'Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives' review: Keeping things shiny, shallow and simple

Several of their Bollywood friends and family also make special appearances along the way, including Arjun Kapoor, Janhvi Kapoor, Malaika and others.
Maheep Kapoor, Neelima Kothari, Bhavana Pandey and Seema Khan poster for Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives
Maheep Kapoor, Neelima Kothari, Bhavana Pandey and Seema Khan poster for Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives
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Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, now streaming on Netflix, is the kind of show you don’t expect pathbreaking content from. It rejoices in its own frivolity and yet remains a tad too politically correct for truly entertaining reality television. Inspired heavily by international formats like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Selling Sunset and popular shows like Sex and the City, the series follows the lives of four women linked to Bollywood by marriage or career.

Karan Johar, who is the Executive Producer of the show, also makes multiple special appearances to set up controversial conversations or conduct an extended version of his popular chat show Koffee with Karan. Unfortunately, the script keeps things too prim and proper and doesn’t allow interactions to get truly nasty or saucy.

Directed by Uttam Domale, the show features Maheep Kapoor, (jewellery designer, wife to actor Sanjay Kapoor and mother to aspiring actor Shanaya Kapoor), Neelam Kothari ('80s movie star turned jewellery designer and wife to actor Samir Soni), Bhavana Pandey (owner of a clothing line, wife to Chunky Pandey and mother to upcoming star Ananya Pandey) and last but not least, Seema Khan (wife to Salman Khan’s brother Sohail Khan, owner of a boutique, and mom to two sons). These women have been friends for 25 years and keep telling us just how much they mean to each other.

Each episode contains fairly staged situations and conversations, intercutting between supposed fly on the wall observations with their direct to camera interviews, or what can best be called reality show asides on the events unfolding on screen. There is a debutante ball which Maheep and Sanjay’s daughter Shanaya is attending, Bhavana’s working towards launching her first store, Seema is trying to revamp her label while Neelam toys with the idea of a comeback and designs jewellery in the meanwhile.

There is a lot of inadvertent product placement with all their businesses getting prominently featured and in between work and handling their kids, the ladies find time to meet for lunches, dinners, drinks, have a watered down catfight, get fillers done to keep looking young, and be a part of a beach clean-up ( because we may be self-absorbed but we do care about nature). Their husbands, who interestingly are all actors who never really found big success, pop in and out of the episodes. While the wives are always perfectly groomed and poised, Sanjay Kapoor and Chunky Pandey play surprisingly candid versions of themselves talking about their struggles as actors and showing us that it’s not always been as fabulous as we think.

Unfortunately, or fortunately the show refuses to dwell for too long on any prickly areas, taking us and the girls on a holiday to Doha, because if it's good enough for Beckham, it's good enough for them. A flight in business class, a stay in a five-star hotel, a personal shopping experience, a possible stalker and a completely random bare-chested waiter serving pool drinks are all part of the short and the sweet Doha trip ends just in time for a big party thrown by the most fabulous of them all, Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan.

The camera goes into slow motion when Gauri and her superstar husband Shah Rukh walk in to the party and follows him as he makes his way around the party, bestowing his much-wanted attention on the guests. Quite tellingly SRK stands across from the four ladies through most of his cameo, and though he is all charm and flattery, there is an unspoken hierarchy between them that is all too evident. There is a reason Gauri and he only make a cameo appearance on this show, because the really fabulous don’t have to prove they are.

Several of their Bollywood friends and family members also make special appearances along the way. Arjun Kapoor, Janhvi Kapoor, Malaika Arora, Siddharth Malhotra, Ekta Kapoor and Raveena Tandon are amongst the many celebrities who join in to chit chat, do yoga, have lunch and add to the guilty pleasure quotient of the show which is supposed to leave us envious of these women who have friends in high places.

Though you begin watching the show knowing it’s going to be mindless fun and unabashedly fake, I couldn’t help but wonder, are their lives really this shallow? Are they actually as clueless about their privilege as they seem to be? Or are they both, but also unapologetic about the lives they have chosen to lead? In a society where we are slowly trying to be more ‘woke’ and open minded about our fellow human beings and their choices when it comes to marriage, motherhood and sexuality, should we be judgemental about a group of privileged, self-absorbed, but otherwise harmless women?

So, though I couldn’t help but cringe ever so often, I had to admit that I quite enjoyed watching this series. Or to partially quote Arjun Kapoor who perhaps has the best line of the season, “Stop taking yourself so seriously and go with the flow.” Pour yourself a glass of anything and give these Bollywood wives a chance. After being in the shadow of their husbands and kids all their lives , it’s now their time to feel fabulous.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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