Four More Shots Please is a webseries that I regret watching and I thought I had my share of seeing poorly made ones. This one just hits it out of the park. There is no doubt plenty of money has gone into the budget of making this show, and you can see it in the casting, the cinematography, the production design and the wardrobe and makeup, and I can go on, but there is simply no story. It almost feels like this show was made without a writer, and the directors/producers just came up with random story ideas on set. The show ends up being a really bad, cardinally bad desi ripoff of Sex and The City, and if I really wanted to watch four girls in a chick flick-esque TV show, I would rather go and watch Sex and The City all over again any day, because at least it was well made and well written, and however much Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw was annoying, it had clear cut and nuanced character backstory, motivations and actions.
This show could have done miles better, but instead it has turned into a shallow South Bombay bourgeoisie alcohol fest with an equally horrific first world and misplaced idea of feminism and sexual liberation. Almost every character is conversing in this weird accented English, which is somewhere between a call centre employee and a NRI return, and if that’s not enough to make you cringe, the dialogue writing will do it for you. The dialogues are loaded and yet have little backstory or context and are dismissed just as suddenly as they are delivered. You just want to look away after every two minutes because the show wants to rub it into your face that woman are sexual beings (read only). Shows like Orange is the New Black, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sex and the City, Lost Girl, The Good Wife, Orphan Black, and so many more have had a cult following and are revisited again and again because their women leads are powerful beings, who have gravitas in every aspect of their character, not just in the sex and sexuality one.
For the life of me, I could not even remember the names of the four leads in this show because they are so forgettable as characters, and even dislikable, that nobody would want anything to do with them. The show stars Kirti Kulhari as Anjana Menon, Sayani Gupta as Damini Rizvi Roy, Bani J as Umang Singh, and Maanvi Gagroo as Siddhi Patel. Anjana is apparently a top-notch lawyer by profession but most of the season we see her cribbing over her ex-husband Varun and his new partner, Kavya, and being a continually absent and irresponsible mother to her young daughter, and having a mid-life crisis affair with an intern who seems to be half her age. There is a storyline that does seem to have potential with Anjana not having had sex ever since she had gotten pregnant, but that is unceremoniously blown to shambles halfway.
Damini is seemingly a fearless journalist (funnily enough, the show keeps reminding us she got the Fearless Journalist of the Year award like four times in a row, in almost a parody of her character) with apparent OCD (another storyline that is never explored) who has the hots for her gynaecologist Dr. Waris (played by Milind Soman). She gets fired from her company due to its all male board, gets replaced by basically a paparazzi intern, as is the trope, only to rebel and publish an article that gets her an award. She gets into a relationship with the responsible and loving and sensitive bartender at Truck Bar (the bar where the four protagonists meet every episode to drink their problems away) named Jeh (played by Prateik Babbar), and this decent relationship is fucked up for no reason, to the point that his ex from five years before makes an unexplained reappearance in the last few seconds of the show. Jeh reminds me of Tom Hardy in a weird way, except I enjoy watching the latter’s films.
Umang is a hardass Punjabi kudi, played by Bani J, who ran away from her hometown Ludhiana, in order to find freedom in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. I could identify with her character till this point, but no more. Umang’s bisexuality is rubbed in our faces every goddamn second, she basically is the first one to hook up with any person when the four friends get drunk (which is frequent, they all have a drinking problem nobody cares to address), and have sex with them right there and then. Almost as if bisexuality is a synonym for nymphomania, which has already been done to death in Indian TV before. We really don’t need it guys, seriously. Lisa Ray (the only reason I was watching the show) guest stars as Samara Kapoor and had me rooting for their relationship, but even that goes to hell eventually. Samara is attempting to revive her career as a Bollywood superstar, and so doesn’t want to come out of the closet during the filming of her comeback movie. Which frustratingly enough Umang does not understand, because despite all her claims to be out, she is still keeping her family from Ludhiana in the dark.
Perhaps the only okay written and acted character for me was Siddhi’s. Her naivete was refreshing, and her character seems generally honest about things. She has issues with her mother Sneha (played by Simone Singh) whose performance reminds me of all the posh Punjabi aunties I encountered in South Delhi. Siddhi is somebody who turns to being an internet porn cam girl since her own mother constantly body-shames her, on the advice of her gay best friend, Mohit. There are consequences, as one of her viewers discovers her real identity and threatens to reveal her to the world in the later half of the season. I would have liked Mohit better if he hadn’t suggested this idea to Siddhi in the first place; the Internet is a dangerous place, my friends.
