It is that time of the year again where I sit down and watch Four More Shots Please, just for all my vicarious pleasures. As much as I hate to say this, 4MSP! has been a welcome change in these troubled times, because I don’t have to engage my extremely hassled brain to watch this show, but boy, did it take its required toll on me. There has been a tiny improvement to the show, somehow it feels a little more nuanced this time, but it’s still nowhere enough at all. And this time again, even though the writers have tried to keep the focus more on emotions and less on sex, the answer to all things is alcohol.
The world has gone into an unpredictable and unprecedented lockdown period, and however cringe-y Four More Shots Please! is, it’s a relief to see places that aren’t the four walls of my modest apartment. You can see the combined big budgets that Amazon Prime and Pritish Nandy Communications went all out with, whether it be the cobbled streets of Istanbul, or the weirdly lavish comedy clubs across Mumbai, and the lush, luxurious palace resorts of Udaipur. It’s also a relief to see the continuity being maintained from the first season, which isn’t a lot of effort, given that the storylines for any character aren’t substantial enough in the first place.
The four friends meet up in Istanbul after the events of the first season’s final episode. They are not on talking terms with each other, and temporarily call for a truce to go on a rescue mission for a seemingly suicidal Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo), who is somehow homeless, penniless and inebriated out of her wits on the Bosphorus Bridge. Once again, in the universe of 4MSP!, there are no real, long-lasting, life-changing consequences of one’s actions, and everything can be resolved through alcohol. Siddhi’s suicidal tendencies are never addressed, the four friends patch up without really addressing and resolving their differences, and get drunk again. In the middle of all of this, Umang reveals that she chased after her love to Thailand, but was rudely rejected by a screaming, emotionally berserk and still closeted Lisa Ray.
In the next episode, it is revealed that Samara has been taking therapy and has been targeted by the paparazzi outside her therapist’s clinic. She has a major meltdown which is understandable, proceeds to get destructive and violent, which isn’t, but this seems like a bizarre occurrence in the “woke” South Bombay universe of 4MSP! First of all, I can think of a dozen breaches of doctor-patient confidentiality, also, the lack of any bodyguards or entourage around Samara during this point of time is baffling. If she is a Bollywood/international star of the stature that she is, this leaves so many loopholes in the plot. Anyway, logic be damned in this universe, Umang runs off like a knight in shining armour to rescue Samara. Not much of a spoiler at this point: the previous line is basically your TL;DR version of this season.
The next few episodes are all about Umang being a caretaker to Samara. She accompanies her everywhere, takes an exorbitant amount of care of her while not asking for anything in return, but that’s also the point in their relationship where despite Samara healing, the bond between the two starts getting toxic. Still, the two have some heartwarming moments this season, one being the instance where Umang accompanies Samara to her therapist and helps her climb over a wall so that they do not encounter the paparazzi.
Things are then a little rushed over the next couple of episodes. The two go to a fancy meditation resort, Umang U-hauls with Samara, which makes sense since she is literally 24/7 there with her. Somehow in the middle of all of this, Umang’s career as a celebrity gym trainer takes off. I wish they had shown the pair getting a little competitive and achieving an equal status through their careers so that their skewed power dynamic was balanced better, but alas, it was always meant to be a recipe for disaster. Samara and Umang become Bollywood’s new power couple, and start capitalizing on the monetary aspect of it. In the middle of all of this, Samara proposes to Umang, which is a little hard to swallow, since this is the shortest long-term relationship she has ever had. I am all for a desi lesbian wedding, but the second this happened, I was even more certain that things were not going to end well.
The inequality of their relationship is now more pronounced, as Samara continuously takes the reins of their wedding and life, planning things around her career and the profits that the couple would make. It’s a little obnoxious of Samara’s character, given how emotionally broken and disillusioned her character was in the beginning of the season, but somehow also not wildly unbelievable. The climax of this season takes place between the impending nuptials of the two in a definitely seven star palace turned luxury resort in Udaipur. It is a lavish spread, one that even Umang is taken aback by. It becomes increasingly apparent how little quality time the two are spending together, and how much Samara has started taking Umang for granted, but to be honest, Umang’s emotions were never really taken care of or even addressed by Samara in the first place. Things reach a boiling point at my least favourite venue for altercations: the wedding ceremony grounds of a designer fever dream desi lesbian wedding. But I guess, better late than never.
Bani J’s character, Umang, is the standard bisexual friend trope in this group of four, Damini, Siddhi, and Anjana. While Umang’s character is quite easy to warm up to, there is not a lot of difference between her and Bani J’s offscreen persona. Apart from focusing on her relationship with Samara Kapoor (Lisa Ray), her storyline has little to offer, except if you count the hundred training montages. So all in all, Umang is either lifting weights or Samara, which does qualify for immediate lesbian clickbait, but her character isn’t given much else to do. It is a weird paradox in the Bechdel test: due to virtue of being in a lesbian relationship, Umang and Samara do not discuss men, but there is nothing pivotal apart from their relationship that she seems to be doing.
Umara, the undisputed OTP of this show, which sadly comes with its own hashtag, has had nothing short of a rollercoaster ride that was doomed to stop at some point. Lisa Ray plays undoubtedly the best supporting character of the lot, but that’s not much to say, given her competition is almost as poorly written male characters for Milind Soman and Prateik Babbar. I wish there was more to her back story as well, given that Lisa Ray has had a history of playing queer female characters with an all familiar finesse, from I Can’t Think Straight (2008) to The World Unseen (2007). However, she does what she can, and we do see some amount of meat added to the bones of this character, but it still fails expectations given someone of her caliber. #Umara needs to start taking itself a little more seriously, and lose that vile hashtag in order for this storyline to be a little more fulfilling. Still, this is much better writing than I could have ever expected from 4MSP! and I sincerely hope that they get themselves to a more redeemable place in the next season.