Bombay Begums: Glorious Gallery Of Gorgeousness

Bombay Begums(Netflix, 8 Episodes)

Starring  Pooja Bhatt,Amruta Subhash,  Shahana Goswami, Plabita Borthakur, Aadhya Anand

Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava,  Bornila  Chatterjee

Rating: ****

Like  them or  loathe them, hug them or hate them,  spurn them or ‘sperm’ them….The 5  women  in  Bombay Begums(one of them, just entering puberty) leave a  lasting impression. This is  a series like no other, replete  with  plot  twists  that  will keep  you watching until the very end.And when the ‘end’ comes, you want to know what these ladies  will do with their lives after we  leave them. Would they continue to so fabulously flawed? Or would they…ummm… mend their ways  become faithful to their spouses? Would they stop thinking of  good sex being preferable  to a good marriage?

Shahana Goswami’s  character Fatima Warsi  actually does the unthinkable… She  goes out  and has an  rollicking sexy affair with her senior(that too  a Caucasian) although she has a very loving devoted  husband(Vivek Gomber, too wimpy  and whiny to leave an impression).  Yup, women in Alankrita  Shrivastava’s universe  do stray  from a  solid marriage in search of solid sex.A  recurring image in  her cinema is  that of a woman lying inert under a heaving lurching man who clearly isn’t giving his  partner the promised paradise.

Sex, as you  must have guessed  by now, is  one of the most vital,  if not THE most vital  component  of the  woman’s world woven so  wonderfully into the web of woe and wow in Bombay Begum. Rani Singh Irani(Pooja Bhatt) the formidable  head honcho of a bank chain , is  a  committed  wife trying very hard to win over her two adolescent stepchildren. But when Rani  sneaks  out for a tryst  and tumble  with a secret lover(Rahul Bose, the lust interest) what do we make  of her?

Another  woman,  from another generation(there  is one to choose from in every age  group  from the teens to the late  40s) is that smalltown girl in Mumbai finding her way  across the con-crete  jungle. Think  Priyanka  Chopra in Fashion.  Think Shivani Raghuvanshi  in  Made In Heaven. Except that  Ayesha Aggarwal(PlabitaBorthakur)  in Bombay Begums is bi-sexual. As she divides her  sex time  with  Ron(Imaad Shah, too little of him) and  Chitra(Sanghmitra  Hitaishi)  it gradually  becomes  apparent  that it’s okay for women to  be selfish, to put themselves above   the men  in their lives. The missionary  position is no  longer  the only option.

My favourite woman  of this resplendent  bunch is  Amrita Subhash’s  Lily, the sex worker who wants  a  good life for her son. She  connives, schemes and when anyone steps on her dreams, she screams. What  a volcanic  performance by Amrita Subhash!  And  not just she.  Pooja Bhatt gives to her  role  as a dithering wife, struggling mother  and self-seeking woman the kind of menopausal imperiousness  not seen before in Hindi cinema. The ever-dependable  ShahanaGoswami is  bang-on as the just a teensy-weensy guilty unfaithful wife(but why the symbolic cracked  mirror in her bedroom?). And  little Aadhya Anand as  the  girl who can’t  wait for her  periods to  start is  a delightfully young but wise narrator  in a series that defies the norms of  gender stereotyping  but doesn’t make  a brouhaha  about  being “bold” and “bindaas”. These women are what they  are. Like them or not, you can’t ignore them.

 It is very difficult to like these women but it isn’t difficult  to  love them. They are so robust, so vivacious,  passionate and self-assertive, they  won’t rest easy until they attain self-actualization which here has  different  connotations for different women.Different strokes for different fucks, I guess.

The men…oh yes, I nearly forgot. They don’t appear  as just sketchy alibis  for women to have fun. Manish Choudhary as a high-ranking  sexual  offender in the  bank is brilliant.So is  Danish Hussain as Naushad Pooja Bhatt’s way-too-understanding husband . When  Rani  is caught with her pants down  ,Naushad  comforts her,  dries  her up  after her cleansing bath . Even  ImaadShah’s well-played Ron is  way too understanding.  Clearly  Alankrita Shrivastava and her partner-in-crime Bornila Chatterjee understand the women far better than men. And we are  okay with that.Bad sex is just beginning  of the process of rectifying the gender equations   in  our society.

Bombay Begums is a lavish  upperclass  saga of supreme sexiness. Most of  the characters live  the good life and are not the least apologetic about it. If  Bollywood Wives was  not  dumb, not vulgar and not  ignorant it would have been Bombay Begums.

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