The new Amazon Prime show, Four More Shots Please (FMSP) is a sure fire for upsetting political fringe elements, and it is no small miracle that this sexually frank new series has slipped under the radar (for now). In the second episode, one of the four female protagonists is thrown out of a potential suitor’s BMW, for accidentally kicking him. They had finished a deathly boring date where he mansplained all evening, a relatable anecdote demonstrating one of the lesser plights of being female and single in India. FMSP is an unapologetic rip off of Sex And The City. Though it mostly feels like a bunch of deja vu moments strung together from the hundreds of romcoms playing on loop on cable TV, it also satirises modern angst, and is likely to build a devoted millennial following.
Contemporary culture, especially Indian TV shows, have been slow to represent the lives of single working people, a growing and influential demographic in cities like Gurgaon and Mumbai. For decades now, the soap operas on cable have successfully traversed the same tired storylines, of a dominating matriarch in outlandish clothing, ruling her palatial mansion in a way that everyone is cowering in fear. It is one of those enduring mysteries, of how our far more regressive neighbour, Pakistan, produces so much better content, despite government interference and shoestring budgets.
If one were to go by what one sees on Indian shows, it would appear that a vast majority of 20-something Indians are enmeshed in family politics, and spend their lives wound up in duty and parental worship. After decades of enduring these tawdry and unconvincing melodramas, no wonder FMSP seems like a refreshing, breakthrough series in comparison. For starters (thank goodness), there is no mother-in-law. Secondly, there is a bisexual relationship, a single mom, and a woman speaking up against misogyny in the workplace. One is almost ready to weep in gratitude that you can watch an Indian show — and not see sindoor.
The idea of women, just being and living a life that needs no justification exactly like a confirmed bachelor, have been chronicled stylishly in movies like Pink and Lipstick Under My Burkha. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. In Sonata, that lasted all of two weeks at the theatre and sank without a trace three feisty female characters, who had the gall to be middle-aged and childless threw around plenty of sarcastic dialogues about being “awful creatures who do nothing for society”. The conviction persists, on screen and off, that if you are single by choice, you’re flawed and incomplete in some way. From that point of view alone, the depiction of women in FMSP, going out, drinking, expressing their frustrations and expectations from relationships is boldly impressive. Tragically, though FMSP bravely attempts to tackle gender prejudices, the need of the series to be so brazenly modern weighs it down. The decadence seems contrived, the characters come across as desperately lost and when it confusedly dissolves into an airport chase, you know the producers wanted to be brave but couldn’t risk not neatly tying up the ends, romcom style.
FMSP’s effort to validate singledom valiant though it is, ironically enough also raises a more alarming question, whether modernisation is actually progress. If, with economic freedom your options truly increase, why is the single life in 2019 portrayed as a plight to be resolved over hard liquor, rather than an informed choice? The growing numbers of people choosing to be single haven’t reached such critical mass yet that make it cool to be alone. Perhaps it is encouragement enough that despite some negative stereotypes in FMSP, the belief that a single woman is actually hiding her disappointment, is being questioned in mainstream culture.