After the stupendous success of season one, the Netflix original Masaba Masaba is back with seven more episodes. It's centred around celebrity mother-daughter Masaba and Neena Gupta, who play fictionalised versions of themselves.
Season one stood out because it wasn't a vanity project, despite all the glitz and glamour associated with the lives of celebs. Created by Sonam Nair, Nandini Gupta, Punya Arora, and Anisha Raisurana, Season 2 also starts off in the same chaotic tone. Masaba has a pregnancy scare, and instead of offering support Neena goes all guns blazing on her. The designer's professional life isn't hunky dory either. She puts all her energy into a fashion show, but the guests beat a hasty retreat because a 20 something 'Insta designer', Qayanaat (an over-the top Kareema Barry), has stolen the limelight.
On the other hand, Neena is also struggling with an industry that expects older women to be confined to the backseat and eschew their desires and ambitions. The problems are very similar to season one, but the intensities are a notch up.
Legacy or Relevance - The Eternal Dilemma
Carrying on from the first season, Masaba Masaba 2 also dives deep into the burden that successful women have to carry on their shoulders. On one hand is the impossible standards of public scrutiny, on the other there's the unrelenting social media.
Spending a decade in the industry, learning the craft, yet Masaba finds herself having to justify her legacy time and again. She even hires a publicist Nicole (an insufferable Kusha Kapila), for whom life is nothing but a loud daily soap. She pushes Masaba to dance to the tunes of a society that's fixated on frivolous, cringeworthy content on the internet. One segment stands out - Masaba is invited to a reality show as a judge. The other judges are Milind Soman and Qayanat. Masaba starts off being her usual self, but Nicole's promptly advices her to become a 'bitch'. Because, what's viral content without drama?
Neena has her own share of problems. The veteran actor wants to revive her hit show Fursat, but her script has been turned into a ridiculous joke because no one is apparently interested in watching older people romance on screen. A young, know-it-all director has been brought on board to helm the show, and he spends no time in pointing out that Neena has become 'dated'.
Season 2 highlights that all these two women ask is to be remembered by dignity, not shrugged off or perceived as threats just because a new generation has appeared with its wild ideas. The series stands out because it's a story of the successes of women as much as the successful women themselves.
A Self-Aware Show
Masaba Masaba isn't just a coming-of-age story about a millennial designer, it's a self-aware show that's occasionally witty. While season one handled Masaba's divorce in the most fuss-free manner, this season handles relationships with utmost sensitivity. After the breakdown of her marriage, Masaba hops from one date to the other till she completely exhausts herself. Re-enter Dhairya Rana (Neil Bhoopalam), Masaba's investor, who has started falling for her. However, past incidents haunt Masaba and things get complicated. She loses someone close, finds out that her best friend is struggling with her own demons and reflects upon mistakes that she has made in her life. Neena is also forced to confront a past incident that hasn't been offering her closure for a long time.
It's laudable that the writers chose to stay away from squarely blaming anyone when things go south. Instead, they reinforce the idea that it's absolutely normal to have disagreements and hurt in the closest relationships and that sometimes there's no villain but just deeply flawed people.
Despite its flaws and a ridiculous ending, Masaba Masaba remains immensely watchable because of the stupendous Neena and Masaba Gupta. Masaba has a such great screen presence that she lights up the most cliche scenes. She is confident, sassy and doesn't shy away from showing her very vulnerable side.
Neena plays a much watered-down version of herself. She effortlessly critiques the industry she has been a part of for 40 years. She has powered through with her courage and resilience, and that comes through in all the scenes she is in. It's without a shred of doubt that Neena's subtle gestures are enough to communicate the message, but her greatness as an actor shows when she creates the space for others to shine.
The supporting cast, with Neil Bhoopalam and Ram Kapoor, is a delight to watch.
Masaba Masaba isn't wishy washy as like a Veere Di Wedding or Four More Shots Please! It's a celebration of two women whose individual accomplishments are impossible without each other's support. Masaba is able to reach new heights because Neena refused to bow down to a conservative society that's unable to handle female independence, and Neena gets a new lease of life only because Masaba encourages her to never second-guess herself. It's refreshing to come across a story which thrives on sisterhood and women standing up for each other.