Masaba Masaba cast: Neena Gupta, Masaba Gupta, Neil Bhoopalam and Rytasha Rathore
Masaba Masaba director: Sonam Nair
Masaba Masaba rating: Two and a half stars
Masaba Masaba will be remembered as the show, which finally gave Instagram, and by extension social media its due. It is, after all, the third most important character in the show, which otherwise revolves around the highs and lows of the fictional selves of designer Masaba Gupta and her mother, actor Neena Gupta. The two have a very public relationship: whether it is Neena modelling clothes for Masaba’s label and showcasing them on social media, or Masaba reposting tweets by Neena, where the senior Gupta dispelled lies about her having moved to Delhi, and asking for work. The real-life dramatic turns of the lives of the duo, make for excellent story waiting to be dramatised. But what we get instead is a stumbling narrative, littered with hackneyed situations and characters who inhabit a world where a social media post is the quick-fix answer to life’s every problem.
The six half-hour long episodes take us through Masaba’s hushed divorce and its fallout, her moving back with her mother and juggling the incessant demands and pressure asserted by her investors for a new clothing collection. This is countered by Neena’s attempts to find work at the age of 60, an age which in Bollywood is only reserved for naanis and daadis. She is also worried about her daughter and is also learning how to drive.
So far so good, the first two episodes reel you in with the twists and turns, and one hopes that this is setting the stage for a complex and layered story that slowly unravels. But apart from the scenes and the bits which focus on the mother-daughter duo, everything else is a caricature and has a rushed feeling to it. Don’t get us wrong, it is a delight to watch the real-life mother and daughter play themselves on screen. Their chemistry and ease with each other is endearing, and highly relatable. Neena Gupta offering to make a paratha for Masaba after she appears with a tear stricken face on her doorstep, or Masaba fashioning her mother in a yellow chiffon saree with a backless blouse are reflections of the strong bond that the two share and how they must have depended on each other through a life which was always under the public radar. The two bicker and argue, use passive-aggressive stance like an ace. Of course, then Instagram comes to the rescue, and all is well again. This gives a sense of authenticity to the relationship that they share. But for everything else, well, there’s not much to write home about.
Masaba and Neena have been vocal about the struggles they have faced. Masaba has often spoken about the bullying she faced at school and how she would apply makeup on the sly for it was the colour of her skin that came in for ridicule. Her journey from battling her own demons to be a name that has made it to the red carpet of Cannes film festival, should have provided enough fodder for a more insightful show. Instead what we get are her frequent trips to a ‘life-coach’ and her making matching clothes for a starlet and her dogs.
One thing is clear from the show that if designer Masaba Gupta had chosen a career under greasepaint and arc lights, Bollywood would have gained a natural actor. Masaba the actor is at par with Masaba the ace designer. But she chose to dress the who is who of Bollywood in bright Indian colours and pop motifs. And we are not complaining. Perhaps it also serves her well in the current atmosphere with trending conversation around nepotism.
There are definitely some moments that make the show a one-time watch for sure. They have gone where not many dare to, in their attempt to parody Bollywood and laugh at their own self. Katrina Kaif is a running gag in the show. Director Farah Khan is shown having a cut-out of Katrina Kaif— with a replaceable head — in her office. Farah often replaces her own head on the cut-out and prays that she too will have a Katrina body, given her new practice of intermittent fasting. Masaba’s therapist, who works out of a building called Jannat and is obsessed with the whereabouts of her cheating husband, is ‘someone who’s recommended by Sonam, and has more issues than me’, thinks Masaba aloud in her head, as she ‘undergoes therapy’. Neena Gupta competing with Sunaina Goel and Kiron Kher for a role is also quite cheeky. There are some laughs, but the show only scratches the surface: neither do we get a deep dive into the life of Masaba Gupta the designer, nor do we get to see Masaba the daughter of Neena Gupta.
Earlier this year we had #BlackAF, which had TV writer and producer Kenya Barris, who gave us the hit show Black-ish, and later Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, and he played a fictional version of himself. It was funny and poignant and spoke in depth about a family grappling with ‘new money’ and the change in social dynamics given a new economic position. Masaba Masaba does nothing of that sort. It is the rich and the privileged, solving their first world problems. But watch it for its ‘hot-air’ approach to messy things.
Masaba Masaba is streaming on Netflix.