Neena and Masaba Gupta are two dynamic women we love to love. Neena, a single mom who lives life on her terms, candidly talks about her choices and what she would or wouldn’t like to do differently, makes a stunning comeback to films and lights up the frame each time . Her daughter, Masaba, owns a successful fashion label of her own, is independent, talented with her head firmly on her shoulders. It’s easy to fall in love with them, and so one understands why Netflix thought it worthy to bring these two women together.
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Created by Ashvini Yardi and directed by Sonam Nair, the six-episode series Masaba Masaba is inspired by the life of this mother daughter duo.
Written by Nair, Nandini Gupta and Anupama Ramachandran with additional screenplay and dialogues by Punya Arora, Masaba and Neena play themselves on screen but in a fictionalised setting. A lot of what happens is already in the public domain and as it turns out even played out before us. Like Neena Gupta’s Instagram post asking for work that set the ball rolling and helped ease her way into Bollywood with meatier, well-defined roles. On the other hand, Masaba Gupta’s separation and eventual divorce kept the gossip columns running for weeks.
The familiarity of the arc and predictability in storytelling is a feeling hard to shake off post the second episode. There is nothing that this show tells us that we don’t already know about these two public figures. What it does reveal though is that Neena Gupta’s genes have indeed ensured Masaba’s flourish in front of the camera. She is natural, economical and pleasantly at ease. Neena Gupta radiates warmth and seems to be having great fun playing a fictionalised version of herself.
But otherwise Masaba Masaba a highly sanitised and manicured gaze where even the “hot mess” that this show vows to show has several Instagram filters beautifying it.
The show isn't as off putting as it is placid and uneventful. We know the drill, the arch isn't enviably new and the show inexplicably doesn’t focus on aspects of Masaba and Neena's lives that would actually give us an insight into the inner workings of this mother and daughter. For instance, Masaba’s childhood is entirely missing. A little Masaba, adorably played by Amairah Awatanye, does show up but it would have made a huge difference to understand what it meant for Masaba to grow up as a half- black girl with a single mom in India. What was it like for someone whose own mother is a national-award winning actor to be told that she doesn’t have the “right look” to try in Bollywood and be dissuaded from becoming an actor?
By focussing on the exact same bits that we know about and giving us a manicured version, we miss the raw gnawing that would keep us hooked. The effect that preying eyes and blind items have on one's personal life or the harrowing experience of looking for a house on rent in Mumbai as a divorcee famous woman are still some of the more insightful moments in the film.
Not that it’s a total waste. Neena Gupta is admirably complimented by Masaba, who makes a very self-assured debut. The assembly of a well put- together cast elevates the proceedings. Like Pooja Bedi as Masaba’s therapist is hilarious. Rytasha Rathore , Sunitha Rajwar, Neil Bhoopalam and Satyadeep Mishra are all welcome additions. There are even entertaining cameos by Kiara Advani, Farah Khan, Mithila Palkar and Gajraj Rao. The smart casting is a breather, but both we and the series run out of steam soon.
Our rating: 2 Quints out of 5.