Just like most others who have had the class privilege to be within the comfort of their homes and flip through series on OTT during this pandemic, this author too decided to watch Four More Shots Please! and Indian Matchmaking – two series that kicked up quite the storm around the times they were released. Almost in complete contrast with each other, with the former’s emphasis on anything but traditional and the latter driving home the point of how conservative casteist and classist structures continue to exist, the two shows still manage to have something in common: privileged sections of the society dictating norms and controlling narratives. Once I saw this through, there was no way of unseeing it.
Also read: Bingo! Your Privilege Has Been Revealed
This article attempts to briefly dissect both web series from this particular location of caste and class privilege.
On one hand, we have Indian Matchmaking, a show that calls itself “Indian” however overlooks a rather large population of the society to just focus on the creamy layer upper-class, upper-caste population and the rich and influential NRI community. From the skewered representation of the heavy term Indian, the makers of the series seem to have expected nobody to carry even an iota of common sense along while watching it.
On the other hand, we have Four More Shots Please! that again attempts to emphasise on feminist ideals and the fight for gender equity but only after its neatly packaged within class privilege. Thick, unsubtle curses are doled out in the name of feminism in the series, rendering it a shallow, half-hearted attempt to showcase only the pretty side of the story. There is more to the feminist movement in India and it cannot be emphasised on enough, that irresponsible representation of feminist concerns is not exactly helping the cause.
By the looks of it, Four More Shots Please! wants us to focus on women empowerment. But the fact that the women are quick to shame each other for their choices, especially when it comes to their sexuality and happily sort women as “ugly”, “virgin”, “slutty”,”savitri” is kinda making an anti-thesis to their claims to the series as liberating and pro-choice as opposed to the class privilege that the protagonists are riding high on.
This is not to say that Four More Shots Please! does not get anything right. The series celebrates unapologetically flawed women. However it chooses to feature only urban women, maybe because small town girls or women from Indian hinterlands might have concerns that are simply not as glamorous as the former’s.
Not to disagree that the series makes one feel good. Especially because the idea of women taking centre-stage and owning up to their flaws and not staging perfection is a fresh take, definitely. When female actors slowly lose their youthful glow as they enter their thirties, more often than not, they are advised to disappear from the limelight while fifty-year-old men continue to romance girls half their age. The series takes that perspective for a spin, showing women well into their thirties taking up space on the screens and how! But at the same time, Four More Shots Please! does little justice to flesh out the characters’ professional aspirations except for proclaiming that they are all successful and strong-headed in their respective fields. Damini finishes her book in a day, Anjana is a successful lawyer but more weightage is given to her sexual chemistry and affair with her colleague, etc. At one point, their badassery and strong headedness looks almost forced.
“Compromise”,”be more flexible”,”adjust” are the words that matchmaker Sima Taparia, from Mumbai chant throughout the first season of Indian Matchmaking, only conforming to the stereotypes of colourism, classism and the gendered notion that women have to compromise and adjust.
Through all the eight episodes of Indian matchmaking, one of the biggest flaws is how uncomfortable it makes one feel as it glosses over the dark and deeply entrenched roots of arranged marriage and glorifies it as a harmless quirky alternative to dating.
We see Sima Taparia setting up people on the basis of several interests, likes and dislikes as mentioned by the aspirants but also on the basis of permutation combinations arrived at on the basis of caste and class privilege – two factors that never miss a mention especially in the Indian arranged marriage context. We see “fair skinned” as one of the good qualities in a prospective partner and the streaming giant Netflix allowing it to go under the radar, because lets face it – they know how important it is in the Indian matchmaking set-up.
As a consumer, it is truly very difficult to payback and consume series which is hundred years back in mentality while sporting the latest designer clothes on the forefront. Why are we stuck in this loop? It also does not help to know that while Four More Shots Please! could be argued as a skewered portrayal, Indian Matchmaking is an actual representation of the regressive mindsets beneath expensive clothing and perfumes.
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai and she writes about international relations, global affairs, diplomacy and social issues. She is the Youth Ambassador of India and Bhutan relations. She can be found on Instagram.