been outed in public as gay or lesbian in the past, and none will be in the near future, believe us ye. The possibility of that happening in the Indian film industry is still many many moons away. It’ll be years before we have a out and proud star such as a Jodie Foster, a Kristen Stewart, a Neil Patrick Harris or a Jim Parsons in the hallowed halls of Bollywood.
That notwithstanding, for us, the real take-away from the show was its superbly real, non-judgmental and unprejudiced portrayal of the trials of the LGBT community in a still-majorly-homophobic country such as ours. The rest was just glorified window dressing.
We would rate it 2.5 out of 5 stars.
(Written By Rashmi Paharia)