Masaba Masaba is a fresh, bold feminist take on Bollywood told by its very own but is that enough to make up for an inconsistent plot?
Suryansh Deo Srivastava, Founding Editor
Celebrity-designer Masaba Gupta’s life has been shrouded in controversy ever since she was born--out of wedlock--to a starlet and an accomplished international cricketer. This story of a self-made, mixed-descent woman’s life pursuits, hence, had immense potential to make a mark for itself. Unfortunately, the plot is so unhinged and the characters so flat that Masaba Masaba makes only for a half-decent weekend binge at best and background noise as you go about doing other chores at worst.
Directed by Dharma camp’s Sonam Nair, the six-episode series stars veteran Neena Gupta, debutante Masaba Gupta, and the all-pervasive social media--which is shoved into your face more than you would like.
A scripted take on the lives of the mother-daughter duo, Masaba Masaba is no Fashion or Page3. In no way does it strive to replicate Bhandarkar or take upon itself the responsibility to hold a mirror to the blemished face of an industry in dire need of reform. However, it is no Keeping Up with the Kardashians either, and thankfully so. It treads the sloppy path somewhere in-between and conveniently masks reality with caricatures.
The show opens with a dishevelled Masaba, donning a stunning red gown, walking down an empty street as dawn kisses suburban Mumbai, a moment which feels so reverse-engineered that you can almost imagine what the writers’ meeting would have sounded like. It picks up from there and oscillates between our damsel’s suffocating yet loving relationship with her mother and a divorce that renders her near-broke.
The first two episodes manage to hold your attention with much difficulty but it’s all downhill from there: characters who play caricatures of the who’s who of Bollywood are introduced in isolated situations--in an unsuccessful attempt to add a punch to the plot, good-looking men are propped-up as objects for future debaucheries, cliches are pushed beyond the brink, and Instagram stories with ungodly fonts are employed as crutches for the fractured story-line.
Amidst some untapped clever plot points, there are criminally underutilized actors. For instance, Pooja Bedi, plays a life-coach with more personal issues than her patients but is reduced to a Gauri Khan prototype. Suchitra Pillai’s character, a mutual friend of the duo, is kept nameless and appears for hardly 5 minutes in the show’s entire run-time.
The show is also riddled with industry stereotypes: blind items, undisclosed divorces, cheating star husband, gay fashion editors, celebrity dogs (and infants), farcical award shows et al.
Masaba Masaba has a few bright moments but sadly, most of them have been inserted in the trailer leaving viewers with hardly anything to look forward to in the main offering. However, the show has some worthwhile performances with the eponymous Gupta outshining her mother and delivering a balanced debut. She has great screen presence and plays the messed-up designer-next-door with ease. Neena Gupta is a treat to watch on-screen but has a limited role to play as she juggles between her on-screen ambitions and motherhood.
The series has a fresh, bright, and uplifting vibe to it. The costumes are quirky and the set-design, pleasing. What the show lacks in plot, it compensates with a lustrous, extravagant production design. Cinematographer Aditya Kapur of Adulting fame returns to web-series and delivers some visually captivating scenes, especially those featuring young Masaba.
Masaba Masaba is not as superficial and exaggerated as Amazon’s “feminist” offering Four More Shots Please! or as unbearable either. The core shortcoming of Masaba Masaba is its lack of purpose which renders its episodes loosely hanging from the hair-thin plot. The creators had so much to explore in the reel-lives of these two accomplished women whose real lives are certainly more engrossing and inspiring that anything less amounts to disappointment.