Digital Review: ‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ (Netflix)

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It seems much of Bollywood still loves to take inspiration from the West when it comes to entertainment. Much like American reality TV shows that depict the lives of the rich and famous, Karan Johar once again brings to light his own influences of industry friends, with Netflix show ‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ (2020). The eight-episode series shows the close friendship and bond of Maheep Kapoor (Sanjay Kapoor’s wife), Neelam who is married to Samir Soni, Bhavana Pandey (wife of Chunky Panday), and Sohail Khan’s wife, Seema Khan. With the trailers showing the glitz and glamour of these four personalities and the drama that comes with their friendship – as well as the appearance of Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan – it held much intrigue as to how true this documentary series will reflect the lives of those from the big Bollywood industry.

With the first episode explaining who everyone is and how they are interlinked, the series follows these four women and the dynamics of their 25 year’s worth of friendship. All playing to their own personalities, Maheep, Bhavana, Seema and Neelam show how close they actually are. As the series goes on, the audiences witnesses how, as every friendship group does, the dynamic of the relationships between them change, exposing their different roles, as wives, parents and businesswomen. The appearance of many familiar faces such as Arjun Kapoor and Janhvi Kapoor, as well as other members of the different families, also gives the audience a glimpse of inner family dynamics. And being the producer of the show, Karan Johar also makes a few appearances to stir things up. With Neelam contemplating a decision to go back to acting, Bhavana stepping into a new business venture, Seema looking to expand her brand and Maheep focusing on managing her daughter Shanaya’s next phase of life; all four females show up for each other in different and at times controversial ways.

With there already being a certain over-the-top persona about the lives of members from the film industry, it seems Johar has used this platform to simply elevate it. From the first episode, the dialogues and actions are cringeworthy, unrelatable and at times evident that it’s staged. Where the trailer reflected high drama and attitude from all four women, in reality, this comes across as a little underwhelming. Their friendship seems pretty smooth sailing, and it’s only Johar who prompts them to open up a little and tackle issues that they may have had with each other. This however, comes across in a very unnatural way, where the dramatisation of situations feels very forced. The viewer can see what the makers have tried to do with this series, however the whole thing seems as though they are all trying way too hard to be like an American reality show. Slight glimpses of their truths are reflected too, where many might relate to the way people’s inner-relationships of friendship groups like this change. It is however, warm to witness their closeness in the way where it seems that they are able to be themselves around each other and show the appreciation they share for their bond. The best and most heart-warming episode has to be the last, where Mr & Mrs Khan make their appearance. Sharing their relationships with the women and reminiscing about what how much they all mean to each other, including the bond their children share, reflects an insight in what it means to be a part of the film fraternity family.

Despite the shortcomings, it has to be said this is a show that keeps the viewers watching. If anything, Neelam, Maheep, Seema and Bhavana all have entertaining qualities that the audiences just warm up to, where by the end one feels almost a part of their friendship group. The show touches upon matters of nepotism, parenthood and what it means to have such relationships around you. It’s fair to say there is a sisterhood shared between the four women, however, it seems it only grew closer for the show. The show lacks a lot of depth, where apart from what it means to have friends, there’s doesn’t seem to be anything else to hold on to.  For one looking for a gripping insight to what really goes on behind closed doors, this doesn’t really fit the mark and won’t be a total loss for anyone who gives this one a miss.

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