This show about four liberal women tries to challenge misogynist narratives but ends up perpetuating stereotypes
Four More Shots succeeds in breaking down traditional barriers to sex and sexuality
The bisexual Ludhiana-born personal trainer has her work cut out with the new client, an actor who knows that her time in the business is limited since 50-year-old heroes only want to work with 20-something heroines.
So, how do you get her into her best shape ever? By yelling out choice Punjabi gaalis, never mind if nearly all have to do with women’s body parts and are in themselves sexist and misogynist.
Now showing on Amazon Prime, Four More Shots Please—a 10-epiosde show—is about “four unapologetically flawed women (who) love, blunder and discover what really makes them tick through friendship and tequila in millennial Mumbai".
Who are these women? Anjana Menon (played by Kirti Kulhari) is a single mom and successful lawyer. Umang Singh (Gurbani) is a personal trainer who has run away from Ludhiana because she can’t stomach the idea of an arranged marriage. Siddhi Patel (Maanvi Gagroo) is waiting for her mother to find her Mr Right—and why bother with a career if she’s going to have to give it up after becoming Mrs Right? Completing this quartet is Damini Rizvi Roy (Sayani Gupta), whose double-barrelled last name tells you about her liberal values as a “real" journalist, the intrepid founder of Investigator.com, which faces as many as eight defamation suits.
Four women, their friendship and their angsty conversations about sex and finding suitable partners, or even hook-ups, where have we seen that before?
Nevertheless, this little Sex And The City ploughs ahead. Sure, there are some delicious moments: Umang’s family shouting “she’s Lebanese" when her actor client (played by Lisa Ray) is outed; Siddhi stealing a bar of chocolate hidden in a box of sanitary napkins.
But these moments notwithstanding, the show drowns in clichés: The gay bestie who is outed the minute he comments on a woman’s empire line dress because don’t we all know that gay men are obsessed with fashion? Damini tells Jeh (played by Prateik Babbar), the owner of Truck Bar, where the women hang out and sometimes make out: “I know what I want. The question is will you give it to me?" And Anjana, in the highest heels I’ve ever seen on a lawyer, tells Damini that the difference between men and condoms is that “condoms have changed and are no longer thick and insensitive". Indeed.
More troubling than the cheesy dialogue and lazy stereotyping is a plot subtext where the four women encounter the greatest hostility from other women, or to paraphrase that old trope: Women are women’s worst enemies.
Siddhi’s nemesis is her mother, who makes Cruella De Ville look like the Amul girl in comparison, but we are never told her backstory, and why she’s so mean. Damini’s opposition comes from Uma, the board member who ultimately replaces her with an editor who understands click bait. Again, we can only guess at Uma’s backstory since there is no hint of her journey up the corporate ladder.
When Umang is fired from her job at the gym, it’s by a woman supervisor who advises her to “keep your legs together"—surely the issue here isn’t moral but one of drawing an ethical line on sleeping with a client, that too within the workplace.
Maybe these millennials haven’t heard of MeToo, so it’s okay for a (female) boss to have a relationship with a (male) intern in the same firm. No problem either with the hot male gynaecologist (played by Milind Soman) sleeping with his patient.
Surely, the “urban Indian woman" also includes the maids who look after the children and make endless chai, enabling their employers to have careers and meet over drinks to talk about sex. But if Radha or Julie didi have their own ambitions, desires and sex lives, we aren’t told about them.
In the end, even the core sisterhood is exposed as somewhat hollow when, at the time of one character’s greatest crisis, the others end up bickering over their own issues and she’s left to deal with her mess alone.
Ultimately, Four More Shots Please is a lazy show that skims over what could have been interesting feminist explorations of body image issues, predatory uncles on the internet, and mental health. What you get instead is hashtag feminism that says all the right things but seldom hits the right note.
Yet, for all its flaws, in an entertainment landscape that is so bleakly misogynist, Four More Shots succeeds in breaking down traditional barriers to sex and sexuality. Female desire and sexuality? Check. Woman-on-woman action? Check. The lover who asks his partner if she came, and, when she replies “nope", proceeds to give her oral sex? Check.
Now that we’ve got the checklist in place, maybe, just maybe, Season 2 will move on.
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