Netflix’s ‘The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives:’ Review

Every thrives on an similar formulation. We observe a bunch of impeccably attired ladies as they go about managing their households and social lives. There isn’t a lot plot, however there are copious tears and charged moments as rivalries flare and disparaging feedback are made in regards to the high quality of wigs or beauty dermatology. And typically, in between, one thing deeper is captured in regards to the singular universes these ladies inhabit — the distinction in social mores of rich wives in Atlanta and Miami, or the distinctive customs of these in New Jersey. A really good rich-wife actuality present is equal components tawdry dramatic stress and anthropology.

“Bollywood Wives,” sadly, lacks each the sly self-awareness of the “Actual Housewives” franchise and the dramatic ruthlessness. Of the 4 Wives, three are married to former Hindi movie stars, and one is a former star herself, however all of those figures’ heydays have handed. It’s their kids who at the moment are being groomed for movie careers, and the Wives need you to know that their priorities are with their households — even when good mothering, on this universe, entails making your husband study the waltz in order that he can escort your daughter to her “popping out” at a Parisian debutante ball. The Wives maintain obscure jobs designing jewellery or clothes, however these professions are inclined to languish within the background of an countless sequence of lunches. For probably the most half, we watch them carry out some mild cosplay of the second “Intercourse and the Metropolis” film: taking a whirlwind ladies’ journey to Doha and lounging poolside in diaphanous caftans, or sporting Gucci to do volunteer work cleansing trash from a seaside. The plot contrivances are laborious and low-stakes (in a single the Wives faux, unconvincingly, to have reservations about beauty work), and the themes too pious, too certain of their very own persecution and, frankly, too boring — even for me, an avowed librarian of Nineties Hindi-film arcana.

However within the present’s unguarded moments — when its slick pandering to the Netflix viewers falls away, and the Wives slip into the wounded belligerence that comes so simply to the rich — it unintentionally gives unparalleled documentary perception into the nepotistic depths of the Hindi movie trade. It could be asking us to care about one Spouse dealing with public scoffing at her daughter’s Paris debut, however the true gag is her teenage son’s confidence that he, too, will change into an actor in Hindi movies, regardless of having a questionable grasp of the language and talking with a placeless, affected accent. (Like every proud Indian mom of a mediocre Indian son, she beams as she brags about how cute he’s — and like anybody who follows the trade, she certainly is aware of the household title will take him far.) We watch one of many husbands shyly divulge to his Spouse that, after years as a middling character actor, he has lastly landed a key function with a notoriously unique director’s firm. The surprising sweetness of the second lasts for about three seconds; in his subsequent breath, he laments the general public’s unfair complaints about trade nepotism, which can’t exist as a result of, in his case, “It took me 25 years.”

However probably the most telling unintentional revelations occur because the Wives frenetically put together for a celebration hosted by the spouse of one in every of India’s largest stars, Shah Rukh Khan. His partner, Gauri Khan, isn’t only a Spouse; she presides over her personal galaxy, orbited by the lesser Wives, who nervously titter and collect round her, basking in mirrored glory. Too well mannered to smirk at their sequined outfits however not well mannered sufficient to allow them to move unmentioned, Khan dryly chuckles about feeling underdressed. With a placid smile, she sweetly says that if solely she had been “only a designer,” she’d perhaps, simply perhaps, have thought of collaborating in a present like this. When requested in regards to the 4 official Wives, she notes that she was an enormous fan of 1 “within the ’80s” and, after a deadly strategic pause, describes one other as “humorous.”

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