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The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives felt like a big middle finger to everyone struggling during the pandemic. And that’s the least of the problems.
When I started watching The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives I had expected an actual peak into lives and lifestyles of the Bollywood people – the script readings, media management, events and appearances, professional commitments, etc, not this cringe-fest of celebrating and showing off their privilege and vanity.
The show seems more like a scripted drama offering a boring look into the lives of the forgotten wives than a realistic depiction of it.
Interestingly, throughout the eight-episode series, the amount of vanity and self obsession and privilege these women have and shamelessly flaunt is atrocious! They are, in fact, proud of their conceited and narcissistic existence.
Within the first five minutes, they have already mocked Maheep’s domestic help for not being able to understand what ‘Le Bal’ is. This arrogance and entitlement continues throughout the show. They’re so full of themselves that the viewer gets no respite from them constantly laughing, judging, mocking each other. At one time, I was wondering why are they even friends after making petty jibes at each other. Or maybe, that was fake, too.
In one scene Maheep Kapoor is painfully explaining to the viewers how the star children including Jhanvi and Shanaya have not had it easy (Shanaya has just come from an exclusive debutante ball in Paris, mind you! But, oh it’s so tough!) and they are earning already while so many other girls are still living off their parents.
Listen, woman – other girls need to finish their education to get a decent job. Some don’t get into a decent college even after scoring a high rank, because, cut-offs! Others have financial troubles and cannot afford their children’s education but manage to complete it somehow with a part-time job. Yet others put their entire lives’ savings into teaching their children so that in the future the children will earn and extricate themselves out of a life of debts and burden.
Maheep seems to have conveniently forgotten how quickly star kids drop out of colleges to go work in movies because of the crazy money they are offered. Plus, they have their acting classes in Los Angeles and New York. (Oh, it’s soo difficult, I tell you!)
Not everyone has the privilege of having Karan Johar sign them up for a bad remake of a good regional film for shitloads of money. (Most of us who start out in a creative field have to initially work for free just to get our work out there in front of the audience. Remind me again, how much Jhanvi got paid for Dhadak).
By the time they get their Botox fillers and ‘energy facelifts’, and meet for dinner with the spouses, and have had discussions on why Samir Soni left abruptly in the middle of their dinner, and which rehearsal takes place at 11 in the night, I have put my head on the table just like Samir before he ran out of patience and suddenly upped and left. (Ladies, you really can’t be that ignorant! And what was Maheep Kapoor trying to even do, putting doubts into Neelam’s mind about her husband’s whereabouts. It was evident that he was uncomfortable and just wanted to go home.)
And their logic for the Botox et al? “Everyone does it so why not?” #Facepalm
I finally understand what people mean for a movie or show when they say that ‘it’s so bad, it’s good.’
At this time, I began live-commenting to my four friends. (And as I am writing this, I realize the friendship we share, despite us being separated by continents, and having never ever met for lunch or dinner even once is more real than the show exhibits.)
The show is replete with guest appearances. Apart from a Prada-nightsuit-clad film-maker friend who literally did nothing except shake hands, there’s Ananya Pandey with her perpetually bewildered expression, Raveena Tandon giving career advice to Neelam, and Jacqueline Fernandes preening and pouting as she gives instagram tips to Seema Khan. (Hello, ladies, Anupama Dalmia can give better advice which would actually mean something. What ridiculous irrelevant advice is this – ‘You have to be different.’?)
The only guest appearance I actually enjoyed was Chef Manpreet Dhondy’s. The scene itself was another irrelevant part that looked added more for the show itself than an actual real-life catching up of two friends.
The two (Raveena and Neelam) are making hummus with the chef, Manpreet. Everything, and I truly mean everything, Manpreet does on her own-right from washing the chickpeas and making the paste to grilling the vegetables. Meanwhile, Neelam complains about her nails getting stained from beetroot, and Raveena gives gyaan about how everything is different from the 90s. Umm, yeah, that was 20 years ago. Literally!
When it’s all done and the hummus is ready, the vegetables are grilled, the two ‘stars’ throw everything together on a plate and pose happily. Tada! they made hummus. YAY! They’re so awesome.
At this point, I am convinced that this isn’t reality television. It’s a proper TV show with actors acting out their parts, contrived dialogues, scripted fights, and dramatically choreographed slow-motion walks and turnarounds. The vanity and narcissism was evident in every dialogue and episode.
Anticipating backlash, Johar pretends to put the women on the spot by asking them irrelevant questions like ‘Why should I watch a show with four women who don’t have jobs?’
Never mind that I object to Johar even calling these four women (home-makers, jewellery designers, dress designers) “jobless”, I actually looked forward to hearing some solid arguments and logical reasoning about why the show would be a good watch. But apart from a ‘Get lost!’ and ‘[email protected]#% You!’ I got nothing.
Maheep, (who doesn’t have to think twice about planning a vacation to Doha, mind you!) admits to how it’s not easy being in a film family and being unsuccessful in a family of very successful people. I was almost tempted to ask what her criteria of success is? Owning a private jet? Or having your own private island? Because clearly, living in a palatial bungalow in a posh Mumbai locality or having a daughter invited to Le Bal, Paris doesn’t cut it.
Or I might even agree. What use is all this money, really, if you are not making a difference in anyone’s lives? At the risk of sounding catty I’ll say that even the ‘successful people’ in Maheep’s family are making some difference.
Seeing all this OTT display of riches and wealth, I wonder if we pay for our Netflix subscription for them to make such cringe-worthy shows and get an all-expenses paid trip to Doha?
I’d actually have liked to see Bhavna and her daughter have a heart-to-heart about the pressure of being in the public eye or Maheep and Sanjay talk about prepping Shanaya for films or Seema give insights into her life and work as a single mom. But no, this show much like Masaba Masaba was all fluff and no substance.
What exactly was this? An ego trip? A retort to those speaking up against nepotism? Or an outright middle-finger gesture to all those who are struggling in the aftermath of COVID while Bollywood glitterati complains about having to share a room with one of their closest friends?
In all honesty, it wasn’t even the extravagant display of wealth and opulence that got to me. It was the constant judging that they do to each other with the eye rolls and smirks and the derisive laughter that got on my nerves. They use ableist language all the time, calling each other names like ‘moron’ or ‘demented’ over minor quirks or behaviour.
The need to have your own space, for example, got a response – “Demented!”
Want to be informed before your friend confirms your attendance for something? “What a twat!”
As if this judgemental attitude wasn’t enough, add a generous dollop of crude and crass jokes like Johar saying, “Even I want a stalker.” Reminded me of Salman Khan’s statement comparing his state of exhaustion to being raped.
At one point, there was this cute little doggy with all his scraggly hair and wide eyes looking like God-only-knows-what-hit-us. Maybe he too had just finished watching the show.
Take Maheep Kapoor’s advice: ‘Don’t watch it!’
What to watch then? Here’s a list of shows to watch instead. And you don’t even have to thank me.
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Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative
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