Movies

Challenging stereotypes in 'Four More Shots Please!'

A still from the show   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Four More Shots Please! is ambitious to a fault. Not only is it a story centred around four sassy and uniquely different women, it also boasts a nearly all-female cast and crew. Talking about how it took shape, creator Rangita Pritish-Nandy says, “I realised that apart from international shows and movies, India was making zero content about women like me, growing up in the India of today.” Thus, with the second season releasing on April 17 — and a team that includes writers Devika Bhagat and Ishita Moitra, and directors Anu Menon (Season 1) and Nupur Asthana (Season 2) — Pritish-Nandy is aiming to bring a lot of tropes crashing down.

American television has turned Sex and the City (SATC) into the stuff of legend. Four More Shots Please! — while flawed like its protagonists — brings something radically new into Indian drawing rooms. It effortlessly passes the Bechdel Test as well. The women find that men are not the cornerstone of their existence. Their troubles stem from myriad aspects of their lives: their careers, their bodies, their specific ambitions.

A still from the show

A still from the show   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The famous four

Each of the ladies I speak with concurs that the concept drew her in from the start. “It was an unprecedented opportunity to be a part of something special — a story about women by women,” says Bani J, who plays a bisexual fitness trainer. For Sayani Gupta, who dons the role of a journalist, it was also a chance to play a very real, flawed character with quirks. “It came from a sensitive, sensible place that I could relate to,” says the actor, who is currently enjoying spending time by herself during the lockdown. “I have been painting a lot, doing my riyaaz. It is good for everyone to do a bit of self evaluation and figure out how we spend our lives and utilise our time,” she adds.

Lending more context to her character, Manvi Gagroo talks about how Siddhi Patel constantly struggles with her body image. “Siddhi is not treated as a stereotypical fat or plus-sized girl. It was refreshing to see her as someone stylish, veering away from depictions of such girls on-screen as dressed down, wearing baggy clothes, looking a little jhalla.” Playing Siddhi, however, wasn’t a breeze. Gagroo recalls how, during the first season, she, along with Menon, worked on a slight slouch for her character to portray her as an under-confident girl. With the character evolving in the second season, “she is owning her body now”.

An opposite concern seized Kirti Kulhari, who plays lawyer Anjana Menon. “After season one, I thought I was done, that there was nothing new I could bring to the character,” she says. But having a different director for season two helped freshen things up. “Nupur gave us a new perspective, which cut down our boredom,” says Kulhari, who was excited to be in a space with a vibe similar to SATC. “It was the boldness that drew me to the show. And I do not mean the sex scenes, but the fact that it looks at women differently and places their issues at the centre fearlessly. I wanted to be a part of this change.”

A still from the show

A still from the show   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Addressing critics

While audacity has been the hallmark of the show, it has received its fair share of criticism, specifically for its near-constant portrayal of the women as pretty pin-ups who tend to drink all the time. As season two arrives, the actors insist that great care has gone into making it better than the first. Gupta says, “I agree that girls drinking and smoking all the time is not a symbol of empowerment. The idea was that women like us, who drink and smoke as a matter of fact, need representation. It should not be a measure of being damaged. We wanted to break the taboo associated with it while being honest to the set of women featured in the show.”

Gagroo admits they have taken a lot of creative liberties. “Of course we do not dress up like that every day, we do not always have good hair and make-up, nor do we always wear heels,” she says, adding that the beauty of the show is that “despite these women looking visibly more privileged than most other women in India, they still face similar problems. The idea was to portray female characters not through the lens of a man: the prim and proper partner or wife, or the other stereotype of the vamp who drinks and smokes. We wanted to challenge this conditioning and say that a woman drinking is not a bad person, and a woman in a sari is not necessarily a good person”.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:29:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/challenging-stereotypes-in-four-more-shots-please/article31310610.ece

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