Four More Shots Please! Season 2 review: Amazon Original makes its women messier, and their stories more layered
Season 2 of Four More Shots Please! expects the audience to throw judgement out of the window for them to enjoy a ride that is fun, sensitive, and unapologetic.
Language: Hindi with English
The first season of Amazon Prime Video India Original Four More Shots Please! kept reiterating that judgement has to be thrown out of the window while watching the unapologetic show with extremely 'flawed' characters. Season 2 does not waste time in setting this tone since it assumes the audience knows what (not) to expect, and this works in favour of the show.
Season 2 keeps questioning one's social conditioning and irresistible urge to pass snap judgement. However, it is not as demonstrative as Anubhav Sinha's recent social drama Thappad, which also challenges the inherent patriarchy in each one of us. Besides the stark difference in tone, Four More Shots Please! paints an ideal world where same-sex marriages are socially accepted, rebounds are organic, infidelity is a sign of a failed marriage rather than moral policing, and stripping enhances one's self-esteem.
It surely is an ideal world. Or if not, a minuscule niche of what the world is like currently. But the show has already established it repeatedly and emphatically that this is the universe it functions in. Fine? Move forward.
Why season 2 is a step up from the first one is because it is not a surface skimmer. It deeps dive into the four primary characters' lives since it takes for granted that only those people are watching the show who are invested in the women's lives and have agreed to hop on the journey. The allegations of injecting 'shock value' and 'fake feminism' are shown a middle finger as the women continue to do what they do best — make their lives messier and heal with each other's constant support.
Season 1 recap at the start of the first episode reminds us of where we left them last. Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo), Anjana (Kirti Kulhari), Damini (Sayani Gupta), and Umang (Bani J) are not on talking terms with each other and are neck-deep into their respective predicaments. A few months pass by before a frantic call leads to their reunion in Istanbul.
The first episode may give the impression that the show has gotten better only in terms of scale, and not narrative. But the subsequent episodes see the characters resolve older challenges and face new odds, both on the personal and professional front.
Siddhi is trying to discover her creative voice as a stand-up comedian, and struggling to reconcile with her upset father. She seems to channel a new confidence through her liberated sexual identity, which seeps into her professional life as well. She still shows shades of a crybaby but is much more mature this season. Maanvi has soared as a performer: she makes Siddhi as adorable as she is along with playing her confidently as a woman with newfound agency. Simone Singh, who plays her mother Sneha, flips her character's personality as she warms up to her daughter, who shares the same insecurity though has a different coping mechanism.
Anjana quickly gets over a lot of her holdover issues only to create new ones for herself. The trailer suggests she now reports to a new boss, who is a chauvinist. But as the narrative unravels, we learn that is the least of her problems. Kirti Kulhari, like Season 1, optimises her body language to play a very grey character. She embraces Anjana in full: from her insecurities to her pride. She plays a rather flawed woman quite flawlessly. Sameer Kochhar and Shibani Dandekar play the supporting characters in her arc, and both do a decent job of playing a regular husband-wife with regular problems. Neil Bhoopalam and Amrita Puri fare better here though they have much less to do in Season 2.
Damini goes solo and writes a book on investigative journalism. The struggle to find a publisher and audience for a controversial topic, with the additional pressure of mob mentality and political opposition, is all too familiar. But since it is in line with Sayani's image and politics, she makes the audience take the track more seriously than they would do otherwise. Her personal front has been written in a more layered way. As Season 1 made clear, Prateik Babbar and Milind Soman play her love interests. But they cease to be the charming men they were in the first season as like Damini, the audience begins to see through their suave exteriors.
One may argue Bani J plays Umang like herself but a close study of her real-life trajectory would show that language has been a huge difference between her character and her personality off screen. Like Season 1, her Hindi does not feel rehearsed, even though she could get away with speaking in English since her partner in the show, Samaira (Lisa Ray), is a British citizen. But she stays true to her character and what she stands for throughout the show (in more ways than one, as you will discover). Umang and Samaira's relationship takes off in Season 2, and both the actors ensure they give the audience enough couple goals. Lisa is the most effective supporting actor of the lot, and has an impressive range to display here unlike the mere one-note celebrity-in-the-closet template she stuck to in Season 1.
In a key scene towards the end of Season 2, Prateik's character Jay tells Damini she has introduced mess to his strait-jacketed life. Besides that, what all the four characters offer the audience is the reassurance to embrace themselves with all their imperfections. Devika Bhagat's nuanced writing and Ishita Moitra's insightful and engaging dialogues ensure the tone and treatment of the show remains constant even though in Season 2, Nupur Asthana takes over the directorial reigns from Anu Menon. Doordarshan show Hip Hip Hurray may remain Nupur's most memorable work yet but Four More Shots Please! certainly gives her a chance to prove her mettle in a completely different light, and she makes the most of it.
The costume designer has been termed as the fashion director or the 'wardrobist' in the opening credits probably because of a more crucial role she takes on in this show. Fortunately, Aastha Sharma designs outfits as extensions of the diverse personalities rather than make the fashion camouflage the emotion or character. Parichit Paralkar's production design, like the costumes, is in sync with the tone of the show, and gets optimised in the final two episodes of the show, set in Udaipur. Mikey McCleary and Co construct a soundtrack that is evocative and life-affirming. Every song is tailor-made for the situation, and makes for an earworm in isolation as well.
Jabeen Merchant, as the editor, has the humongous job of cutting days of footage into 10 episodes of half an hour each, and she does the job smartly, adhering to the script as the Bible. Neha Parti Matiyani, the director of photography, makes the presence of cameras invisible by giving the audience a fly-on-the-wall perspective into the women's lives. Shubham Gaur Trishaan's casting has already been discussed above though none of the new faces makes a strong impact.
There's no denying that the second season comes with flaws and shortcomings. It becomes creepy at times, occasionally icky, and often repetitive. But the lives of the four fully fleshed-out women have empowered us enough to rise above imperfections. At the end, it does not feel like a compromise. The investment feels earned, and we come out more empathetic, less judgmental.
Four More Shots Please! Season 2 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.
All images from Instagram.
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