Masaba Gupta is a desi-millennial with desi-millennial issues
As the debate over nepotism in Bollywood rages on, Netflix’s new series – Masaba Masaba – about a not-so-privileged (well, comparatively) star-kid tells us a story that is strangely relatable.
I have faint memories of seeing the promos of Saans on Star Plus during one of my annual summer vacations to my Nana’s house in Patna. The cable operator at my house in a relatively smaller town – Buxar, broadcast only seven channels and Star was not a part of the bouquet. I vaguely remember it was a series of stills of the many emotions of Neena Gupta that ended with a plate with a bindi over the text ‘Saans‘. The show was about a woman whose husband is having an extra marital affair. Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to watch it.
Many years later I saw a striking Neena Gupta in Kamzor Kadi Kaun. I loved her sass. She evoked fear and oozed authority at a time when other game show hosts were all about warmth and fuzz. Almost a decade and a half later, I saw her photo with her fashion designer-daughter Masaba Gupta. Little did I know that Masaba, much like her mother and her designs, was bold, fierce and unstoppable. She painted Devanagari calligraphy on sarees, held a fashion show on Instagram and shut down trolls who mocked her mixed-race identity with élan.
It is with the same panache that Masaba Gupta, makes her debut with a show about her, named after her. The semi-fictional show films how this young woman raised by a single mother is going through a rough patch – professionally as well as personally. She is grappling with problems one after another as she embarks on a learning curve, much like a young Masaba coming to terms with her identity, life situations and troubles. The use of a child artist that replaces Masaba in some scenes to express this metaphor is both adorable and profound.
The show is a celebration of sisterhoods
Masaba Gupta is a desi-millennial with desi-millennial issues. Her marriage has hit choppy waters and the announcement of her divorce (on Instagram) invites a barrage of unwanted criticism and judgement similar to what her mother was subjected to when she chose to have a child out of wedlock. Masaba’s attempt to find a house is full of hurdles as landlords don’t want to let out their homes to single women who are celebrities. Her business is on the verge of bankruptcy because she has hit a creative block. And her attempts at dating just lead her to boring, and mostly self-obsessed men. This six-episode series is a binge watch for anyone who wants to root for a struggling Masaba.
Despite her celebrity status, I found myself relating to her. I mentally cautioned Masaba to not crawl back to her ex in a moment of weakness. I felt mildly ecstatic when she showed him the door in the very next scene. I could swear by her ten commandments to get over a break up. I even had a creative breakthrough, much like her, while watching the show (Inception much?)
The show rides on the near-perfect acting talent of Masaba who wows in every single frame. She is effortless in front of the camera, convincing in her delivery and consistent with her performance. Is it that easy to play oneself on camera? I think not, but she aces the part. Her role gets a well-deserved fillip with Neena Gupta who is equally brilliant. We have seen her dazzle the silver screen and the telly before; she wows us yet again in her OTT debut.
The show is a celebration of sisterhoods. Be it the banter and the love that Masaba and Neena share, the constant encouragement and one upbraiding session that her best friend doles out or the lead’s equation with all the wonderful women at the House of Masaba. Women in the show pamper each other, lift each other and are even brutal critics when the need arises.
Having confessed my love for the show I must also admit that there were some obvious shortcomings. I wish the makers had paid equal importance to the entire casting process. While half the support cast is fabulous the other half just drags the show’s energy down, like the show-stopper at the fashion show or the other women at House of Masaba. The show could even have fleshed out some of the other supporting cast a tad more, like Masaba’s assistant Gehna. There are sequences which you can skip without missing much.
But if you are looking for a quick binge to lift up your lockdown weekend, look no further.
Language Hindi, English
Written by Sonam Nair, Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramachandran
Directed by Sonam Nair
Starring Masaba Gupta, Neena Gupta
No. of episodes 6, roughly half an hour each
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