Platform: Prime Video
Movie Rated: 16+
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
For many years, supposedly ‘female-centric’ stories were about women who would go about doing things a man would do in any other regular masala film. She became a larger-than-life figure who merely replaced a man in the film (for her market value) whereas she was destined to be a victim otherwise (preferring to be a damsel in distress waiting for her saviour). It’s an irony that many continue to refer a superstar like Vijayashanti as ‘Lady Amitabh’ to date. However, the recent years have invited a welcome change – female actors are not only headlining great films (that are no longer referred to as art/offbeat cinema) but are getting roles where their rougher edges are being normalised, if not celebrated.
Four More Shots Please merits attention in the Indian digital space for this very reason – these four women in a metropolis are each other’s support system, completely unapologetic for what they are. While the first season of the show served as a character study of its pivotal roles Umang, Damini, Anjana and Siddhi and what makes them tick together, the second instalment offers a deeper look into their ‘core’ identities. It is mounted on a grander canvas, the conflicts of the characters compound massively and the dramatic beats are executed with a sassiness that makes the viewing experience more popcorn-worthy.
The realism in the backdrop and the highhandedness of Mumbai is explored in its true colours, yet the soul of the show lies in the quirks of the characters and the unpredictability in their behaviour. Umang, the bodybuilder, is trying to give her relationship with actor Samara Kapoor a second chance. Damini, after being thrown out of a company that had she had founded, has placed her eyes on a novel that exposes the darker truths behind the murder of a judge prior to the verdict of a controversial case. Anjana, trying to rise above the insecurities of being a single parent, gets used to many changes in her life – some professional and many personal. And it looks like Siddhi has finally found a profession she excels in, but the complications in her love life aren’t lessening by the day.
A first-time viewer may be overwhelmed by the tone of the series and the way it handles its many complexities. For those acclimatised with the first season though, it is this insanity yet again that makes it a binge-worthy extension. The director Nupur Asthana chooses a (queer) wedding backdrop to unleash a volcano of conflicts at once – it’s literally an explosion. ‘What’s an Indian wedding without drama?’ a character rightfully says. Although the treatment partly resembles Made in Heaven, the dramatic tension gives it distinctness.
Umang’s battle with her bisexuality isn’t the point of focus (you like how the director isn’t at all dramatic about this) and this phase opens her to the perils of dating an attention-craving celebrity. The journalist Damini’s activist-tone is hardly realistic, but the character’s inconsistencies with her relationships, her OCDs make the graph more interesting. Siddhi’s role is among the most well-crafted ones in the series - the sequences capturing her self-discovery through standup-comedy are wittily staged. However, despite being the most cinematic of the lot, it’s Anjana’s middle-aged character strikes a deeper chord – tapping dimensions of womanly desire, parenthood and the complications of workplace relationships. Kirti Kulhari is at her masterly best with the dignity she provides to Anjana (it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role).
The diversity in the characters of many parents in the series and the efforts made to voice their concerns are heartfelt. The character arc of Siddhi’s mom, Sneha is excellent on that front – especially when she learns that her daughter had to resort to a porn site to realise her worth. (Siddhi in one of her standup jokes says the porn world doesn’t discriminate as much as the society). And there’s another mom (of Umang) who doesn’t even want to attend her daughter’s wedding owing to her bisexuality. Besides, single parent like Anjana is in the middle of prioritising between her carnal desires and the love for her child.
On the flipside, Damini’s concerns with her impending motherhood are exaggerated beyond necessity – the cliché is to make the narrative more relatable, though her ‘tu tu main main’ equation with a bar owner Jeh and her gynaecologist don’t add great value to the proceedings. A similar trope like the tension between a wife and her husband’s mistress (Sushmita and Anjana) is executed with greater clarity. However, Four More Shots Please despite threatening to become another exaggerated Bollywood musical, still manages to ties up its loose ends together because the director miraculously finds a way to jump from one conflict to the other seamlessly (and doesn’t be insensitive to them either.) The show takes firm pot-shots at misogyny – the monologue where Anjana shows a middle finger to a sexist boss and calls the company a little-boys club is a whistle-worthy highlight – and also discusses the thin line between loving one’s country and the party in power. (it’s a Pritish Nandy production after all)
Casting is one of the many strengths of Four More Shots Please. Maanvi Gagroo and Kirti Kulhari prove to be show-stealers in this instalment – their performances aptly reflect the internal chaos of the characters and the actors make it a point to keep their comic quotient intact too. Equally impressive is the efforts of Sayani Gupta in making her body language an integral element of her performance. Bani and Lisa Ray are an interesting on-screen pair – their timing is impeccable, especially the realism they bring to the performances while dealing with the crests and troughs of their relationship. Simone Singh is impactful, though Prateik Babbar pales with the absence of any intensity to the performance. Milind Soman lends gravitas to his act of a clingy doctor who has an affair with his patient. The likes of Samir Kocchar and Neil Bhoopalam needed more meat to their characterisation.
The jazzy undertones to the show’s background score, especially with how it’s used to end every episode, proves to be a great narrative addition. There’s terrific visual diversity as the narrative traverses past Istanbul, Udaipur and Mumbai. However, season two of Four More Shots Please stands out for the multi-layered writing and how the filmmaker Nupur Asthana improvises it as a rollercoaster ride of emotions (without compromising on the scale). The right balance of escapism and realism makes this a thoroughly entertaining package.
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By Kesavan Srinivasan at 03:48 pm, 25 April 2020