Four More Shots Please does not take any time to develop its stories or character arcs, it just rushes in to make a point without making a ground for empathy. Midway through the season, I still didn’t know the four protagonists as people, I only knew where and when they drank. The story of how these guys met came in episode 6, more than halfway through the season, where it made no sense at all. Otherwise, origin stories for each character are shown vaguely in weird, two minute black and white transitionary cold opens, which are of little consequence on the current timeline of the show.
There is a scene of Anjana checking out her vagina when her friends urge her to do so – it seems like a really misplaced and bad ripoff of the scene in Orange is the New Black where Sophia, a trans woman character educates her fellow cisgender inmates about sex and female genitalia. Like so many other potential plotlines that could have been dealt with sensibly and sensitively, the writing of the scene only ruins it by parodying the whole damn scene and the characters in it. Umang’s bisexuality is rubbed again and again in our faces, as the character herself reminds people again and again of it. It’s just really cringe-worthy to watch an Indian character doing this in a post Section 377 world.
And then another trope is brought up, the four friends go to Goa for a birthday celebration slash getaway from their lives where they really ought to be more responsible. Anjana shows some room for improvement where she admits her mistakes to her intern manchild candy, Arjun, while making up with him. And in the season finale, she loses her shit, and crashes her car while, you guessed it, being drunk. Seriously man, drinking so much that it messes up your life is not cool. It really is a drinking problem. Jeh helps Damini gets her shit together by having a sex marathon with her, she writes a groundbreaking story about internet trolls (nothing crucial about the process is revealed, or why Damini is a good journalist, and certainly nothing about the story she writes, except a small intro that seems to be copy-pasted from Wikipedia), and how an industrialist called Badani (they are not even trying at this point) is behind this nationwide phenomenon, and it goes viral overnight and wins her an award. Siddhi loses her virginity to Mihir, her childhood friend, in Goa, and he proposes to her after two weeks of meeting and two hookups, again, ruining a character who I thought was more tolerable than the others.
Siddhi’s predator turns out be her future father-in-law in a rather anti-climactic scene. In the ninth episode, we think that we are finally getting to see the actions of the four protagonists connecting to each other in some way, but it turns out to be a mere catalyst, not a direct implication. When Damini gets to know that Investigator.com, her previous company, is about to out Samara Kapoor, she acts as the newsbearer to Umang, who shrugs it off disinterestedly, because she has had a fight with her about the coming out issue. Which brings me to this: why on earth can’t Umang get the gravity of the outing situation for Samara and herself? Being queer is one thing, but being out is a different ballgame. Even though, constitutionally, queer Indians have been validated, it has not erased the stigma and homophobia overnight, so I really do not get why she is so insensitive about this whole issue. This show just doesn’t get the politics of queer sexuality right. Anyway, we see Umang rush to the airport, presumably to get Samara back towards the end of it.
Profound speeches are being constantly cut by stupid moments of bathos during what could have been an intense finale. I do not feel any sympathy for Anjana’s character, her character is still a whiny, lost one from episode one to episode ten. In fact, what I could see that the showmakers were trying to humanize her and make her seem a likeable character, but the drunk driving fiasco and the whole shaming of her husband’s new partner when she could not move on herself, and scolding Siddhi when she came to them for help, it only made me hate her and her unreasonable behaviour more.
Perhaps the only arc I like in this was Siddhi’s to any extent. She had the sense to see that Mihir was moving too fast with the marriage proposal, had the sense to say no, had a very human and natural reaction towards her stalker’s demands, and we got to see her relationships develop with her parents and everyone else. Most of all, I liked how her relationship with Sneha was allowed to develop in a legible way, especially towards the end. But even then, it wasn’t given much room either as the parallel storylines for the other three characters had to be fit in the same half hour time period each episode. The actress shines in some moments with her comedic timing, and so does Bani J as Umang in some rare moments, but it hardly amounts to anything in the ten episodes you see. Four More Shots Please is something that is rather worth missing than giving a try at all.