Four women navigate sex and sexism in the city in Amazon Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please, which was released on the streaming platform on Friday.
The 10-episode series features Kirti Kulhari, Sayani Gupta, Maanvi Gagroo and Bani J in the lead, with a supporting cast that includes Milind Soman, Lisa Ray, Prateik Babbar, Neil Bhoopalam, Simone Singh and Amrita Puri. The show’s headlining female cast is backed by an all-women crew. The director is Anu Menon, co-producer and showrunner is Rangita Pritish Nandy and the writers are Devika Bhagat and Ishita Moitra. The series has been lensed by Neha Parti Maitiyani and Antara Lahiri is the editor.
The resultant absence of a male gaze is refreshingly evident in the series. Its perks include seeing Milind Soman in his salt-and-pepper glory in the role of a desirable gynaecologist and sex scenes where the focus is on women’s pleasure. And yet, the show fails to capitalise on its potential and ends up being a messy collection of thoughts and themes held together by a flimsy storyline.
The show follows Anjana (Kirti Kulhari), a lawyer and single mother who is struggling to balance her personal and professional life, Damini (Sayani Gupta), an award-winning journalist whose position as editor-in-chief of an investigative journalism website is threatened by a profit-hungry board, Umang (Bani J), a fitness trainer with a devil-may-care attitude who ran away from her Ludhiana home, and Siddhi (Maanvi Gagroo), who is struggling with body image issues while dealing with an overcritical mother.
The characters come together in every episode at a local bar to share their day’s dramas. Anjana’s ex-husband is moving on. Damini is trying to save her job and journalism as a whole from gossip-hungry readers while dealing with commitment issues. Umang, a bi-sexual, who otherwise lives life unapologetically, is forced to keep secret her relationship with a superstar who is yet to come out of the closet. Siddhi’s main challenge is her mother’s obsession with getting her married.
The characters are so sharp-edged that the actors never seem fully at home in them. In its rush to tick multiple boxes, Four More Shots Please puts its leading women in myriad situations and conflicts to which it is not able to do justice, before going off-kilter in a heavily dramatic season finale. Neither does it adequately flesh out its supporting characters, whose actions seem to have little context or consistency.
The show describes its protagonists as “unapologetically flawed”, but there are no such compelling complexities. Some interesting possibilities are teased – Anjana attempts to get in touch with her sexuality when she realises that she has not had sex since her child was born, Damini struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder and Siddhi experiments with web camera modelling – but are not seen through satisfactorily.
Four More Shots Please works best when it manages to move beyond its manufactured situations and sharp categorisations to let things flow organically. The scenes that stand out are when the women come together and play off each other, rather than to their character types. In one such sequence, the quartet, while hanging out at Mumbai’s Marine Drive late one night, throw caution to the ocean and scream out the word “vagina” in multiple languages after realising that Kulhari’s Anjana finds herself whispering the word every time it comes up.