Ok so the OTT platform is ever evolving. I am glad that we are seeing increasing number of women stories, even better when the creators are also women. But when will this representation truly become more inclusive, more believable and free of stereotypes? Bombay begums is not the answer to these questions. But it probably is one tiny step in the right direction.
This is a story about five ambitious women, obviously from Bombay. Just like Lipstick under my Burkha, Alankrita Srivastava brings us characters from across age and socio-economic groups. From the CEO of a bank to a bar dancer, from menstruation to menopause, she’s covered everything. Divided by privileges these women stand united by their struggles of not just surviving but excelling in a patriarchal world. Pooja Bhatt plays the queen bee of the lot and her character name ‘Rani’ needs no explanation therefore. Fatima Warsi (Shahana Goswami), one of the best deal closers at the bank is Rani’s second in command. Ayesha is a an employee of the same bank, a typical small town big dreams girl whose capabilities are questionable but ambitions are not. Then there is Lily an opportunist bar dancer looking for respectable sources of livelihood. And the voice of all these complex female minds is the youngest lady Shai, who brings together and narrates the entire story through anecdotes and art.
It is impossible to address all the issues that women might face in a lifetime, but Alankrita attempts this humongous task and that is where it all goes wrong. Sexual abuse, breaking glass ceiling, sexual orientation, societal pressure, work-life balance, gender equality, motherhood, adolescence all of this is stuffed into one story. It is tiresome to watch a narrative that is deliberately complicated to accommodate a laundry list of quote unquote women issues. But you know what the saddest part is, despite having so much to talk about, eventually all of it gets reduced to sex and physical desires. It is heart-rending to see another potentially strong narrative succumb to the very stereotypes that we women are fighting against each day. Successful women are bad mothers, modern women smoke and abuse, ambitious women cheat and betray, you know the drill. If only it could rise above these cliches, there could have been scope to explore the everydayness of these women.
Amidst all that is wrong, Bombay begums does make some valid points. Few things that stood out the most for me were how women can be a product of patriarchy too and how men are not demonised to make women heroic. Infact I found some of the male characters more gentle and real.
Ironing out all its flaws is an extraordinary ensemble of actors. Pooja bhatt owns the screen like a true queen and you wonder what was keeping her away for so long. Amruta Subhash continues to rock at whatever you throw at her. Shahana Goswami and Plabita also deliver sincere performances. Aadhya Anand as Shaa is quite a revelation.
Bombay begums did not feel empowering, it did not move me enough to empathise with any character in its entirety, although it did have some touching moments. Whatever point it tries to make is lost in the melodrama. Watch Bombay Begums for a solid cast, strong performances and an engaging story.
Going with 2.5/5 for this one.