That Amazon Prime’s latest, Hush Hush, had people recalling HBO’s Big Little Lies has become a widely accepted fact. The show followed four friends from a privileged background who get caught up in a crime. In fact, in both stories, it is a party that forms the backdrop for the pivotal moment of the show. However, this is where the similarities end. Unlike in Big Little Lies, here the audience knows everything that the four characters do, and the big quest is not the why.
Set in posh Gurgaon, Hush Hush follows four fast friends, lobbyist Ishi Sanghamitra (Juhi Chawla), former journalist Saiba (Soha Ali Khan), fashion designer Zaira (Shahana Goswami), and homemaker Dolly (Kritika Kamra). Now, while a lot can be said about befuddling reveals, the loose ends, and the many ways in which the finale does not live up to the promise the premise sets up, there is also a lot to be said about how the handle the show gets it right.
The show addresses the varied ways in which patriarchal ideas seep into the world of the ultra-rich. This is depicted through Dolly, who is treated by the in-laws as a means to further their family name, as it is through Zaira, whose ex seems to change his tone, as soon as he realized she has no interest in being the other woman any longer. And, as the finale establishes, Ishi, who “broke a rule”, stands as an example of how powerful women are thrown under the bus for standing up for what’s right.
Geeta Tehlan (Karishma Tanna), a smart Haryanvi cop tasked with investigating the case, acts as both, a foil and catalyst. Coming from a middle-class background, Geeta’s reality is a world apart from that of the women, but at the same time, she is able to look at criminals as more than their crime. Her entry into the scene, as well as the trajectories her investigation leads, motivates the four women to make their moves.
While we are not given much insight into Geeta’s personal life, we know a few things. It is mentioned in passing that she used to be married, and the now-divorced woman is in a relationship with a beautician, Radha. In the very little that is revealed of their story, we know that people in her life are not aware of her sexuality. The fact that her girlfriend’s number is saved as ‘R’, and the fact that the only place they seem to find to discuss their future seems to be at the parlor Radha works in helps us clue this together. Radha who is being pressured by her family to get married, echoes the sentiments of many, when she says, “There is no place for us in this world.”
Quite like Radha, who is unable to assert her needs is Dolly. She represents the claustrophobia that comes from playing the role of a modern bahu in a patriarchal household. Pressured to live up to the family expectations, Dolly struggles to play the role of the perfect wife and daughter-in-law. Treated like a means to a grandchild by a mother-in-law who seems to be controlling to the point of tracking her ovulation cycle, Dolly lives a life of appeasement until she decides she has had enough. Unlike many Indian men, however, Aditya, Dolly’s husband, manages to free himself and hence, Dolly, from the grips of the unrealistic expectations.
Refusing to live up to expectations from the get-go seems to be Ishi. However, despite being the main character, we know very little about her. How did she move past her humble beginnings and become such a powerful lobbyist? How did she become friends with the three women, when nothing seems to be in common between them other than the fact that they live in an ultra-posh society? We also never fully understand why there seems to be some level of animosity towards Ishi from Saiba. The only insight we get into their relationship is probably the fact that these women seem to clash on their thoughts about working the “system”. In a sense, Saiba seems to be everything Ishi isn’t; a family-oriented woman, who gave up her flourishing career when things seemed to get risky.
Zaira, on the other hand, seems to be Ishi’s biggest ally; the one who unwaveringly believes in her friend. Apart from being the voice on behalf of Ishi, she seems to be an entry point for Meher (Kavya Trehan), a character that doesn’t make much sense, apart from the fact that she just might be unhinged, or extremely devious.
What makes the show work would be the chemistry between the characters. The stark contrast the violence with the affluent life is one that drives the plot. However, at the same time, what makes the show lose its thread is the fact that in an effort to hold a mirror to the corrupt and depraved world of the ultra-rich and powerful, the show becomes about too many things. The lack of context to these plotlines makes the plotline less believable. The expectation that the plot lines would somehow converge and make sense is lost by the time you roll to the last episode. With none of the sub-plots reaching a clear conclusion, one can only assume that they are playing the long game and the loose ends are designed to be the push for viewers to return to season 2, should there be one.