The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, India’s first housewives reality series is here, courtesy Netflix. The show is now streaming, and I have a bone to pick with Karan Johar, the designated king of masala entertainment in Bollywood.
I turned to Netflix’s original series for an overdose of entertainment — assuming it’s from Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment and the first reality show straight out of the lives of four Bollywood wives — but what I got in return was faith-shattering disappointment.
The series lifts the curtain on the lives of four wives who have been BFFs for almost 25 years: Seema Khan, Maheep Kapoor, Bhavana Pandey, and Neelam Kothari Soni. Seema Khan is the wife of actor Sohail Khan (brother of Salman Khan) and a fashion designer. Khan is a devoted mother to her two sons Nirvaan and Yohan and can get Maheep Kapoor’s “goat” sometimes. Maheep Kapoor (formerly Maheep Sandhu) is the wife of Sanjay Kapoor (brother of Anil Kapoor). The series opens with the Kapoors travelling to Paris to attend Bal des débutantes, where they present Shanaya Kapoor as a debutante to the world (and Bollywood), for an inevitable career in the industry. Bhavana Pandey is the wife of Chunky Pandey and a costume designer who used to be a flight attendant, a VJ, and a model. And the last of the quartet is Neelam Kothari Soni, wife of Samir Soni, who used to be an actress and is now a jewellery designer.
So far, so good. We’ve got a clique, oozing fashion cues, behind-the-scenes gossip and banter, a girl-gang trip to Doha, and cameos by some of the biggest names in Bollywood (Ananya Panday, Karan Johar, Arjun Kapoor, Gauri Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Ekta Kapoor, Jahnvi Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Jacqueline Fernandez). But what’s missing is the salt and pepper. The storyline is as bland as oatmeal.
What I’m okay with is this: A hackneyed script that amalgamates the best episodes from Sex and the City, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and even Keeping Up With the Kardashians. What I’m not okay with is zero ingenuity, no drama, scripted performances, and the wannabe attempts at being cool, millennial moms. And while the concept takes us inside the lives and homes of these Bollywood couples, there is nothing that catches your attention. Though the bit where they fawn over international celebrities (Sanjay Kapoor at the Bal des débutantes and Seema Khan obsessively texting Kim Kardashian) is still relatable.
As a 90s kid and a Karan Johar fan, I expected a lot more than having to watch Seema Khan’s perfectionism or Bhavana Pandey’s fear of ghosts. Or Maheep Kapoor’s fetish for stalking her neighbourhood with a pair of binoculars or Neelam Kothari Soni’s excruciating accent. The series failed at acing the one and probably the only golden rule of a good reality show, which is to sell yourself. It’s like what Pandey says in Episode 4: ”She wanted more fireworks”. Well, so did we.
On the other hand, Johar fully utilised the platform to underline the nepotism debate, which is still very much part of the conversation this year. In candid conversations between the Kapoors trying to launch their daughter Shanaya in Bollywood and the Pandeys seemingly worried about trolls on the internet, the idea becomes evident.
We have had some fresh content this year, whether it’s in the form of a cringefest of a show called Indian Matchmaking or the vulgar display of attention as exhibited by sexy singles in Too Hot To Handle. These have only led to increased expectations from filmmakers and producers who wish to delve into newer genres, which is why this kind of tedious take on content that could have been binge-worthy is not acceptable.
All images: Courtesy Netflix