In the seventh episode of the show, Karan Johar — the brain behind the cringe fest — questions the four women of the hour. These questions were supposed to be criticism that the four leads will hear after the show has aired. “Why the fuck should I watch a show about four women who don’t have jobs? Why are these pre-menopausal women getting on my nerves? They pretend they work, but what do they actually do?” Well, Johar’s assertions are bang on point. In The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, we get the uber plush lives of the almost famous wives of Bollywood. What else can we expect given that the production is by Dharmatic, the digital leg of Dharma Productions, the production house headed by Karan Johar.
The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (TFLBW), an eight-part reality show, which features four ‘Bollywood wives’ and their apparent fabulous lives started streaming on Friday on Netflix. The wives in question are Maheep Kapoor (wife of Sanjay Kapoor), Bhavana Pandey (wife of Chunky Pandey), Seema Khan (wife of Sohail Khan) and Neelam Kothari Soni (wife of Samir Soni), and the show is an attempt to give us a no-holds-barred, all-access entry into their lives, which includes children, their work and their husbands. Apparently, the four women have been friends for 25 years, and share a bond that can only be tagged as ‘family’, as they have been together for the births of their children, their ups and downs etc.
TFLBW is a very homegrown take on the phenomenon ‘Keeping with the Kardashians’ (KUWTK), which is currently in its 18th season. KUWTK was severely criticised for it’s ‘famous for being famous’ concept, TFLBW is, unsurprisingly, following the same template. All the four women will now be household names, thanks to the show. Otherwise, no one really knew them. Ok, perhaps the most ardent followers of Bollywood gossip would know these Bollywood wives. The problem with TFLBW is its premise, the first world problems of uber-rich people. The show opens with the appearance of Shanaya Kapoor (Sanjay and Maheep Kapoor’s daughter) at the coming out debutante ball Le Ball in Paris. The junior Kapoor is rubbing shoulders with the ilk of Jet Li’s daughter, as she is presented in adult society. All this while, she is practising her waltz, and the parents are sipping wine and chucking oysters at a chic al fresco bistro, as they discuss the future of their daughter.
The other thing is that these Bollywood wives are just Bollywood lite. They are the not the who’s who of the inner circle. What we get instead is the periphery of Bollywood. Sanjay Kapoor, though he is looking impressive enough in his second innings, was never the IT boy of Bollywood and Chunky Pandey, his popularity in the eighties and in neighbouring Bangladesh notwithstanding, never really got a second wind. Same for Sohail Khan, the least known and popular of the Khan brothers. Neelam Kothari was a hit name in the eighties, but currently she is married to actor Samir Soni, who is best remembered for his appearance in Ekta Kapoor soaps. So what we have is really Bollywood lite 2.0 and a get together of people. The real Bollywood wives who are recognisable in the industry are Gauri Khan, Suzanne Khan Roshan, Kiran Rao, Twinkle Khanna and Mira Kapur. These are the power-wielding names, with instant recall value.
The show is an extended Karan Johar film, with pretty locales, pretty clothes and even more luxurious cars. But it all reeks of empty, shallow classism. A running gag is Maheep trying to talk to her domestic help Rekha in Hindi, which apparently causes Seema Khan to burst into laughter every time. It’s all very distasteful and dismissive of real people who live and work around these ‘fab four’. TFLBW is shallow and reeks of desperation of people who wanted their fifteen minutes of fame and couldn’t really make it to a Dharma Productions film. The show tries to humanise these one percenters, with the moms being worried about their children, and being concerned about trolling on social media. There is also the unsaid, subtle defence of nepotism, as Sanjay Kapoor tries to defend his last name and that of the entire new brigade of actors who have famous surnames. At least Karan Johar brings in the high emotional quotient in his films, and we have all sniffled when we see Shah Rukh Khan hugging Hrithik Roshan in Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham. Here, the few tears that we see are fake at best.
The only thing that rings true for this show is the last twenty minutes of it, as we meet Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan, as they open their hearts and home for the film fraternity. Shah Rukh is in his element, as he recounts incidents with the famous four, and everyone is eating out of his hands. There is a hint of camaraderie, some closeness and shared moments as they all go down memory lane. But the rest of all is as fake and manufactured as the many sequins on the bling dresses.
We might watch the four wives with their perfectly manicured nails, their extensively blow-dried hair and wardrobes that won’t look out of place at a ramp, but the cringe factor increases with each passing segment of the show. Right from the wives discussing wine, to them shopping at 60 per cent flat off at Doha and problems they have while their children are off studying in foreign universities, everything about the show is highly unrelatable, shallow and cringeworthy.
As an epilogue, we meet the fab four, when the lockdown was underway, and they all meet up on zoom. The four are seen discussing their problems, of not having wine, and not having one functional AC in their penthouses, and that of cooking food, as the helps are all not at their disposal. Everything leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Sadly TFLBW doesn’t even qualify as a guilty pleasure, as its mentor KUWTK did. It’s highly predictable, artificial and rings hollow. Give it a miss. It’s sad that it’s 2020 and such shows are being made. Watch KUWTK instead, at least it’s original in its shallowness. You might pick up fashion tips and how to be a social media sensation, courtesy the Queen Kardashian.
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