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Not much more than a chick flick

The world of Four More Shots Please is far from real – expensive booze, perfect looks and casual flings take the place of emotions and authenticity

What is the definition of a ‘liberated’ and ‘empowered’ woman? One who uses cusswords without any hesitation? One who is unafraid to shout out ‘vagina’ at the top of her voice? Or one who boozes when happy, sad or confused? Or she who knows how to pleasure herself?

Well, the latest Indian Amazon series Four More Shots Please might not entirely suggest so, but the way it shows its women makes us curious whether such is the case. Yes, we live in a free country where women have the right to do whatever they can. But are booze, sex and bad language the only parameters to define how ‘forward’ a woman is? Also, as the name suggests, alcohol (shots) does play a really important role in the film. Intriguingly, hangovers seem to be a myth for these ‘perfect women’.

Directed by Anu Menon, its star cast includes Lisa Ray, Milind Soman Kirti Kulhari, Gurbani, Sayani Gupta, Maanvi Gagroo and Neil Bhoopalam, among others. The story revolves around four female friends from different walks of life and how they deal with work life, relationships and anxieties in the modern-day society. There is Anjana (played by Kirti Kulhari) — a hot single mother who’s still stuck in the past. Then we have a highly ambitious, control freak journalist Damini Rizvi Roy (played by Sayani Gupta). And there is a hot-headed, yet vulnerable, bisexual gym trainer Umang (played by Gurbani) and the rich Gujarati, stereotyped ‘fat’ virgin girl of the group Siddhi (played by Maanvi Gagroo).

These women openly discuss sex, masturbation, men and more. They meet up regularly in ‘Truck Bar’ – which looks like it’s out of some mythical land. And more so, the way they meet and become friends is quite dramatic. These small details are what makes the plot line more surreal.

In their ‘La La Land’ financial problems do not seem to exist. Not even when Umang, who is an outsider in Mumbai, loses her job. No one talks much about their struggle but this may be because they are from SoBo (as they call South Bombay)! Thus, they always look like they are ready to walk the ramp in their perfect attires. This ‘Sex and the City’ vibe lurks throughout the series. Life in Mumbai here is made to look like a happening one, which all women will be envious of. But is everything in life that easy? Is everything so glamorous or does the series just paint it that way?

The series does highlight some of the problems that women face — like body issues, society’s acceptance of sexuality, workplace harassment and so on. But there are a whole lot of problems that an average woman faces in our society. And the biggest among them is women’s safety. Here, this topic is dealt with in an insensitive way. In a scene, a man touches Umang inappropriately without her consent in the gym. She hits and abuses him. But the next minute, she is seen resigning from her job after the gym manager (who is a woman) blames her character for justifying the man’s behaviour. But not every woman, like Umang, is constructed that way. Not very woman can hit her abuser and walk away so easily from her workplace.

A few more themes are poorly portrayed in the film. The way a gay character (Siddhi’s friend Mohit) was portrayed lacked sensitivity. In a scene where Siddhi meets Mohit for the first time, he comments on her dressing sense. And instantly she says she knows he is gay. Does it imply that straight men are not capable of commenting on women’s dresses and style?

In another sequence, Anjana‘s mother insults a girl saying, “She has no ass.” Skinny girls have been insulted more than once like this, with dialogues like “Men like curves, dogs like bones.” Even the issue of body shaming has not been dealt with properly. And tellingly, the ‘fat’ girl in the group is the virgin one — and not the hot single mother or bold journalist! Isn’t that stereotyping enough?

The scene where a bunch of old ladies in Goa start talking about their sex life out of nowhere — looks forced and not natural in any way. Had there been a context to their conversation, it would still have made sense. Also, partying in Goa has again been used as the epitome of a fun and happening life – as if it’s a goal every millennial needs to achieve before getting old! Age have also been looked down upon. In a scene, a young intern insults Anjana’s choice of an older man with the jibe: “Imagine how he will look like in 10 years, and how you will look.” Are looks everything?

Some of the coincidences were just blown out of proportion. Like Damini bumping into her hot ‘gynac’ Dr Warsi (played by Milind Soman), or Siddhi‘s would-be father-in-law turning out to be her blackmailer, or be it Truck Bar owner (and Damini’s love interest) Jeh’s (played by Prateik Babbar) presence in Goa the same time the girls were, or be it Anjana’s ex-husband Varun seeing her kissing the intern in the lift. How can people just bump into each other so often? Doesn’t happen in real life!

Be that as it may, a few things in the series are appreciable. First are the performances delivered by the leading ladies. Special mention must be made of Kirti Kulhari, who infuses life into the character. The climax scene – where she has a breakdown at a hospital – was more real than most of the other scenes. Maanvi’s acting makes her character look real – her vulnerability and naivety are visible on-screen. Sayani’s panic-stricken and compulsive behaviour is made believable by her performance and so is Gurbani’s determined, free-spirited yet helpless character as Umang.

Secondly, the series unabashedly discusses female masturbation— a first of its kind in an Indian series. It captures female desires in a way which is relatable. In the scene where Siddhi loses her virginity, she is seen not having an orgasm and is rather surprised that the experience was nothing like she imagined. All these scenes, and the depiction of the women as fiercely independent and not ready to compromise or settle for anything less — were true to the core and applaudable.

In one scene Anjana tells her husband that she wants a divorce with utmost conviction. Also, in a scene Siddhi tells her would-be fiancé that she is not ready for marriage as she wants to know herself and the man more. Coming from a girl who has been brought up to think that marriage is the only aim she should have in life, this was a hard-hitting moment. And then when it is shown that only her mother – who has been her biggest ‘rival’ —  stands by her when everyone was against her, is truly remarkable.

Such moments make the series feel like more than a glamorous show. But still, it somehow looked like it was made to cater for elite sections and not the average Indian women in general. That way, it was far removed from reality. It was a good attempt and did open up conversations about issues which were hushed up till now. Thus, it might be an entertaining watch but fails to leave a lasting impression and lacks genuineness.