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Four More Shots Please may not be breaking any myths or stereotypes, and is even a little cliched at times, but it understands one thing clearly: That women are individuals with complete autonomy.
When I was done watching the trailer of Four More Shots Please, my first thoughts were that obviously, the series would end with the single mom who was pushed into forced celibacy after her daughter’s birth finally having mind blowing sex; that the virgin too would end up having mind-blowing first sex, the bisexual woman would discover more aspects of her less-accepted sexuality, and the fierce journalist would probably find a man who would make her stop, and breathe, and just…count tiles – yes counting tiles is amazing.
Some spoilers in this review.
Funnily enough, all of this happens, but not by the end of the series. I am still reeling over what I felt about this 10 part Amazon Prime original series. Of course, I binge watched it over the course of two days, and occasionally shed a tear or two, but also rolled my eyes many times at the obvious inanity unfolding on the screen.
And yet Four More… is hard to dismiss, and this is mostly because of the four leads, who are all very good (though I wish the fantastic actress Kirti Kulhari was used better.) At first her Anjana comes across as someone still weirdly stuck on her slacker first husband, played by her co-star from Shaitan, Neil Bhoopalam. Also for someone who claims to be ‘the best’ lawyer, her discomfort in defending a client in a Mumbai city court, and then blaming it on patriarchy or some such, is rather hard to accept.
Then there is her young daughter, a girl who could have been made to not spout randomly inserted lines just to move the track forward. Anjana and her husband share joint custody and Anjana’s only escape from the grind of her work-life existence is the time she spends in the truck/fuck bar with her three Veereys. How do they all meet? Well, the series puts in a rather unconvincing episode to show just that. Bhoopalam and Kulhari’s scenes together give the sense of a couple that has once seen great times but are now barely scraping by through that history.
Sayani Gupta’s multi-faith journalist is more interesting than Anjana, and yet many aspects of her character are just strewn in. She is shown to have struggled to find acceptance from her mother, even as a child. But how this impacts her anti-patriarchy stance is never made clear or understood. And then her pop feminism lines in the first couple of episodes. So unnecessary, as if proving a point were as simple as saying a sentence. But gradually, and in the presence of the bartender cum owner of the truck bar, Jeh, a half-Parsi, half-Goan Catholic (played by Prateik who finally seems to have got back some of the understated intensity he showed in his first two movies), Damini seems to calm down, seems to have an actual conversation.
Gupta and Prateik have a great chemistry and I felt myself wanting to see more of them. But Damini’s fierceness and her sense of entitlement coupled with her motivations and then the angst she displays at their failure, all across as very hard to buy. To the show’s credit, Damini even with her flaws is shown to be an individualist, with high self-esteem. How often do we come across such women? And then there is Milind Soman too, in all his grey haired Greek God glory. But he has nothing more to do than slip conveniently into not just Damini’s fantasies but also her daily routine.
Baani J’s character Umang is shown having lots of unattached sex, with both men and women, and when a Haryanvi lout tries to molest her, she breaks his leg. There is a very compelling and relevant line about consent thrown in here. Umang also has a lot of past baggage which she thinks she has shrugged off; she is a small town girl who cannot relate to her middle class family’s utterly middle class and patriarchal expectations, and to add to it, is madly in love with her own brother’s wife who reciprocates but is not as invested as she is.
There is Lisa Ray too, playing an ageing actress named Samara Kapoor, who hires Umang to be her personal trainer so that she can prepare for the role of a MMA fighter. Soon they turn lovers, but here too Umang has to learn hard truths. There are some good bits about how she finally makes peace with her family, and how her raw aggression seems to have been replaced with almost pitiful sentimentality.
Maanvi Gagroo gets the best narrative arc, and so does her performance as Siddhi. At first she is just the healthy, glowing, pampered and secretly in need of validation, Gujarati girl. Her father adores her, but her mother hates her, complaining about how this ‘fat’ daughter literally tore her vagina after 36 hours of labor. She has no ambitions other than finding a guy she can get married to. There is also a prospective match turned gay BFF who seems to be there everywhere after a certain point. But where Siddhi’s story suddenly takes a turn is when she begins to accept her body and its imperfections in the most unexpected manner. Gagroo’s performance ensures that these parts are less titillating and more thought provoking. There is also a childhood friend who literally pops out of nowhere.
Four More Shots Please abounds with cliches. There is a mandatory Goa trip filled with more trip cliches, bizarre sequences like trespassing into a private property, jumping into their pool, finding champagne bottles, random Shalom saying hippies, random pill-giver hippies, randomly meeting an intern, random 40th anniversary, and a bunch of hilarious old women who seem to know lesbianism very, very well. But it is towards the end when the show takes you by surprise. Siddhi finds an unexpected ally and also an unexpected nemesis. She stands up for herself, for her choices, and also discovers that sometimes what you think you want is not what you really want. Anjana’s life is on the verge of being torn apart and she discovers how casual conversations with people you think you can trust, can come back to hit you hard. Umang too takes a decision, and Damini’s final clarity of thought could also possibly result in a huge disappointment.
These women and their stories or their lives are hardly something that can be ascribed to the average urban Indian woman (I am not even talking about rural women or less affluent ones.) Some might even argue this is a more sophisticated version of Veere Di Wedding and it possibly is. But there is no denying that even through the gratuitous kissing and designer underwear and cussing and vagina chantings, a series like this even if not breaking any myths or stereotypes, certainly does give women on our screen something they don’t often get: agency and choice.
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Writer and technologist currently based out of Bangalore
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