Big Girls Don’t Cry is set in an all-girls boarding school in a hilly town. Vandana Valley Girls School is run by unflinching headmistress Anita Verma (Pooja Bhatt), who espouses the virtues of this elite institution. She, and therefore the school, will not tolerate any deviation, rebellion or expression of individuality.

Into a group of 15-17-year-olds enters Kavya (Vidhushi), an outsider who will risk it all to fit in and get a seat at the cool kids’ table. There is Roohi (Aneet Padda), who covers up for her personal issues with non-stop chatter and frivolity. Jayshree (Tenzin Lhakyila) is a princess in waiting whose domineering grandmother constantly reminds her of her duty to the crown. “Big girls don’t cry” or BGDC is their watchword, but life is challenging these teenagers in ways that will test their resolve, shape them and bring on the tears.

The group includes Pluggy (Dalai), a clumsy girl who has failed twice and whose focus is on losing her virginity. Noor (Afrah Sayed) is an over-achiever with ambition. Ludo, or Leah Joseph (Avantika Vandanappu), is a talented basketball player who is sidetracked by her attraction to a team-mate. Ancillary characters include a disruptor on a shallow mission to smash patriarchy and the school’s conservatism, and a nerdy member of the debating team.

The seven-episode series has been created by Nitya Mehra and directed by her, Karan Kapadia, Sudhanshu Saria and Kopal Naithani. The show explores boarding school dynamics and sisterhood of the dorm with a light touch. Sexuality, rivalry, jealousy, ambition, insecurity, infatuation, heartbreak, deception and identity are touched on in a low-cal coming-of-age drama.

Big Girls Don’t Cry scores in its casting, gradually involving us in the girls’ lives, in which small problems are blown out of proportion. Two besties fall out over a boy, another is conflicted about her cultural identity, a third is closeted and a fourth is overcoming body and confidence issues. Kavya’s arc offers an opportunity for depth, but like the rest of the series, even her dilemma is tackled superficially.

A few boys from a neighbouring boarding school flit about, bringing a thin emotional layer into the lives of these hormonally-charged, rudderless girls who never seem to be concerned about academics (barring Noor, who wants to get into an American university).

The newcomers are surrounded by recognisable performers such as Pooja Bhatt, who has the only complex character. Suchitra Pillai and Zoya Hussain play faculty members. Mukul Chadda and Raima Sen are Roohi’s parents. Tanya Abrol is terrific as the physical training teacher.

Given that some of the makers are boarding school alumni, there is a believability to the situations (such as the pranks, the tradition of nicknaming, inter-house rivalry). The production design creates a lived-in feel.

The boarding school setting draws you in, keeping you interested but only cursorily. The script barely scratches the surface. It’s like scrolling through Instagram to pass the time, pausing at a post for a quick, curious look and then moving on.

Big Girls Don’t Cry (2024).