Four More Shots Please! review: Amazon Prime Video India Original fails to make its characters worth rooting for
Four More Shots Please! ends up being more raunchy than rich, despite its woke cast, convincing performances and 10 layers of gloss on every frame.
We are sitting in a boardroom with Sayani Gupta as a presentation is in progress, when Milind Soman performs a mini ramp walk in his underwear, darts straight towards her and what follows could well be every (Indian) woman’s fantasy. This dream sequence that opens the pilot episode pulls us into the world of Amazon Prime Video India’s latest web series Four More Shots Please!, a world where women are badass, between the sheets and on the streets, and possess an enviable appetite (and deep pockets) for endless rounds of shots to toast their wins and drown their woes.
Four friends, whose lives could not be more far removed from each other’s, meet rather serendipitously at a bar, and life as they know it comes to an end. The gloss, the swearing, the sexcapades make comparisons to Veere Di Wedding, and even Sex And The City inevitable. The foursome traipse around Marine Drive in their stilettos giving out a positive Sex And The City vibe – we even have a lawyer and a journalist (if not a columnist) – in the mix, but while Veere Di Wedding barely went beyond a lexicon of cuss words and bought mainstream Bollywood its first sex toy, Four More Shots Please! certainly digs deeper. But is this the female friendships story we have been waiting for? After watching the first season, I am still not sure what its intentions were even though it touches upon a laundry list of issues like workplace politics, mother’s guilt, insecurity, homosexuality, body positivity, trolling, media ethics, step parenting and more. But despite the efforts, at the end of it all, it still remains a blur of cusswords, alcohol and sex in glossy packaging.
And some gloss this is. Someone who has never been to Mumbai and forms an image of this city through the show will be in for a rude shock if they ever land here. The universe of Four More Shots Please! does not stretch beyond South Bombay, not even till Worli, and the makers have pulled all the stops to make the city look as pretty as the ladies. And we know that must not have been easy. Sayani Gupta’s fearless journalist and start-up founder Damini Rizvi Roy lives in a building called Hamilton House that looks straight out of New York City, probably facing Central Park. Even more, as you walk in. Where are these sprawling condos? I bet even the uber rich are asking themselves. Roy, a control freak, suffers from OCD, punctuates her life with no-strings-attached sex and lusts after her gynecologist Dr Warsi (Soman). She also runs an online publication that she founded, which is now the cause of her grief. Unfortunately, Gupta’s agitated portrayal of this character comes across as more neurotic than she intends for it to be. She will need to bring it down a few notches to hit the right notes.
The promising Kirti Kulhari is pitch perfect as Anjana Menon, a successful lawyer, single mother struggling to get over her ex-husband and be the better parent. Whether she is distraught trying to be the perfect mother or insecure that her ex-husband’s fiancé (Amrita Puri) is fast becoming the “cool aunt” to her four-year-old, or slightly contemplative of her sunken love-boat, even as she exuberantly refers to her lady parts as Ms Veevee, this actress owns every fold of her character. It is clearly the finest act in the show. Her relationship with ex-husband Varun (Neil Bhoopalam) lends the show its most hyper real moments. Kulhari and Bhoopalam share an effortless chemistry, both as reckless lovers and sparring parents.
Manavi Gagroo has an author-backed role as the plump Siddhi Patel, whose self-image is crushed under her mother’s (Simone Singh) torturous scrutiny. On paper, she is one of the complex characters in the show, the only one nursing a secret her friends have no clue about. Gagroo appears to have had a lot of fun playing Siddhi, teetering between being confused and troubled by her weight issues and finding an overnight confidence and a strange solution to deal with the same. The best thing about Siddhi is that she never wallows. Her character graph steadily rises until it reaches a crescendo and hurls the entire story towards an unexpected climax. Gagroo makes the most of this wide pitch she has been given.
Casting Bani J as Umang, a fitness trainer and a devil-may-care import from Ludhiana, might have been a brave decision but the actress makes it worth the risk. She brings in the Roadies chhaap as much as the sensitive Punjabi girl who is unabashedly bisexual, and finally falls for a superstar (Lisa Ray) who is not ready to come out of the closet. Bani brings in a certain innocence as a confused outsider in the city, who can bring home a joke as lame as, “SoBo kyun? SoMu nahi hona chaiye, because it’s South Mumbai?”. She makes a good smitten lover even as her chemistry with Ray is not as effortless as we would have liked. And her tattoos stop distracting after a point. Let us hope Umang does not become too weepy; the final episode shows a few warning signs.
In the supporting cast, Simone makes a mark as the terrifying Hitler-esque mother, Sneha Patel. It would be nice to delve a wee bit more into her mind and see why she is the way she is. Lisa looks lovely as always but there is ample scope to develop her character as a mainstream superstar who has the last chance to make it big, even as she struggles with her closeted life. Soman’s Dr Warsi does not go beyond hazel eyes, and salt and pepper hair, and endless abs. We don’t know where Prateik Babbar’s millionaire bartender Jeh Wadia gets his accent from. That aside, he does not do much besides providing an emotional outlet for Gupta’s Damini, in her less psychotic moments.
No matter how well the struggles of each character gets established, one just does not end up rooting for them. And that is where the writing fails us. The story does not drag but it does not make you feel either. Towards the end of the season, the script seems to be in a hurry to make things happen and the coincidences become more than even fiction can allow.
And for the chutzpah the ladies seem to exude, we do not see the brand of dry humour and introspective female comedy that are flag-bearers of this genre. Ever so often it slips into the crevices of the same clichés it is seeking to destroy. So it ends up being more raunchy than rich, despite its woke cast, convincing performances and 10 layers of gloss on every frame.
All images from YouTube.
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