Bombay Begums, the new Netflix series marks the return of Pooja Bhatt to the screen after a long time (not including Sadak 2). Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava this is no different from her earlier works Lipstick Under My Burkha and Dolly Kitty aur Chamakte Sitare with women in lead and somewhat similar themes.
Cast: Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur, Aadhya Anand
Bombay Begums, as the name suggests is set in Mumbai, tells a tale of 5 women who are from different backgrounds, different generations and the struggles they face in their lives.
Rani (Pooja Bhatt) is appointed as the CEO of a Bank has a task of keeping the bank afloat along with fighting the internal politics at work, along with managing her house. She starts with picking her team which includes Fatima (Shahana Goswami), and Ayesha (Plabita Borthakur).
Rani’s stepson gets involved in an accident with son of a Bar Dancer’s Lily (Amruta Subhash), and Lily keeps on blackmailing her to ensure that her son gets all the support to get into a good school and get a good life.
Fatima is a taskmaster at work but is struggling to keep her personal life sorted. From managing her husband who is now his subordinate at work, or getting mentally prepared for a surrogate child Fatima is a total mess in her personal life.
Ayesha who is a new joinee at a bank, is struggling to get into a good job profile, get a good place to live as she is staying at her ex’s place. The fifth girl is Shai, Rani’s stepdaughter, who is struggling with her low self esteem and wants to impress her crush in the class.
Despite all the struggles to manage personal and professional life, how they manage to fight the odds, the harassment at each stage of life is what this series is all about.
Director has succeeded in extracting very good performances from her actors. Pooja Bhatt as Rani is quite good and elegant as the CEO and has performed well. Sahana Goswami is excellent and plays the messed up Fatima with conviction and ease.
Amruta Subhash as Lily is excellent as usual, she plays the fierce bar dancer turned prostitute and the doting mother with the same energy. Plabita Borthakur as Ayesha fits the bill as a very ambitious small town girl who is exploring her sexuality and trying to make it big in the city without much support
Aadhya Anand as Shai, the underconfident teenager is good and supports the senior actors very well. Most of the men in the show get very less to do, but Manish Chaudhary is excellent in his limited but important role, so is Vivek Gomber as Fatima’s husband.
Rahul Bose and Imaad Shah get limited screen time and are decent.
Bombay Begums has a rich look and very high production values giving a good viewing experience. Lead characters are well cast and they look every bit the role they are playing.
The actors have done a fabulous job and definitely take the writing and direction a notch higher with their performances. The lead characters of the show have their flaws and do not conform with societal standards of ideal, is what makes these characters real.
The show raises questions about harassment at workplaces be it at corporate offices or shady bars, and how and why even the ones victimised sometimes try to bury it because of xyz reasons.
Alankrita has done a fine job pushing some boundaries with some bold questions, characters and sequences which has been the hallmark of her previous works also
What doesn’t work
Few scenes and sequences are too convenient and act as a bummer. The male characters have not been explored much and the narration fails to develop the characters which in a way makes the show very one sided.
There are a few sequences which anyway have raised controversies, involving a 13 year old girl shown taking drugs at a party.
Overall, Bombay Begums is not a great show but given the context, and areas which it wants to explore its quite decent show. Laced with some powerful performances from lead actors and able direction the show is an interesting watch specially for the viewers who love this genre.
On the other hand there is a lot to create controversy, so in a way that is also a win for the makers in gaining some publicity.