Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives review: Netflix India show lacks the inextricable drama of reality TV
Fabulous Lives... fulfils the voyeuristic drive of watching people unlike us in action, but is bereft of the drama that we have come to associate with reality TV.
Netflix's latest reality TV show, after the heavily hate-watched Indian Matchmaking, is the eight-episode series Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives. Maheep Kapoor, Neelam Kothari Soni, Seema Khan, and Bhavana Pandey are the centre of our attention in this show, a homegrown blend of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and Sex and the City.
The four women are quite well-known, just from their pop-up appearances in tabloids and celebrity social media posts. While Maheep, Seema, and Bhavana are famous by association, Neelam acted in several films opposite Govinda and Chunky Pandey, back when both men were the go-to choices for leads. She is now a jewellery designer and married to actor Samir Soni. Bhavana is Chunky's wife and Ananya Panday's mother, who runs a fashion label. Maheep, whose spouse is actor Sanjay Kapoor, also is also occupied in jewellery design. Seema, actor/producer Sohail Khan's wife, runs a boutique in Bandra, Mumbai.
The quadruple has largely stayed in the shadow of their famous husbands or their previous work, and are finally making themselves available for broader recognition. Fabulous Lives spotlights the women's two-decade long friendship, quirks, and domestic lives through face-to-camera interviews, and by immersing the viewer into their everyday setting. They are naturals in front of the camera, making their combined energy and fairly contrasting personalities engaging to watch.
Maheep is easily my favourite cast member, the Lisa Vanderpump of the lot, who never minces her words. She is loud, potty-mouthed, and makes neighbour-watching seem like a legitimate hobby. Bhavana, the diplomatic one, has a silent sly quality about her (Sorry, Bhavana). Seema is a fiercely protective mother with a quick temper, while Neelam maintains for the most part a pleasant disposition. The show treads carefully around Seema and Sohail's relationship, but does validate the presence of unconventional family structures in Indian culture.
Their claims of leading an ordinary existence are absolute rubbish, of course.
They traverse around the city in luxury cars, always have a full-face of make up (even during a workout), and never have a single hair out of place. We see the Kapoors jet off to Paris for their daughter Shanaya's debut ball, the women casually plan a trip à la SATC, Neelam mulls over the possibility of a comeback, the friends drop by a salon for a mid-day blow out, and even a beach clean-up — there is a lot going on.
Multiple star cameos are conveniently slipped into the mix to further the runtime of each episode. Maheep visits nephew Arjun Kapoor for advice on dealing with trolls, spends Valentine's Day with niece Jahnvi Kapoor; Seema wobbles through a yoga class (in make-up?!) with Malaika Arora; and the four walk the red carpet to Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan's party. Executive producer Karan Johar is the devil's advocate/ agony aunt, staging conversations that have the potential to escalate into heated arguments, but alas never do.
Fabulous Lives fulfils the voyeuristic drive of watching people unlike us in action, but fails to pack a punch. It is bereft of the drama that we have come to associate with reality TV, probably the sole reason why we turn to it in the first place. I was counting on the Seema-Bhavna quarrel to end with a drink been thrown in someone's face, or at least a food fight (I have been fed far too much of this drivel, I cannot help but demand a spectacle).
The brazen display of wealth, the classism, the ladies' oblivion to their privilege, and their inflexible views on nepotism in Bollywood could blight the overall watching experience. But regardless of its issues, like KJo said, you can love the fabulous wives, troll them, but you sure as hell cannot ignore them.
Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives is streaming on Netflix India.
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