Watching Netflix’s show Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives made me wonder why are we still so scared of female friendships?
If my life were a Venn diagram, it would be smack in the middle of two intersecting circles – Bollywood and Drama. Needless to say, I binge-watched The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives over the weekend.
It was literally the kind of weekend binge I needed. Previously, I revelled in the trashy drama that we were offered under the name Indian Matchmaking, so I obviously enjoyed the Fabulous Lives too.
Now before I get ahead of myself, let me give you an idea of what Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives is. I am sure you’ve heard of The Real Housewives of Here and Everywhere. Now add a dash of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. And then a tadka of Karan Johar style masala and riches! Bam! That’s what Fabulous Lives is all about.
It revolves around the lives of four ridiculously rich women – Sanjay Kapoor’s wife Maheep Kapoor; Chunky Pandey’s wife Bhavana Pandey, Sohail Khan’s wife Seema Khan and the 90’s heart-throb Neelam Kothari Sethi. (Now before any of you wonder who is Sohail Khan, he’s Salman Khan’s youngest brother. We’ve all seen him in that godawful song Aksa beach.)
The basic premise of the show is to give the audience a peek into the ‘real and flawed’ lives of these Bollywood wives – the problems they face and how they overcome them. While you can barely relate to the fabulous lives of the women featured, you do see some aspects of how women’s friendships are portrayed on-screen.
However, the ‘flawed’ lives they lead are pretty much normal lives for us! A husband who isn’t too comfortable in social settings, a friend who is always too loud and one who always swears (that’s me in my group!), we all have them, right?
But what really irked me the most about the show was the thinly veiled sexist behaviour throughout the eight episodes. The makers tried really hard to make the show revolve around the foursome’s friendship but did such a shoddy job, it had almost the opposite effect.
All four women, while talking about their 25-year long friendship also managed to throw in a number of sly remarks about each other, which were quite unnecessary! It just gave the show an overall cat-fighty, high-school cliquey kind of vibe.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. The inner Bollywood drama lover in me was thoroughly enjoying it. But I could still see sexism seeping in through the cracks.
While the backbiting and ‘cat-fights’ (God! How I hate that term) throughout the series aren’t that pronounced, we did see them when Karan Johar came in. I think his only purpose throughout the show was that of a modern-day Gucci-Prada-fancy-jacket-wearing Narad Muni!
All the women (I refuse to call them girls) claim to be ‘very close to Karan’ but get ‘stressed every time they’ve to meet him.’ And for good reason, for this modern Narad manages to set off a major high school like fight between Seema Khan and Bhavna Pandey. This makes for a whole episode of four women and Karan (Narad) Johar in an upscale restaurant, shrieking at each other.
Now, I am all for drama, remember the Venn diagram of my life? But this isn’t the kind of drama you expect to see in 2020. Imagine watching a series titled ‘The Scattered Lives of Bollywood Husbands.’ Would you be shown these kinds of fights between men? Will men be shown to obsess over something that happened months ago? I don’t think so.
The question is, why do we still want to show women as petty, vicious, catty people? Do we not know of genuine female friendships?
We still haven’t left behind our childish beliefs that two (or more than two) women can never be friends, especially on-screen. And if by any accident, that does happen, the women have to have a major fight over a small issue, followed by no contact for months. It’s only when a man comes in or someone else tells them, that they get back to being friends.
Why do female friendships make everyone so insecure? No, really. I want to know! Do you think if women were to be friends, we’d destroy you? I don’t think so, we’ll just be lost in our own worlds wondering why we didn’t do this earlier!
Coming back to the Fabulous Lives, the two women don’t speak to each other for a while but go and talk to other people about the ‘fight.’ Apparently, that’s what women do! The other two, Neelam and Maheep, obviously take sides and explain to Bhavana and Seema, respectively, that they understand them. They, then, get them to reunite and they do, obviously. (Cue K3G music.)
Remember how we’re trying to kind of show the world that women can work while taking care of their kids? Well, not here. Whether it is Seema Khan tracking her university going son’s classes or Maheep Kapoor who needs constant updates on where her 20-year-old daughter is, these women sure take us back to the ’80s and ’90s where women ONLY took care of kids.
Since we are on gender roles, on their ‘girls’ trip to Doha, these women are talking about how free they feel from their lives on their vacation. And then they’re blatantly objectifying the younger men they meet.
Anyway, they are rating men when their drinks arrive and who else to bring them their drinks, than a really good looking French man. What follows is utter cringe. I mean, I felt second-hand embarrassment at their expense!
But that’s the thing I don’t really get. Why do we have to have older women needing to objectify men to feel more in control of their lives? I get the fact that you’re bonding with your friends and you’re all peri/post-menopausal, but that doesn’t really make it right to do this.
Which brings me to this awful conversation the women have while they’re out for dinner with their husbands. Maheep asks the table if they know what MILF stands for and while Chunky Pandey and Sanjay Kapoor appear clueless, Neelam’s husband Sameer Soni pipes up with the answer.
This is followed by whether the women will like to be called a MILF. (Ugh!) The bonus would be Chunky Pandy’s disgusting reaction to this! He tells his wife that he’d be okay if someone called her a MILF. Really? Then he even goes on to say that he found certain mothers to be extremely sexy while he was in school. (Do you now realise why we need sex education in schools?)
Then there is Neelam’s stalker, the one she encounters in Doha. While the whole thing begins incredibly innocently after he asks her for a picture, you know it’s going to take a sinister turn.
The women are on a fun night out, drinking and enjoying themselves when someone sends over a drink and platter of food to Neelam. When asked who’s sent it, the server points to a man who looks vaguely familiar.
Neelam instantly recognises him and tells the others who he is, they refuse to believe her and ask him to come closer. He admits that he is the guy from the picture and that he did send over the drink and food.
The women claim they’re spooked but they casually let him go. Back at their hotel, they lock all the doors and check the place for intruders. The next day, they seem relaxed at no one being around them and head to the pool where they see him again! Still, no one calls security!
Later when they meet Narad Johar, they glorify the stalker, ‘OMG! Neelam has a stalker!’ Are we happy there was a stalker? Stalkers are anything but nice, they’re creepy, they’re shady and they do NOT know how to take no for an answer! In fact, our dear Narad claims he also wants a stalker but hasn’t had one when he wanted one!
Let me spell it out here – stalkers are not fun. We need to stop glorifying them and the fact that you were stalked. It is not a rite of passage, neither is it a fun encounter to have.
Well, the show has a ton of similar moments. Whether it is their obsession with their looks and not getting older or the whole nepotism debate that will spark out of this, Fabulous Lives is a major annoyance fest. And how can we forget Maheep Kapoor’s need to spy on her neighbours with binoculars! (I am not kidding, I wish I were. But I am not).
While it did have its own sweet moments every once in a while, Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives was a basic cringe-fest that had me shaking my head all the time!
If there’s a season two, will I watch it? Oh absolutely! And will I still cringe while watching it? You bet!
Here’s to realising that the ‘fabulous lives’ aren’t really that fabulous at all!
Picture credits: Still from the series Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives.
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Reader, writer and currently an Associate Editor at Women's Web, I survive on coffee
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