Four More Shots Please! cast: Sayani Gupta, VJ Bani, Maanvi Gagroo and Kirti Kulhari
Four More Shots Please! director: Anu Menon
Four More Shots Please! rating: Two stars
A lawyer, a fitness expert, a journalist, and a millennial with mommy issues walk into a bar. No, this is not the beginning of a long drawn-out joke, it’s the premise of Amazon Prime Video’s new original Four More Shots Please!. A ten-episode show that is all about celebrating unapologetically flawed, yet strong women. Who doesn’t want women to have fun, raise a glass at the local bar and have lots of sex. After a disastrous first meeting at the bar, the four protagonists end up becoming best friends. Their lives, personalities, choices and struggles are as different as chalk and cheese, yet they click, because that’s how female friendships and bonding are supposed to work. The foursome lend a sympathetic ear and an empathetic shoulder to each other. While the slightly older, single mother (Kirti Kulhari) is dealing with a really long dry spell and the changes that motherhood has brought to her body, bisexual Umang (VJ Bani) is dealing with the aftermath of her no-holds-barred policy and unrequited love. Damini (Sayani Gupta), an award-winning journalist, has to come to terms with her OCD and power play at her workplace and Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo) has to seek constant validation to counter her body image issues, courtesy a piranha of a mother. So far, so good. But that’s where Four More Shots Please! reduces itself to a mere throwback, barely echoing the strength that belies women and their friendships.
The bond between women – be it the 3 am friend to whom you rant about the guy who has ghosted you, or the colleague who gives you a sanitary napkin at work, or the work-friend who rolls her eyes with you at every misogynistic comment by a male-coworker — is nearly sacrosanct. In Hollywood, we have had shows and films dedicated to this genre – Sex and The City, Girls and even The Golden Girls come to mind. Closer home, we had the pathbreaking Thoda Sa Aasman, helmed by Deepti Naval, where three women of different ages came together. Angry Indian Goddesses, Parched, Veere Di Wedding too have attempted a narrative around the theme.
While it’s great to see women owning their desires, complexities and flaws, FMSP is barely reflective of the average Indian woman at large. The characters might be aspirational. Sure. But while being aspirational, why are they not held accountable for their actions and choices? Extra care has been taken to ensure that these women come across as strong, badass, and at the same time vulnerable, but why do they have to be shown as being short-sighted? A lawyer – who terms herself as ‘the best’ is caught unawares in a city court for not knowing Marathi, something a seasoned lawyer should have preempted. Any journalist/editor worth their salt would know the consequences of bypassing the legal and supervisory board of their news publication. In the pursuit of making their protagonists fearless, the show creators have made them look superficial and borderline irresponsible.
All these women wake up with their make-up in place and are well-coiffured, even after a night of debauchery in Goa. They are never shown to deal with the realities of life – a single-working-mom would have her hands full, and preparing ‘teddy-bear pancakes’ would be the least of her troubles – homework/playdates/work-life balance — we assume would take precedence. Also, the whole cast speaks Hindi and English in a weird accent, whose origin one can’t place. Gupta, who plays an award-winning investigative journalist, is one of the most impeccably dressed journalists ever seen on screen or even in real life. We wonder how she meets her super crazy deadlines in those sky-high heels. Siddhi, who has suffered years of emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, chooses to be a virtual exhibitionist to seek validation, but would therapy not have helped? There are nice moments too but they are few. It’s heartening to see women drinking, cussing and taking the onus of pleasure on themselves. But these are not the only things that define and make ‘real’ women.
A stellar cast is highly underutilised. Kulhari is reduced to a screaming banshee while Bani is just shown as a hyper-sexed woman on the run from her family. Gagroo is a breath of fresh air, owning her character with panache. Gupta tries to be the fearless journalist but the sloppy writing lets her down. The supporting cast of Milind Soman, Lisa Ray, Simone Singh and Prateik Babbar are wasted and are just slotted into boxes that can be ticked–the mature lover, the lesbian lover, the hateful mother and the earnest bartender.
The seeds for the second season have already been sown. We want more narratives like these where we see the imprint of an all-woman team in the way the show is shot and directed but give us a lot more depth please.
Four More Shots Please! streams on Amazon Prime Video.