Bombay Begums Review: Web Crawling with Bharathi S Pradhan
Netflix is predictable. Check the following boxes if you want their team to green light your show. Alankrita Shrivastava Bombay Begumes does exactly that with an exemplary lack of subtlety.
Under the guise of empowering women, show them as vulnerable, weak and eternally the prey.
Ended. That’s the whole point of Alankrita’s show. Ambitious bankers Rani Singh Irani (Pooja Bhatt as CEO of Royal Bank), Fatima Warsi (Shahana Goswami as deputy) and Ayesha Agarwal (Plabita Borthakur, a junior level player) put their careers above all else and , according to the show, infidelity comes with territory. Because women who are motivated by their career have to drink, smoke and cheat on their partners.
Give us some graphic sex and while you’re at it a gay scene or two is a must.
Alankrita eagerly gives it. So Pooja Bhatt with Rahul Bose (her lover outside of her marriage to Naushad Irani played by Danish Hussain) has fun in the hotel room, even going so far as to steal a long kiss from her husband and wife.
Husband Naushad has his own moments of jerking off while wearing his late wife’s lacy saree.
Shahana Goswami has sex in a bathtub, on the bed, wherever she is firang lover makes her feel like a woman. While her husband, her youngest at the bank, waits for her at home thinking that she is busy at work, does not disturb her and plans their surrogate baby, an idea brought up by her by the way.
Plabita won’t think twice before dating an ex-boyfriend crashing into her house because she’s forever homeless, even though her girlfriend is sleeping in the next room. She will unexpectedly enter jazz singer Chitra’s apartment, make herself comfortable as if it is her right, kiss heavily, have same-sex sex, walk in and out of her colleague’s house. Ron, smooch him and put him to bed whenever she wants. Ron is played with the cool required by Imaad Shah and by the way, I’ve lost track of how many people Ayesha has kissed or had sex with. But hey, shed a tear, she’s the victim.
In fact, it got to such a point that when there was love, we couldn’t “guess” who was doing what and to whom until we saw their faces. This box was therefore checked.
No matter the Boardroom Begums, bring the town chawl for diversity
Seamless, Alankrita says, as bar dancer turned sex worker Laxmi Gondhali, aka Lily (Amruta Subhash), is the first beneficiary of the bank’s new CSR program. Not so noble that the sex worker blackmailed Rani and it was the CEO’s cunning way to buy his compliance and come out like a benefactor. With a sex worker around, yes, an opportunity for more sighing and getting up on a lousy bed.
Remember to hit the Hindus and the saffron color
In the voice of a 13-year-old (she’s the sutradhar, a ploy Alankrita uses when she doesn’t know how to string disparate pieces together; it was used in Made in Heavan also), Alankrita introduces Shai Irani (Aadhya Anand), Rani’s daughter-in-law. Obsessed with germinating breasts and catching the attention of a classmate she has a crush on, adolescent angst and questioning of norms and customs ensue.
Box checked insistently with repeated questioning of the relevance of Karwa Chauth (as if it was the only custom of all religions that must be scanned) topped by a shady politician, surrounded by people wearing saffron scarves, who holds the Gita to taunt Laxmi Gondhali. If the show is broadly offensive to a single religion in particular, sorry, we don’t mean to disrespect any community or creed.
After checking all of Netflix’s favorite boxes, Alankrita Shrivastava (from Under My Burkha Lipstick glory) has its storyboard ready. Since subtlety is not a box that needs to be checked, hammer the power of women over viewers’ heads with mundane phrases like, “I feel like I’m on a treadmill from where I can’t.” not go down … “
The Saving Graces: Three watchable women led by Pooja, Shahana and Amruta Subhash keep the show going. If there is one point that has been made, even inadvertently, it is that actors like Pooja are not afraid of getting old and going through menopause.
While rural broadcasts like Panchayat (Amazon) had really more spirited women, Bombay Begumes is a signal that it is time to stop playing the victim card under the label of “empowerment”.