Four More Shots Please! Season Two team on challenging stereotypes and celebrating flawed female personalities
Four More Shots Please! follows the lives of four ‘flawed’ women as they navigate through romance, career and sex.
The second season of Amazon Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please! starring Sayani Gupta, Kirti Kulhari, Bani J, Maanvi Gagroo and more, centred around four sassy and uniquely different women, premieres on 17 April.
Produced by Pritish Nandy Communications and directed by Nupur Asthana, the series that also boasts of a nearly all-female cast and crew, follows the lives of four ‘flawed’ women as they navigate through romance, career and sex. This season will see the characters “making new mistakes”, “love each other a little more fiercely” and “choose themselves over society and expectations”. The show will begin in Istanbul and conclude in Udaipur, with a major chunk of the narrative returning to Mumbai.
“It is much more explosive with lot more drama this time. The friendship and the interpersonal relationship between the girls have grown. It is much more real now. They are also maturing and coming to terms with their own vulnerabilities and quirks,” says Sayani who’s back playing the no-nonsense journalist Damini Rizvi Roy in Season 2.
“I love my character. She is so unafraid, brave, honest, and all this comes naturally to her probably because I am quite close to the character. I am also ambitious, control freak and perfectionist. I also have a bit of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but Damini is clinical. Also, she is very political and I am also quite vocal and opinionated. All my life I have never conformed, I have always made my own set of rules. But I am not complicated at all. I live simple life, I am never confused about the men in my life, whereas, Damini is more confused, complex and there is lot of emotional turmoil in her life,” adds Sayani.
The change in Maanvi Gagroo’s character Siddhi Patel — who constantly struggles with her body image — in Season 2 is quite drastic, says the actress. While she was once seeking validations in adult chat-rooms, she is now trying to explore what she wants to do in life and she has become a stand-up comedienne. “My character in the first season realises that she needs to break out of that mould, that conditioning, and in season two she will be seen trying to figure things out for herself. She will struggle with that, fail, succeed and have fun,” says Maanvi who was recently seen in a pivotal role in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.
“When we started the show, my character wasn’t relatable to me at all. I was told that because how her ‘mother’ has been with her, she is not a confident person. She was groomed for the marriage market and told to understand that once she is married her life will be sorted. But wanting to discover yourself and that you don’t want anyone to complete you, is what I could relate to. But the director explained to me that the idea is to show that while she is the same person, there has been a major shift in her personality and her outlook towards life,” says Maanvi, furthering, “Now with regards to me, I’ve kind of grown with Siddhi which happened subconsciously. For instance, I used to never wear short dresses before season one because I would feel conscious of my thighs and legs. But in season one, Siddhi has only worn short dresses. And it so happened, that post season one, I started wearing those kind of dresses. I remember Anu (Menon, director of season one) told me, ‘You realise you have started dressing up like Siddhi?’ I was no longer conscious of that."
Kirti Kulhari will be seen reprising the role of Anjana Menon, a lawyer and single mother. “I was hesitant initially when I was offered the part due to very understandable reason especially since society and the industry has looked at women in a certain way. I am glad that I didn’t give in to my fear. The show looks at women differently and places their issues at the centre fearlessly. I wanted to be a part of this change. Even in cinema these days, when hero or heroine tries to be aspirational, play larger-than- life characters, people reject. They don’t want that bullshit. People want to see real characters. The show has changed me a lot. It has liberated me of a lot of my conditioning, ideas and belief system that we grew up with. Even lot of men are watching the show. Women have taken back something from the show. The conflicts and problems seen for the girls in the previous season we kind of see resolutions to all of that and at the same time we have new characters coming, new situations building up, new problems coming in and there are some very clear and specific themes for every character in season two as well. That is very exciting,” says Kirti.
While male ‘buddy’ movies are a genre to themselves, films depicting women relationships, or female bonding have been rare, and since Four More Shots Please! centres around girl bonding it was definitely a challenge for the makers as they wondered its acceptance.
“There was a bunch of women writing the show and when they started down to write that was one major point of concern that would people watch female bonding. In mainstream Bollywood you always talk about male bonding with female protagonists playing the passive participant, be it in romance or sex. There was a requirement of a show or a film that talks about women taking control of their lives, or making the choices - good, bad or ugly. None of these women are perfect and they are unapologetic about it. They have the courage to make mistakes. They are not bogged down by the societal understanding of what is right, what is wrong. Then, there was dearth of urban women representation. Independent, self-sufficient women who decide who they want to be with, what kind of friendships they want to indulge in. There was definitely a gap and now with Four More Shots Please! having done well more and more people would like to make stuff like that. Women’s sexuality needed to be normalised and this show manages to push that envelope a little bit. It is more inspiring and fulfilling when you have so many women writing to us,” says Sayani.
“The more we tell such stories and have so many women owning the screen, in front as well as behind the camera, it will help break that feeling which says there isn’t enough women characters on screen. This will have more mainstream viewers watching and enjoying it,” adds Asthana. “But then, we have seen bad films even on male bonding. We only remember Dil Chahta Hai or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. We should first stop categorising as women-oriented or male-oriented, and once we have enough number of women-oriented films then that would be possible. We can just have stories and then we can choose good or bad content,” says Maanvi.
Four More Shots Please! has received its fair share of criticism as well. It was dubbed shallow, lacking nuance, and it was panned specifically for its near-constant portrayal of the women as pretty pin-ups who tend to drink all the time. And the actors and the makers insist that great care has gone into making it better than the first.
“I completely agree with that. I, too, have a huge problem with films that only show women smoking and drinking in the name of empowerment. This show is not trying to say that smoking and drinking is okay. The women happen to do that because they are from that strata. Siddhi doesn’t smoke but it is not that she is not empowered. We are not being judgmental because then that is stupid. There should be no stigma attached. Do we judge men who smoke and drink?” says Sayani.
Maanvi is more vociferous in her response. She says, “Let’s not be judgmental and decide these women are good or bad on the basis of traits and habits. That is my critique of people who say drinking doesn’t mean feminism. Women shown in Four More Shots Please! are extremely privileged. They are rich women from South Bombay, and even if they represent one per cent of our population does that one per cent not deserve representation? I can make a story on a fly if I want to. Don’t ask me why I made this film, just tell me if you liked this film or not. Don’t critique the show that you wanted to see, critique the show that you are watching.”
She furthers, “Of course, we have taken cinematic liberties, we don’t always dress so well, or do up our hair and do make-up like that, or wear heels. But we also won’t wear chiffon sari in Switzerland and gyrate, right? Secondly, even though on the surface you feel these women are privileged and empowered which they are but they are also having to face the same kind of prejudices that someone in a two tier city might be facing though of a different kind. The problem, the issues, the conflicts that they might be facing are very real. That’s the beauty of the writing.”
Adds the show's director, “I had seen the show four months before it was released and before any critique or reviews happened. For a show like this reviews will always be polarised. When you see a bunch of women navigating their own lives on their own terms I am not sure how easy it is for people to digest in the country. It was challenging for me because how often do you get to tell the story of young women in Mumbai.”
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