Director: Nupur Asthana
Cast: Sayani Gupta, Kirti Kulhari, Maanvi Gagroo and Bani J
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Truth be told, I never made it past episode two of season one of Four More Shots Please. I loved the idea of a Sex and the City-style series about four fabulous, flawed women in Mumbai. I loved the verve and sass of the actors playing them – Sayani Gupta, Kirti Kulhari, Maanvi Gagroo and Bani J. But the narrative was too simplistic and on-the-nose. It felt like director Anu Menon and writer Devika Bhagat were checking off boxes about feminism, the glass ceiling, sexual freedom and friendship. A line about 2000 years of patriarchy was the final straw. I gave up.
So it’s good to discover that Season 2 has a little more nuance and depth. Also, it starts with a handy recap of Season 1 so those of us who skipped the first can follow the story easily. Season 2 starts in Istanbul, makes a detour to a picturesque meditation retreat and ends in a big, blow-out destination wedding in Udaipur. Clearly, budgets were raised or the producers made good deals. Whatever the case, it allows the story to open up visually, which is welcome, especially in these lockdown times. We travel vicariously with the characters. But mostly, the 10 episodes play out in posh, spacious apartments, slick offices, hip restaurants, hotel rooms and of course Truck Bar where the four ladies gather regularly to knock back the four more shots in the title.
The series isn’t designed to land hard punches. This is feminism-lite
Women take the lead, not just in front of the camera but also behind it. Devika Bhagat, who wrote Season 1, continues with Season 2 but the series has a new director, Nupur Asthana. The series creator and co-producer is Rangita Pritish Nandy, the editor Jabeen Merchant, the dialogue is by Ishita Moitra and the cinematography by Neha Parti Matiyani. I know it’s too simplistic to equate gender with quality of content – some terrific films about women have been made by men – but what this female-led cast and crew get right is the camaraderie between the characters.
The relationship these four have with each other is the centrepiece of the series – jobs, lovers, ex-spouses, parents, other friends come and go. This friendship feels alive and emotionally authentic. There are way too many group hugs and tediously repetitive partying sequences. You might get restless but you won’t doubt the solidity of their support system. The actors have a lived-in comfort with each other. And honestly, after decades of seeing male bonding celebrated onscreen – from Sholay to Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – it’s nice to see female friendship get some screen space.
Conflicts pop up – a misogynistic boss, a married lover, an unwanted pregnancy, a father simmering in his own hurt, professional confusion – but everything is resolved with incredible ease
And yet, Four More Shots Please doesn’t find the artistic or emotional depth that a series like Made In Heaven did because the storytelling is content to float in shallow waters. Conflicts pop up – a misogynistic boss, a married lover, an unwanted pregnancy, a father simmering in his own hurt, professional confusion – but everything is resolved with incredible ease. And the gloss stays in place no matter what the women are struggling with – in one episode, Damini says that she is the writer of a flop book, living out of her savings but her apartment is spacious and spotlessly clean. Everyone is always dressed like they are in the middle of a fashion magazine shoot – which is a compliment to Aastha Sharma, credited as series fashion director. But the styling gets distracting, especially when the story is tackling serious issues.
The dialogue also gets clunky – everyone keeps talking about getting closure. In one scene, Jeh, the Truck Bar owner, and Damini are having a romantic moment and she asks aloud, ‘Why haven’t I done this before?’. He replies, ‘Tum hi jawab do’ and she says, ‘Maybe isse pehle tum nahin the.’ The camera circles around them as a song begins – ‘I think I’ve found my love’. My eyes rolled. But what really exhausted me were the tasteful sex scenes, which are in every episode – after all, how many beautiful lacy bras can you admire before it all looks the same?
Somewhere around the 7th or 8th episode, it struck me that Four More Shots Please is basically the streaming equivalent of Cosmopolitan magazine – there’s sex, pretty people, fashion, travel and a few big-ticket topics – body shaming, same-sex love, family acceptance etc. etc. Some scenes make an impact – like Damini weeping uncontrollably after a break-up or Anjana pushing back against the boys’ club at her law firm – but the series isn’t designed to land hard punches. This is feminism-lite. Which is not such a bad thing because it includes Milind Soman and Prateik Babbar as eye candy. In one scene, Milind playing the world’s sexiest gynecologist, is giving Damini a foot-massage. Just the visual made me smile. You can see Four More Shots Please on Amazon Prime Video.