Bombay Begums Review: Star Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars (three and a half stars)
Writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava found her niece drawing women in the grayest of shadows and letting the slits in their armor shine like a medal. Bombay Begums brings five women from different backgrounds to Mumbai and shows us the stories they go through because of their gender. Pooja Bhatt, who has aged like fine wine, is making the front page of this story like a pro. But does the Netflix show stand out among the female-focused content we’ve consumed before? Let’s find out.
Throw away: Pooja Bhatt, Amruta Subhash, Shahana Goswami, Plabita Borthakur, Aadhya Anand, Vivek Gomber, Danish Hussain and ensemble.
Bombay Begums Review: What It Is:
In the cityscape, five women of different generations and backgrounds come together and fight for their desires, ambitions, pride, body and sit on the queens in the form of a throne.
Bombay Begums Review: What Works:
If there is a way to create a crossover movie where the women of Alankrita Shrivastava meet and discuss the company, I would be the first to buy a ticket. Bombay Begums, created and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava – Bornila Chatterjee and written with Iti Agarwal, is again a close look at women from different strata of society. An elite CEO of a Rani bank (Pooja Bhatt), strived to reach the top. She is at the top of a hierarchy that wants to pull her down. She makes crisp saris her armor and her brain her weapon.
Lily, a bar dancer, wants to earn the respect of a society that wants her to be at the bottom of the hierarchy. She wants her son to be a gentleman, at odds with him being labeled as a son of a bitch. Fatima, a woman struggling with professional and personal challenges, quickly climbs the stairs to success, but struggles to become a mother. Ayesha, the most cliché of these characters, in my opinion, always has an edge for her. It’s part coil part sturdy and looks a lot like what we come across. Shai, a teenage girl who discovers her body and struggles to become an attractive version of herself.
In their writing, the three (Alankrita, Iti and Bornila) draw these ladies without judging them. All of the characters mentioned above are not statues of justice but keepers of dark secrets that they keep close to their hearts. When a prostitute says “Apneko ijjat mangta”, while in another part of town, a woman stands in the most immaculate of conference rooms and asks the same “ijjat” but professionally you see that there is is not much of a difference. Writers see them as women regardless of their profession and show how the same is true of sex.
In their 6 collective episodes at Bombay Begums, the creator highlights various issues that a woman goes through. Metaphorically, he presents the men as soldiers and the women, the queens who run the show. In another highlighted message, a woman’s body is itself a battleground. To be subjected to abuse, to oppose it, to age gracefully and hide it, to find out about menstruation, sex and to grow up. These 5 women go through all the above stages and are at different stages depending on their generation.
When a boss (Pooja Bhatt) hides her menopause phase and stands in a bathroom drying her armpits under a hand dryer, that’s when you see her vulnerability. Or when Shai (Aadhya) is curious about buying a bra and celebrates wearing it for the first time, you see the unknown. For women this is normal, but for men (including me) these scenes shine like a beacon. Because I have never been told about it, and confess never really paid attention to the women around me to understand these details. Kudos to the team for showing them.
Although I had a few issues with Bombay Begums, but the Begums never really let those shortcomings dominate. Each of the five ladies on board, in a way, tells her own personal stories. Like I said, this is the genre in general, and they have lived their lives long enough to relate the ordeals. Pooja Bhatt making a full comeback is a winner. She uses her age and mature elitism to the fullest and makes Rani one of the people we watch in these financial conclaves. In one scene, we see her washing her underwear in the basin, and it’s attention to detail that she brings to the table.
Amruta Subhash, my favorite, embodies Lilly, a bar dancer with the smallest details and brings her to life. Her journey through greed, the desire for respect, to start a new life is what gives the show an emotional layer. Subhash is an actress who uses her physicality to create a character, and with Lilly, she manages to do it completely and does a brilliant job. Shahana and Plabita manage to bring the same vulnerability to Fatima and Ayesha with conviction. I am happy to see these ladies take over the OTT in their able hands.
Bombay Begums can be safely called Alankrita using the Made In Heaven storytelling formula and succeeds in making it amazing.
Bombay Begums Review: What Doesn’t Work:
While the team creates these women with the utmost care, the men seem to have been given a secondary eye. We only know them well enough that they support the plot of the woman they are linked to as well. Maybe exploring them, more would have been an added layer to this indulgent saga.
Plot twists at times become too everyday versions of soap, and even the handling gives the same vibes. The part where an affair breaks out, or a girl paints her skirt red so she can fake her first period, it all gets too melodramatic, which takes you out of the experience a bit.
Bombay Begums Review: Final Words:
Netflix’s Bombay Begums is about the five characters representing their gender and asking the world to look at their wants, struggles, needs and wants. Watch it to see some great actors and writers collaborate to give details never seen before. Watch them for the battles they are fighting, just like Amruta Subhash in a scene that says, “Sapne Humesha Murda Hi Paida Hote Hain, Jo Chance Milta Hai Usko Cheen Ke Jeete Hain Hum”.
Must read: Bhabiji Ghar By Hain Fame Nehha Pendse’s Desi wardrobe is nothing short of style inspiration and all the women out there take notes!