The new Netflix reality show, The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, is unsurprisingly produced by Karan Johar’s ‘Dharmatic’ Productions, and aims to indulge us with a sneak peek into Bollywood households.
In a media cycle rife with nepotism charges, one would expect to see ‘prim and proper’ women trying to assert their common-ness. In its twisted way, this show tries to do that – and falls flat into ironic comedy. The audience is gifted with the rare chance to laugh straight on the faces of hyper-privileged elites who genuinely believe that they have struggled or are struggling.
The show begins with Maheep Kapoor (wife of Sanjay Kapoor, mother to Shanaya Kapoor), stressing over Shanaya’s debut at Paris’s Le Bal. To her, ‘debuts’ – like puberty – are just things that happen to everybody. She beams with pride over how Ananya Pandey and Shanaya are such ‘young girls’ who work, and bring home money, while many other girls of their age still operate under the “umbrella” of their parents.
Do they hear themselves?
Ananya and Shanaya are 22 and 21 years old respectively. Many children in India have a hard time staying alive until that age. To speak of female foeticide, in 2019, Uttarakhand state’s Uttarkashi district recorded zero female births for three months in 132 of its villages. In India, one in five children between the ages of 15 and 18 are working. To call women in their early twenties ‘children’ and to put them on a pedestal for working reeks of a privilege that knows nothing beyond the walls of posh Mumbai homes.
When the troop arrive for a beach clean-up, it is evident that they wouldn’t be caught dead doing drudge work. Bhavana Pandey (wife of Chunky Pandey, mother to Ananya Pandey), arrives in heels. She groans, wishing that they could do this “at a later time”. It also annoys Neelam Kothari Soni (wife of Sameer Soni), who chastises Maheep for not checking to see if she was free (to help the environment). They nitpick at the waste, pat their own shoulders for an hour’s work, and Maheep freaks out at a used condom, refusing to take it out of the sand (with gloves on). They later find out that it was only a glove.
In a cooking class, Neelam refuses to slice beetroot as it stains her fingers, making the instructor do all of the work. Throughout the show, she is mostly found asking people if she should make a Bollywood comeback. She complains to Raveena Tandon about being asked to audition, asserting that it is beneath her stature as an actress from the 80s. Her ‘prim and proper’ self presents a prejudiced, orthodox view of ‘intimate scenes,’ which she refuses to do on account of being a mother. Her husband, Sameer, one of the more authentic people on the show, says that he has done some himself. Does she then think he is morally corrupt, he asks.
Seema Khan (wife of Sohail Khan, mother to Yohan and Nirvaan Khan) is the baby of the group. She fights the loudest, gets lost in malls, and cries herself into a frenzy over her fear of aeroplanes. The four women, with their individual endeavours, fight hard to convince the audience that they have real jobs. However, their stores are mostly empty, and their clientèle mostly the stars they party with.
In a classic example of struggle-hardened Bollywood-ers, Maheep needs a midday pick-me-up when Shanaya is trolled on social media. Sanjay Kapoor, celebrating a collaboration with Johar, says it has taken 25 years for nepotism to work on his behalf. They completely forget that the competition they speak so fondly of, is limited to an exclusive circle of industry insiders.
The only comic relief comes when Sameer pulls out his ‘I can remember everybody’s sun sign’ trick at Gauri Khan’s party. That is the most amount of talent this show has on board. Bhavana uses the earth’s ‘energy’ to tighten her skin, as opposed to botox. Her healer touches her forehead, saying she is channelling ‘energies’ to give her glowing skin an ‘Energy Facelift’.
At the end of the show, I had renewed respect for the rich. At least with our middle class lives, the hardships come ready made. Imagine having to sit on a plush sofa set, sipping your margarita, with the AC perpetually on, trying to piece together a new event you can call a ‘struggle’. Oh, the horror!
Meghalee Mitra is a littérateur and hopes to change the world, one word at a time.
Featured image credit: Netflix