Like mother, like daughter

ByAmitabh Srivastava

Sep 19, 2020

Two reluctant actresses come together to create a Netflix series that is taking audiences by storm

Masaba Masaba, as evident from the title — is based on the life of 31-year-old Masaba Gupta. The series has become the talking point in families for its touching portrayal of a modern mother-daughter relationship.

The reluctance to make a series that closely follows their real life stories was more on the part of the veteran actress Neena Gupta, who has been over-protective of her daughter, knowing the industry in and out.

Masaba initially wanted to be a professional tennis player, then a musician and a dancer till she landed as a top Indian fashion designer at the Lakmé Fashion Week in 2009. “Masaba always wanted to act, but I told her not to as I thought she didn’t have the face of an Indian heroine. She listened to me and didn’t pursue it earlier,” Neena Gupta has said in press interviews.

The series has three writers, Sonam Nair, Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramachandran and is directed by Sonam Nair.

Masaba Masaba is actually two stories combined in one. On one hand it is the story of Masaba, an aspiring fashion designer who is struggling to put up her best show with the help of her team, who stand by her throughthick and thin.

On the other hand, it is also the story of Neena Gupta trying to make a comeback after years of being in the oblivion where she has only herself to make her decisions.

The star of a number of TV serials including Khandaan, Saans, Pal Chinnand the host of TV show Kamzor Kadi Kaun, she has also acted in dozens of films from 1982, including the role of a widow in Woh Chokri for which she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, but had been out of the circuit for some time till she got the role of a 50-year-woman who becomes pregnant in Badhai Ho.

The focus of the series is on the world of fashion, not so much on modelling.The one model who does appear in the fashion show is more of a caricature and is a good foil to show the hard work and the struggle that goes into creating a show.

The mood swings of the team members, their personal problems, their fights don’t matter. The show must go, on as they say. But what takes the spot-light in the series is the delicate but touching relationship between the mother and daughter.

There are times when the daughter decides to walk out of her mother’s home to live independently, but we always know this is temporary because they never lose touch with each other.

But true to the name, it is Masaba’s show all the way. Masaba is not dependent on Neena Gupta, as shown in the series. There is not much that the mother can do when her daughter’s show flops miserably and she has to depend on her own inner strength to prove her talent to the bosses who finance her projects.

A still from the series

On the other hand it is Masaba who throws a party with her office team when the reluctant mother creates a successful advertisement with much younger competitors.

Everyone knows about Masaba’s divorce which kicks off the first episodebut the issue is handled with all sophistication and maturity. There are no tantrums thrown and both — she and her former husband — seem tounderstand the pain of heartbreaks. In a touching scene, a grieving Masaba returns to her mother’s home and finds parathas as the ultimate panacea to her problems.

In real life also, they have had their true share of bickering like normal mother and daughter. In an interview when asked about their fights, Masaba has admitted that they had too many of such squabbles. But Neena Gupta in the same published interview said that even if they fight “like cats and dogs, after 10 minutes, they are okay with each other”.

In such a situation what works as coolant is tendering an apology. “After that, both our decibel levels come down. Then, there are times, a parantha does the trick,” Neena Gupta has said on record.

The series puts out two very important incidents that show how fact and fiction can be mixed very naturally. There was a time when Neena Gupta had put a post on Instagram which read: “I live in Mumbai and (am) working as a good actor looking for good parts to play”.

Instead of ridiculing her mother, Masaba, started reposting the message which ultimately got Neena the role of a life- time in  Badhaai Horeleased in 2018.

The other incident is when a shopkeeper in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar told Masaba confidently, showing her own prints — that they come from ‘Masaba’, which they believe is a country in Africa and would not believeher when she told him that she was Masaba!

Having seen the response of the public to this series, one can clearly state that Neena Gupta should never have any doubts about the acting prowess of her daughter after this series. Her looks may be somewhat odd given her parentage (Vivian Richards being her father) but her confidence in facing the camera will take her places. The director of the series Sonam Nair has been receiving praises for her work.

“Masaba is a natural actor with an international look. She is intelligent and grasps the scenes quickly,” she has said . After this Gupta had also started believing that acting is either “in Masaba’s genes or is her destiny”. Audiences are now eagerly waiting for the second part of the series.