Film companion Four more shot please

Does anyone remember season one of Four More Shots Please? It was released in January 2019, and it was enjoyable without being too memorable. It also ended with an episode so suddenly ridden with conflict that it was clear the writers were angling for a second season.

So here, then, is season two. Episode one opens with the four women still not talking to each other. However, for the story to pick up, they have to rather quickly be brought together, so they revive their friendship with an abrupt trip to Turkey. This trope, of the foreign trip that rights all wrongs, is a difficult one to pull off and almost never works. I didn’t buy it in Veere di Wedding (Thailand), I didn’t buy it in season two of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel (Paris) and I didn’t buy it in Four More Shots Please. For one thing, the women plan an overnight trip but still manage to pack a slew of very stylish clothes (more on this later). For another, they immediately swear everlasting love to one another, without discussing why they stopped talking or trying to solve any issues.

But it’s to the writers’ and director’s credit that they tide us over these bumps in their scripts and involve us in these women’s lives. And they lead very bumpy lives. Each of them suffers setbacks and heartbreaks both professionally and personally multiple times. The episodes are nothing if not eventful and engrossing. The actresses, Kirti Kulhari, Sayani Gupta, Maanvi Gagroo and Bani J, share beautiful chemistry: the characters they play (Anjana, Damini, Siddhi, Umang) really appear to like and care for one other. They’re even given one-on-one dynamics within the group: Damini likes children, so she occasionally babysits Anjana’s daughter; Siddhi always drops Umang home after nights out.

Of the four, the most focussed (and, therefore, most successful) track is Umang’s. She and Samara Kapoor (the Bollywood actress played by Lisa Ray she fell in love with) rekindle their love; she nurses Samara out of a psychological rut. Because Umang’s story is very focussed on her relationship with Samara, we don’t see much of her working life; on the other hand, we really come to understand her and Samara’s togetherness as well as its eventual conclusion. This also largely due to Bani J and Lisa Ray’s commitment to these characters and their evident enjoyment of each other’s company.

The other three struggle to balance their lives with their careers. Each of them has at least two interested men to be confused about (and, in one case, maybe three) as well as numerous professional travails. Siddhi seems to finally find her calling: could she be a stand-up comic? At home, her parents have switched roles: her dad now won’t speak to her and her mum is her biggest supporter. Simone Singh as her mother gets less screen time but is thankfully no longer the artificial helicopter mom she was last time. And she is terrific when she bears down on her husband over the double standards married women face. Maanvi Gagroo as Siddhi perfectly locates the character’s childishness and marries it with a newly acquired adult confidence, which is very striking.

Kirti Kulhari is convincing most of the time: Anjana has to deal with an overtly misogynist new boss (he checks every box on the sexist man checklist: asks her to arrange refreshments, gives her promotion to a man, gets men to lead teams she should have, hands her important clients over to male colleagues and insinuates about her ‘time of the month’ when she gets angry), her ex-husband and his wife’s new pregnancy, her charming but overprotective young boyfriend, her downright irritating daughter and a new man on the horizon! It’s a wonder she doesn’t break down more often.

The one who does most of the breaking down is perhaps the most interesting character of the series: Damini Rizvi Roy, the writer who is now writing her first book, an explosive and controversial account of the death of a judge. Her book takes her through tremendous ups and downs: she can’t write it until she suddenly can, then she can’t publish it until she suddenly does, she can’t get it stocked anywhere until one store suddenly takes it, she can’t get it to sell until it suddenly enters the top-ten bestseller list — and it doesn’t stop there. On the personal front, she is still juggling both Prateik Babbar and Milind Soman, so she is really spoilt for choice, especially once one of them gets her pregnant. Damini is also struggling with her OCD, but she has more control over it now. Her life in this season flies straight in the face of her excessive desire to exert control, and it is intriguing to see how she deals with it. Sayani Gupta is very special in this role and coasts comfortably over the writers’ tendency to keep throwing curveballs in her direction.

Apart from occasionally stilted lines (‘For the first time in my life, I don’t know who I am’), the dialogue is refreshingly casual and the actors are thankfully equally at home in English and Hindi. Where the series falters is in its fatal obsession with beauty. Literally everyone and everything is beautiful. And this alone would not be a problem. It is the fact that the series wishes to have messy emotion without muddying its hems.

If you look at the opening credits, you’ll see a credit not for ‘costume designer’ but for ‘fashion director’. And indeed the fashion isn’t so much designed or worn as directed. It is created not to blend in with the characters and scenery but to stick out. No outfit is ever repeated and nobody ever clashes with anyone else in the frame (in fact, occasionally, characters are made to match with one another if they are meant to be connected in some way). The problem with this is that it becomes distracting; it takes away from the emotion of four friends reuniting if you notice that within the same bonding montage sequence they each wear two entirely separate outfits. Even their bathrobes and nighties are beautiful. It’s all a bit overwhelming and prevents us from taking these people seriously. It also prevents the writers from resolving serious issues in serious ways.

But then Four More Shots Please zips by so quickly and so much happens (break-ups, shouting matches, infidelity, pregnancies, a near-abortion, resignations, affairs, protests, labels of ‘anti-national’, hook-ups, a wedding, a yoga retreat and lots of sex with bras on) that I didn’t have time to think about it as I was watching. Which is perhaps a good thing: it’s only when you think about it later that the cracks begin to show in the otherwise involving, entertaining and frequently moving stories of Anj, Dee, Sids and Mangs.

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.

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