Series Review: Bombay Begums

Series Review: Bombay Begums

Starring: Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur, Aadhya Anand, Manish Chaudhary, Vivek Gomber and Danish Husain

Creator: Alankrita Shrivastava

This latest Netflix series has managed to court controversy in India within days of its release, with some concerns raised around scenes in this six-part show set in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Whether that goes on to add to the hype already created by its strong acting and directing line-up, remains to be seen.

Rani (Bhatt) seems to be living up to her name, which translates as queen, as the newly elevated CEO of a successful bank in Mumbai. While her professional life is hitting many right notes, her personal life is a bit of a turmoil with husband Naushad (Husain) still pining for his dead wife and her stepchildren Shai (Anand) and Zuravar struggling to accept her as a replacement mother.

Fatima (Goswami), another successful professional, has her struggles equally cut out when she is offered an attractive jump in the banking ranks by her boss Rani but finds herself torn between husband Arijay’s (Gomber) yearning for a child and her own career ambitions.

The worlds of these high-flyers of Bombay society are in stark contrast to small town girl Ayesha (Borthakur), who joins the bank as a trainee to learn the ropes of finance, and sex worker Lily (Subhash), who comes in contact with these bankers under quite tragic circumstances.

However, unbeknownst to them, the common thread that binds them all is a determination to carve a niche for themselves in a male-dominated, albeit fast-changing, society.

Will the supposed “queens” survive, and thrive, in the push and pull of the corporate world in a post ‘me too’ era or will the perceived wins from that movement prove short-lived?

It is hard to see why this series is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons because at heart it is quite an honest piece of work that tackles some troubling social issues that rarely find screen time in any meaningful way. From the dark underbelly of drugs in high society and the damage that causes to the scourge of sexual exploitation that is a reality for many women on a daily basis, this show makes an admirable attempt at dealing with some very difficult subject matter head on.

Its non-preachy and more matter-of-fact approach to many of these complex issues is quite refreshing, backed up firmly by a powerhouse performance from Bhatt in her digital platform debut as an actress. The other leads are equally impressive in their roles and though the men are clearly left playing second fiddle in this very female-driven tale, they manage to hold their own.

Alankrita Shrivastava, known for her bold storylines with films like ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ and ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare’, has notched another win with this stark tour down some dark alleyways of Mumbai that have either remained hidden or only ever reflected the male gaze. Her ‘Bombay Begums’ are on track to rule the screens, so let’s hope they go on be victorious in the face of the real-world controversies as well.

*‘iGlobal’ Review Series

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