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Sexy, Feminist, Confident Yet Confused: ‘Four More Shots Please!’ Is A Glossy Hot Mess

  • IWB Post
  •  January 31, 2019

Four imperfect women, one perfect friendship. That could be the tagline of Sex and the City or Girls, or even Veere Di Wedding, but it’s about the new Amazon Prime original, Four More Shots Please!.

Flawed, independent, modern women taking on the world in high heels is not exactly a novel concept, which is why the aforementioned comparisons are inevitable. And even as Four More Shots Please! tackles a lot of the same subjects SATC touched upon, it 2019-ises the tracks and while it gets some things right, it gets others very, very wrong.

The series revolves around Anjana (Kirti Kulhari), a divorced single mom hustling as a lawyer; Damini (Sayani Gupta), an investigative journalist who struggles with OCD; Siddhi (Manavi Gagroo), a plump young woman tormented by her mom and weight issues; and Umang (Bani J), a bisexual fitness trainer. The four of them meet serendipitously one night at Truck Bar, run by Jeh Wadia (Prateik Babbar), and thus begins a friendship where they can say anything to each other, as long as they are downing copious amounts of alcohol while doing so.

The first of 10 episodes in the series is titled Ambitious. Prude. Feminist. Slut, and though the show aims to shatter stereotypes about women, it invariably ends up reinforcing some of them. The single mom hasn’t moved on from her ex-husband (Neil Bhoopalam) three years later and is obsessed with his new girlfriend (Amrita Puri). The plump girl is the only one out of the four who is a virgin and has no ambitions beyond getting married. There is nothing wrong in telling these stories, because they are all very real, but these stories have been repeated ad nauseum on screen, and a show like this should have taken more chances.

The most frustrating portrayal, however, is of Damini. She is a ‘serious reporter’ who is fighting not only the system but also the board that funds her startup news website. She walks around the office in clothes that no reporter worth her salt can afford on a daily basis, yelling profanities and making decisions that will sink any news outlet. At one point she also yells at her subscribers for liking entertainment news and gossip more than ‘real news’, which is a surprising choice to make for a show that will primarily be reviewed by entertainment portals. Surely there’s a better way to criticize our country’s reading habits than by making sweeping statements about entertainment writing?

On the plus side, though, Bani’s character Umang is nothing short of revolutionary. Her bisexuality is handled with nuance and wisdom, she doesn’t feel like a caricature, and there are other LGBT characters in the show that struggle with very real issues, like coming out to families. Umang realises she’s bisexual when she’s in Ludhiana, and not wanting to be stifled by her parents’ dream of getting her married soon, she leaves for Mumbai and makes a life of her own there. That doesn’t mean her past doesn’t haunt her, but she doesn’t let it define her or stop her growth.

But in an attempt to put its central four characters in pretty much every single sensational or scandalous situation a 20-something urban Indian woman might find herself in, the show bites off more than it can chew and gets so all over the place that it’s hard to understand what the point of it is anymore. Tracks are touched upon and abandoned as soon as they start to get a little real. Anjana starts to masturbate to get in touch with her sexuality but almost immediately finds a man to satisfy her instead. Just as Siddhi starts to love her body and stands up to her obnoxious mother, she has sex and gets engaged. Damini’s OCD gets semi-cured as soon as she starts to fall in love. That is not how life works, and since this is not a movie where everything has to be neatly tied in a bow at the end of two hours, a little more depth could have certainly been added to these sequences.

The show is helmed by an all-women crew. Directed by Anu Menon, produced by Rangita Pritish Nandy, written by Devika Bhagat and Ishita Moitra, it’s been shot by Neha Parti Maitiyani and edited by Antara Lahiri. So, we see the show through a refreshing female gaze, with ample focus on the women’s orgasm in sex scenes and their vulnerability in emotional ones. Casting Milind Soman as a gynecologist whose only job is to look hot and be the object of Damini’s sex dreams is another example of the same.

The casting of the show, in fact, is one of its biggest plus points, with the four leads making the best and even elevating some of the material they’ve been given, especially Kirti. The supporting cast has so many capable characters that it was almost criminal that their arcs weren’t very well fleshed-out.

The myth started by Friends, that a group of grown-up, working friends can meet every single day, or at least thrice a week, to discuss how life is screwing them over, continues to be perpetuated by this show. In the second half of the series, there’s also a Goa trip, because no show set in India about young people can be complete without that.

In the final episode, everything pretty much implodes in the girls’ faces, setting it up nicely for a second season. Hopefully, the writers will iron out these issues if that ever happens.

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