The audacity of the babe-bonanza, prosecco-lite Four More Shots Please! (FMSP) is why the show was both hailed and hated in the same breath. It takes dangerous things and makes it cute. In season two, journalist Damini Rizvi Roy (Sayani Gupta) wrote a scathing book that got banned and became a bestseller, suggesting a parallel to journalist and activist Rana Ayyub’s book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up. This season, Damini makes the move from journalist to political advisor and is seen trying to resuscitate the political image of a Rahul Gandhi-like figure. It is all neat and pretty, emptied of the vile acid and sandpaper edges that mark the real-life political scene in India. Instead, FMSP is a cushy left-liberal daydream — ‘left’ as in not-right, as opposed to staunch socialism, anti-capitalism, or anti-consumerism. It gives us the kind of easy-breezy politics that we mistake for a progressive vanguard. There is even a stand-up comedy routine in this show on consent, in case your mouth wasn’t watering enough. There is also a JCB-led demolition. This is not the kind of liberal belief that comes from challenging ideological limitations, but the kind that feels comfortable to flaunt and convenient to wield as a whiny weapon.
Our protagonists are grappling with different kinds of darkness. Damini is shaded by the grief of miscarrying. Gym trainer Umang (Bani J) is reeling from a broken engagement. Lawyer Anjana (Kirti Kulhari) is struggling with single motherhood. Stand-up comic Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo) is dealing with the death of her father and the newfound freedom of her widowed mother (Simone Shah). The four women are lifelong signatories of the Bra Code, four friends in and around south Bombay, each struggling with some aspect of being adult, a woman, a friend, a functioning person in Mumbai — being single, being a single mother, being insecurely coupled, being securely divorced, being queer, being queer-bait, being a working woman, being a trust fund child, struggling to pay rent, struggling to understand the concept of rent.
Yoga, wrestling, and food sampling become a mating dance even as insecurities bubble. Kale smoothies make charming cameos every now and then. “Chalo na Maldives” is post-coital pillow talk. They celebrate birthdays in Italy. Well-lit meals are had and conversations too, over these meals; dialogues said with food in the mouth, an attempt at replicating life even as the show keeps its bargepole distance from realism. The show takes the idea of an adda, a safe space, a run-down part of a garage-like posh bar, and makes it designer friendly. Even the overgrown vines look dusted. (Though, in the show’s defense, we do see a rat make an appearance, swiping its way across the screen.) This is not a criticism as much as it is an invitation to ask — can we make luxe shows without making luxury look so fitted, staged, and uncomfortably inhabited? Luxury can look blended, we know that from films like Aisha (2010), Khoobsoorat (2014), and Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) and shows like Made In Heaven and Aarya. But this is not that.
FMSP is led by women who are given careers as extensions of their personalities, and parents as contrasts to their personalities — meaning careers and parents are accessories that withdraw from the show whenever necessary. All four are working women who have the luxury of just jetting off to Punjab for a friend at a moment’s notice, who don’t seem to have the concept of a weekday or a weekend, everything blurring into their bubble of luxury. In that sense, this show offers a perspective on the wretchedness of life which luxury — the popping kind of luxury, not the blending kind — cannot thwart. It was what made the show distinct and odd when it first premiered in 2019.
While the show remains committed to centering female desire, bringing in a shirtless, ab-textured Jim Sarbh to fill the hole created by the exit of a shirtless, ab-textured Milind Soman, the sex in it has begun to look sweet, not sweaty. Even when they show sex, it is so thickly overlaid with background music, it loses the wet, messy, skin-slapping spontaneity of an impulsive coming together. The desire to look stylish, like a music video undoes the one thing the show was unironically good at. The men — Prateik Babbar as the bartender and Neil Bhoopalam as the writer — are reduced to character condensates, performing the same sketch again and again. How funny that in a series about female friendship and desire, it is the odd male friendship between these two men that seems most crackling, most honest and most effortless, because it’s least amenable to epiphanies.
Written by Devika Bhagat and directed by Joyeeta Patpatia, FMSP invokes its audacity every now and then. For an article on the degrading quality of Mumbai roads, Damini gets photos of potholes clicked, measuring their circumferences by walking around it in her heels — toe to heel, toe to heel; walk, walk, click, click — and converting the number of footsteps into inches. If I was feeling very generous and a little tipsy, I would call it camp. But for the most part, it is unable to justify its style and glitz with any kind of serpentine, high drama or gut throbbing, ear-shutting verbal spats. Three seasons in, FMSP’s pleasures feel dry and familiar, invoking a certain weariness instead of comfort. In that sense, this third season is the worst of the three. More than anything, it seems committed to being a string of music videos, with a roster of indie music — sometimes two different songs in a scene — tearing through every moment, blaring background music becoming slurred foreground dialogue.
The charm of FMSP is that it allows you, invites you, to chafe at the protagonists before wrapping any resentment you have towards them with love. Siddhi throwing tantrums when her mother starts dating and Damini’s swerve between being needy and being indifferent, for example. This season, however, has turned most of its characters to whiny, bowtied brats, dull in their outlooks, entitled in their flaws, repetitive in their follies. It is hard to want to know where they are and how they end up. Their destiny — read: the sudden emergence of characters towards the end of the show, sweeping other characters off — is just as dull. Besides, the conflicts this season are tame. Their implications don’t feel dire and their possibilities don’t feel threatening. Even an assault is filmed as though there was safety involved.
The makers, though, have had fun with the show. The subtitling has that giggling quality, especially when translating blue films — “Silky Jawani” becomes “Sperminator”, “Ghagre Mein Dhoom Dhaam” becomes “Good Will Humping”, and “Ashleel Aurat” becomes “Pulp Friction”. There is always this debate among subtitlers about how distracting, clever, accurate, or culturally specific the subtitles should be. By making these bold, almost recklessly witty choices, the makers of FMSP tell us that it is okay to laugh, not at the scene but at its subtitles; that to laugh around the show instead of with it is fine because the show isn’t adamant about how its audience consumes it. That it is consumed, for whatever reason, in whatever way, in whatever state, is enough.