Episode 7 of Four More Shots Please! the Amazon Prime Video series, is about a birthday weekend organized for Damini Rizvi Roy, the Editor-In-Chief of an investigative news website, played by Sayani Gupta. Her three girlfriends—a divorced lawyer with hair tints the colour of 18-carat gold, a hyper Punjabi bisexual gym trainer and a slightly plump, poor little rich girl constantly roasted by her mother—have organized this getaway. They are Kirti Kulhari, Bani J and Maanvi Gagroo in that order.
And where is the party? Goa bro. Fuck, you couldn’t even guess that! Where else do the SoBo (South Bombay, fuck you) elite rush to escape the heat and dust of their coiled emotions, uncoiled sexualities, urban existentialist dilemmas?
At this drunken beach party in Goa then, where libidos and liberties run high, Damini is seen in a shoulder revealing short, blood red dress, with an ethnic silver necklace, multiple bracelets, rings and silver gladiator sandals. Her friends are all in racy costumes, messy hair, un-messed makeup; they guzzle alcohol by the shot and the lot and mouth profanities with orgasmic delight. By the time you reach this episode after sitting through six prior episodes jammed with stuff from four over stacked wardrobes, you could well style the rest of the series yourself.
Make an Excel sheet of every single tool of styling and fashion that is trending and you can see in product pornography pages of glossy magazines: kaftans, bikinis, chappals, bracelets, boots, sunglasses, slouchy pants, floral dresses, see-through tops, off shoulder tops, pantsuits, pointy heels, stilettos, lacy vests, boyfriend jackets, layered chains, pink lipsticks, nude lipsticks, eyelash curlers, hair curlers, straighteners, crimpers, casual-messy buns, messy ponytails, tattoos, white lingerie, pink nail polish, dark nail polish, large green rings, bags, more bags, branded bags, unbranded bags, printed overlays with mirror work details, frayed jeans…Bas, wait. Fuck.
All of us (me included) who have ranted ad nauseam and written intellectually snobbish pieces in the past on the tacky and loud dressing on “Indian TV” that we one-dimensionally interpreted through saas-bahu soaps, should take a moment of reckoning. If we believe that snaky sindoor, glitzy saris and chunky fake bling wearing hysterical Indian housewives made TV dramas a regressive territory, we have a lot to rethink.
Four More Shots Please! created by Rangita Pritish Nandy, written by Devika Bhagat with dialogues by Ishita Moitra, the first season directed by Anu Menon creates the “same difference”. The unrestrained over-dressing, over styling and thus caricaturizing of the four lead girls of the drama, dilutes their screen presence. If this series stands for an inflexion point in our socio-cultural lives, written to document the fiery ambitions of women, their lust and rebellion, asserting fluid sexualities and a disintegrating faith in marriage, it is disheartening to watch the four girls leading these conversations piled on with dozens of fashion and beauty tools.
If style can be a villainous entry into a televised drama, here it is. Aggressive, loud and hysterical. The person in each of the characters begins to blur because each has been given loads to wear and un-wear.
In a drama that chooses Bombay –perhaps the most exposed and exploited city of context in cinema, TV, literature and art, and without disguise borrows the tried and tired plot of “four girls”—like the American Sex in the City and the Indian Veere di Wedding, the latter inspired from the former anyway—the styling of its characters could have distinguished its aesthetic and visual appeal. But it is the fashion and aesthetic styling that has, in fact, led to a disappointing overemphasis. Every girl is a fashion victim.
Had the characters been created outside the done to death Calamity Jones script; had divorce plus bisexuality plus daily drinking, plus sex bot addiction plus power formulaic news versus tabloid fights not all been employed in one large jumble, the clothes and the styling could have been amusing even. But not here.
Also, a caricature is seldom just a creation of appearances. Language, location, co-artistes and concerns contribute. So if a successful, divorced lawyer’s biggest wrangle is with her lonely vagina (who she calls Ms Vee Vee), a journalist suffering from undiagnosed OCD compulsively visits a gynaecologist (a middle-aged Milind Soman, by far the most charismatic man in the series) to make sure her vagina is all fine, a bisexual fitness trainer lets it all hang out whenever lust beckons and a single plump girl trying to get married streams half-dressed sexy videos of herself, it seems like a presumed pot of urban female-centric problems has first been listed before being cooked. And overcooked.
Four More Shots Please! could impel us to debate if all feminist freedoms and dilemmas can be identified as loose confusions hanging somewhere between the words “fuck” and “fat”? If saying the F word a few dozen times in each conversation is the only expression of a genuine disconnect with traditional living. If alcohol is the only balm for a fraying self and the sturdiest cement in adult friendships. If a girl must recklessly oscillate between an older man and a younger man, to find her G-spot?
Sometimes it is okay not to wear your hair in a perfectly messy bun while in the midst of a career-threatening power battle at work. It is equally okay not to have the trendiest bag or pair of sandals, tinted sunglasses or beach dress—Goa or Bandra.
You know, it “fucks” the spontaneity that style is mostly about.