Jess Thomas reviews the new Amazon original series.
Amazon Prime Original Four More Shots Please! follows four friends in Mumbai as they attempt to navigate the various different pitfalls of being a woman in modern India.
All of the women, though middle-class, live very different lives. Siddhi is an unemployed woman in her early twenties who can’t wait to get married, but is pressured to lose weight by her mother. Damini is the editor-in-chief of an online politics magazine who is dedicated to her work, but whose OCD sometime gets in the way of her making lasting relationships. Anjana is a single mother who is dealing with juggling all the different things in her life whilst also watching her ex-husband, Varun, move on to someone else. Last, but most definitely not least, is Umang, a bisexual personal trainer who loves her job and just wants chance to be able to love who she loves in public, without the judgement of others.
The individuality of each of the characters is established form the get go. The opening episode starts with four scenes showing the main parts of who they are and where they stand in life, with none of them sharing a screen until six minutes in. Their unlikely friendship is portrayed as being a place of sanctuary from the rest of their lives, as each of their different experiences and personalities slot together to make a supportive whole. Their regular bar sessions usually involve them talking through their weekly woes and shouting support at one another in front of the bar’s bemused owner, Jeh.
Throughout the season all of the four main characters get into their own separate problems but continue to come back together, their friendship the only real constant and non-turbulent thing in their lives. And the friendly support is needed a lot over the course of ten episodes, as they all get into their own awkward and ridiculous situations, many of which are fueled by either alcohol or lust.
However, this isn’t just a case of ‘women behaving badly’. They all have real and tangible worries in their lives. I was really charmed by each woman’s storyline. Siddhi is on a journey of self-acceptance with both her body and with what she wants in life. Damini is an incredibly smart and dedicated women seeing just how difficult it is to be a hard hitting journalist, let alone a female one. Anjana, is trying to navigate being a working single mother with also being a woman with her own wants and needs.
But the story that hit home the most for me was Umang’s. It isn’t the most original wlw love story I have seen, but it is still heartfelt and well acted. After falling in love, and having a secret relationship with a high profile older actress, Umang is left heartbroken when they are outed by an online gossip site. Gurubani, who plays Umang, conveyed the agony that Umang was feeling in a sensitive a poignant manner. With the legalisation of homosexuality in India being so fresh in people’s minds, this story is a timely one. I hope that anyone who is watching the show, no matter their sexuality or location, thinks about the damage that prejudice can do to the queer community.
Overall, these women’s stories don’t cover the experiences of every women in the world, or even every woman in Mumbai. However, no show is ever going to do that. What each story does do, is have a little snippet of something relatable for quite a few women, be it Umang’s somewhat hidden sexuality, Siddhi’s relationship with her weight, or Anjana’s difficulty being taken seriously at work.
The show manages to be fun and light at some points whilst also dealing with very serious topics. However, there are some things about the show that I didn’t like, some of which I noticed whilst watching, or on reflection when I finished the show. One of my major issues is how the main characters sometimes talk about other women; there is one scene where Siddhi and her date, who turns out to be gay, sit in a park and judge other women’s bodies in order to make Siddhi feel better about her own. This isn’t okay, as it perpetuates the idea that women need to look a certain way in order to be desirable or pretty.
Just as strange, was the show’s ability to call out some of society’s double standards, while still imposing other double standards on its own characters. Anjana’s new boyfriend introduces her to her daughter very quickly because he gets offended when she at first refuses; this is portrayed as being acceptable. But it is also shown to be acceptable for Anjana to be annoyed by her ex introducing his girlfriend to their daughter after six months. In this way, some of the feminist messages of the show are caught up in contradictory writing and plots that only allow them to remain as surface level statements rather than deep and meaningful philosophies and ideas.
On the other hand, you can only fit so much into ten, half hour episodes. I hope Four More Shots Please! is given more seasons so the writing team has time to further develop the characters as flawed women who are trying hard to be the best they can be in a world that is often stacked against them, while acknowledging when they are the ones who are in the wrong. Four More Shots Please! achieves what it sets out to do, focusing on these women’s lives and their friendships with each other. It takes a little while for the series to really get going, but it soon becomes amusing and delightful. The ending, which leaves each of the women’s stories in a tantalising and painful cliffhanger, isn’t amazing but did leave me wanting more.