Astey Ladies review: New Hoichoi series is a ton of fun in first half, but frustrating in second
Anyone who has ever boarded a public bus in Kolkata must be familiar of the expression, "Astey Ladies." It roughly translates to ‘Go slow, there’s a lady boarding/getting off’, and is used as a warning from the bus conductor to the driver, if the occasion demands it. Over the years, the expression has been debated in many ways – with arguments presented both for and against its use. Some say it is a mark of respect for women of various age who may need a little extra help from the bus staff while boarding or getting off the vehicle – especially when some passengers are expected to board or get off the bus when it is still moving. Others feel that the use of the expression is outright sexist, and that it is an unfair and snide comment on the physical ability of women in general, something that ought not to be brought into question had the bus come to a total halt at its designated stop.
I don’t know what director Abhijit Chowdhury feels about this age-old expression that is so familiar to the city, but one thing is for sure – his new web series Astey Ladies! is taking no prisoners, certainly not male ones.
Three upwardly mobile middle class women run a hair styling parlour called Salon de Paris in the city of Kolkata. They come from various backgrounds and are of entirely different nature themselves, but love their salon to death. When their parlour comes under threat from a businessman of dubious reputation, the three women must do everything they can to save it. But in order to do that, they need a large sum of money, which they don’t possess. The three women then start doing petty robberies, until one day, their luck runs out and they are caught by a man who turns out to be sharper than them. But the man does not turn them over to the cops, nor does he bring any harm to them. Because he has a plan for them, one that involves a major diamond heist.
I have to say this – the show starts off with a bang. There is a sense of intrigue; the characters are exceedingly well written; the dialogues are sharp and there is just the right balance of feminism and fun involved, highlighted by decent production value and an absolutely brilliant title track. The writing is laced with enough wit and humour, and I found myself enjoying the first few episodes to the brim. But somewhere down the line – I would say with the introduction of the man who masterminds the heist, the story loses steam. Things become convoluted and less crisp. The sharpness disappears, and we are left with a sense of being left behind, feeling bored and dejected by what had promised to be an excellent premise and an equally good execution.
The three women play their roles very well. Saayoni Ghosh is easily the most likeable one as Taani. She is aggressive, foul-mouthed and is perfectly willing and capable of bashing up the bad guys, should the need arise. Ghosh pulls off some of the funniest lines of the show with her impeccable comic timing. Sandipta Sen is the saner member of the gang – Megha, who takes a thinker’s approach to everything. She likes to plan everything to perfection and always encourages the gang to ‘think with a cool head’. Sen too is someone you can connect throughout the film, thanks to her excellent acting flair. Madhurima Ghosh is Leema, the baby of the gang, who constantly needs protecting, and thrives on milkshakes. For most part of the show though, she is missing. So much so, that on a number of occasions, I wondered why the show was advertised as a trio of ordinary girls doing extraordinary things. I really think she deserved a more extended role, and even the story had room for more of her. And the fact that she was able to sink right into her character is all the more reason why they should have given her a lot more space.
But somewhere around the fifth or sixth episode, the show began to test my patience. Situations were implausible and illogical right from the beginning, but in the first few episodes, there was a lot of fun, so I was willing to sacrifice logic for emotion. But later on, the three women began to fall out of character, their dialogues began to sound repetitive, and I just could not connect with them or their motivations anymore. Which is very sad, because the show had a lot of potential.
Had the show maintained the shine I had seen in the early episodes all the way to the end, I have no doubt it would have turned out to be a remarkable show full of dark humour and the guilty pleasures of seeing heists and robberies being pulled off. But alas, there is nothing much to write home about in the second half.
Astey Ladies! is currently streaming on Hoichoi!
Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 15:16:39 IST
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