Don’t miss this new ‘hot mess’ from Netflix

Masaba Masaba exceeds one’s expectations from a semi-biographical web series. It is neither a Kardashian show, nor a documentary, nor a fashion reality show. The series is scripted to give viewers a sneak-peek into the lives of Mumbai-based fashion designer Masaba Gupta and her mother and actor Neena Gupta. Masaba and Neena Gupta play fictionalized versions of themselves in this very fresh show for the Indian audience.

The story begins with Masaba preparing for an award function and ignoring a blind item implying the end of her marriage. While she doesn’t entertain nosy people questioning her about the article, she also keeps ignoring her worried mother Neenaji’s calls. While the gossip piece turns out to be true, and she starts to feel like she’s losing it all, she rushes over to her mom’s for emotional support. 

A one of it’s kind, Masaba Masaba is a beautifully balanced cocktail of complexities of modern-day relationships, fake friends, real friends, work-life balance, creativity, and humour. Despite upholding some very serious issues, never for a moment does it become intense or uncomfortable for the viewer. However, for the same reason it seems breezy to some it might seem superficial to others, depending on one’s expectations from this Netflix original.

What’s good

Needless to say what a well-cast show it is with actors doing absolute justice to their characters. Masaba, an established fashion designer, turns out to be a natural actor; after this show, she might be offered roles in Bollywood movies. Neena Gupta shines throughout and steals the show with her smooth self-portrayal. Neil Bhoopalam fits the role of a socially awkward boss perfectly, and his scenes with Masaba bring out the discomfort between people of hierarchical difference in a professional environment. Rytasha Rathore plays the typical best friend and is pretty impressive. Pooja Bedi in her role as a life coach who appears to be entangled with her multiple problems does an applaudable parody of the life coaches and aura cleaners who appear to be calm and claim to have a healing effect on their clients.

Writer-director Sonam Nair delivers an ensemble of real relationships and challenges faced by modern high society. From constantly faking a smile, to appreciating art beyond one’s understanding, to bargaining for vegetables with a street vendor, to balancing work and personal relationships —this series has it all sketched out brilliantly.

Masaba Masaba holds Instagram in high esteem for the important role it plays in our lives today and repeatedly tries to imply how with the good judgement of putting it to use one can do wonders otherwise unthinkable. One might even call it the third lead (non-tangible of course) of the series may be…

The bittersweet mother-daughter relationship is portrayed perfectly by the real-life mother-daughter duo. From daily bickering to helping each other in times of crisis, the show brings in that loving touch of a family alive.

Some of the well-placed, seemingly natural, dialogues will crack you up for sure. For instance, when Masaba’s best friend tells her she doesn’t need to worry as guys would be eager to go out with her. “Tu chheek maar, ladkon ki line lag jayegi,” in reply to which Masaba casually says, with a hint of frustration, “Kahan hai yeh line?” This is exactly the kind of conversations besties have, and then laugh their hearts out. On another instance, in an attempt to purchase fabric for her new collection Masaba calls out the shopkeeper for selling her print, but the man counters her saying it is an imported product called ‘Masaba print’! And when our protagonist asks him who’s this ‘Masaba’, he confidently says, “Woh ek country hai Africa me.” There are more such little instances of how people easily relate her to Africa.

What’s not

Most of the interesting dialogues and sequences have been used in the trailer, considerably lessening the surprise element.

We get to see a little Masaba now and then, but don’t get an insight into her, other than a vague idea of how the child in us comes out at times and deals with situations differently. I assume the following season might take that up and work on developing little Masaba’s character.

Although this is a parody on Bollywood’s glamourous life, the show barely touches upon some of the issues, not dealing with them in-depth. Perhaps, they might do so in the next season (I want many more seasons to this ‘hot mess’). But there’s not much to complain, I genuinely loved the subtlety of the show.

And finally… 

This web series, very loudly aiming, to appeal millennials will serve well to uplift your mood and make you giggle now and then. A couple of very noteworthy steps taken by this project — they silently embraced body positivity and also portrayed how ‘struggle’ isn’t just something that only the younger generation has to face — is what makes it stands out. 

Older adults struggle to find work despite being talented and worthy. In a populous country like India, finding work is tough for all ages, let alone older artistes who are generally typecast as parents or grandparents in films. For a brief moment, it reminded me how Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan expressed disappointment over the casting of young actors (Taapse Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar) to play sharpshooting grandmothers in the film Saand Ki Aankh.

All in all, Masaba Masaba is a perfect one-time watch with your friends or by oneself. But I would have liked some more episodes in the first season. As the show ends on an interesting cliffhanger, all the other elements shown thus far will pique your interest considerably and make you whine a little for finishing off so soon. Ah! The plight of binge-watching…

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