My answer to “What plans for the weekend?” has been consistent for the last six months or so. With very few entertainment options at hand, I have turned to binge-watching TV shows on OTT platforms with a vengeance.
But I am also careful about what I consume. So, when I saw the trailer for ‘Masaba Masaba,’ Netflix’s latest offering, I was stumped. On the one hand, it had Neena Gupta, who aces pretty much any role that she takes up. On the other, the reviews were mixed, and I honestly didn’t know if this series would be worth my time.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong and ended up watching all six episodes in one go.
The carefully-woven narrative, combined with Neena Gupta’s endearing honesty and Masaba’s humour gives the viewers a terrific insight into the lives of the mother-daughter duo. More than anything else, the show serves as an eye-opener to the fact the lives of celebrities are no different than ours. They fail and stumble, in their personal and professional lives, but move ahead too, and work towards taking over the world, one day at a time.
Throughout the six episodes, the show has attempted to adhere to the theme of ‘celebrating hot mess’, which is also the title of the last episode, and the theme of a fashion show that hilariously goes kaput. All the drama aside, there are several relatable nuances and subtle bits that serve as a reality check. Here are five lessons from the Guptas that will linger for a long time.
- Stand Up For Yourself
Whether it was her appearance that did not quite fit conventional beauty standards or the fact that she was being raised by a single mother, Masaba says that controversies have been a part of her life since the day she was born to an unwed mother, Neena, in 1989. But she inherited her mother’s strength and ability to not suffer fools, and this, too, is reflected in the show.
For example, when she goes apartment hunting after her divorce, she faces the usual stereotypes — single woman, divorcee, strange assumptions about her personal life — in the city, despite being a known face in the fashion world, making the process incredibly tiresome.
However, she refuses to give up
In another instance, she stands up for herself when Dhairya, her investor, (played by Neil Bhoopalam) coaxes her into submitting her designs. She unabashedly reminds him of her eponymous brand and that he should not underestimate her talent.
- Vulnerability Is The New Cool
Working in a glamorous field, it is not easy to reveal one’s vulnerabilities, but the mother-duo has challenged yet another norm.
Normalising therapy sessions and a mental breakdown, curling in a parent’s lap after having a bad day, lashing out at people, addressing personal and professional insecurities are something that is shown effortlessly in this coming-of-age docufiction.
One particular scene that impressed me the most was when Neena finds out she has not been cast in a Farah Khan’s movie.
After her friends excitedly announce new positive developments in their lives, Neena, in a very calm voice, shares her visit to the director’s office for a potential role. Just then a friend interrupts and breaks the news that the role went to another actor.
Her face conveys the silent heartbreak so loud that it almost feels like a personal loss. It is very rare to see actors share their failures with such grace and humility.
- Never Too Late to Resurrect
While Neena’s Instagram post on looking for work created an online stir in 2017, many of us are unaware of what went behind scenes.
In the show, it may be difficult to gauge what must be going on in her mind. But through Masaba’s lens, we realise that it must have taken a tremendous amount of courage for the National Award-winning actor with an exemplary body of work to admit no work was coming her way.
In her 60s now, the senior Gupta did not shy away from being almost at par with newcomers and revealing her desperation for her one true passion.
Her character does not think twice before shooting a song titled ‘Aunty kisko bola’ alongside young men with six-pack abs. I found it truly inspiring that she took a step like this in an ageist industry.
This ‘never too late’ attitude is mirrored even in Masaba’s life. In one scene, she fearlessly marches to a investors’ meeting after a disastrous fashion show and assures them it is not over and she will resurrect her brand and fashion line ‘Hot Mess’.
- Egotism Is Worthless
The mother-daughter relationship is something that I rooted for and I am certain many women will relate to it. However, there is something very special about Masaba and Neena’s bond.
Take, for instance, the scene where the duo is angry with each other for their own reasons for an entire day; Neena fights the urge to call Masaba after she walks out of their house.
People say there is a very fine line between ego and anger; the Guptas ace this line in the show. When Masaba finally returns, only to pack her bags and find a new place, she happens to see her mom’s Instagram post for work. In the very next second, she sheds her anger and reshares it with a heartfelt message on her timeline. Then, she slowly walks towards her mother to tell her how proud she is.
“Just the other day I was telling someone … how I am never afraid or shy to ask for work. It’s obviously genetic,’ the real-life Masaba wrote.
As a doting daughter, she does not miss her mother’s first shot after the post (hint: the one where she plays a pregnant lady) despite having a crazy day and taunting her mother for calling her in the midst of her fashion show.
- Single Woman In The House
The sheer pressure of being a single woman in India is no secret. In a society that believes a woman is incomplete without a partner, Masaba’s take on singlehood comes like a breath of fresh air. Sure, after her divorce she moves on and notices attractive men around her, but at no point does the character look for a ‘reliable’ ‘supportive’ man.
In fact, she owns singlehood by getting her own pad and having pajama parties with her best friend. When she moves into her new house, she finds herself lonely but the transition to being content with her own self is pleasurable to watch.
Edited by Gayatri Mishra