First published on Gaysi Family.
‘Masaba Masaba’ is a semi-fictionalised docuseries based on mother-daughter duo, Neena and Masaba Gupta. The series is set 10 years into Masaba establishing her own fashion label ‘House of Masaba’, and navigates us through the label’s creative journey of putting up a new collection with a tight deadline. On the flip side, Neena Gupta attempts to break into acting once again at the age of 60. The conflict between mother-daughter is that Neena Gupta never let Masaba live life on her own terms. She went from her mother’s house to one with her husband, and back to her mother’s house after separating from the husband.
After a fight with her mother, Masaba starts to look at houses so that she can have her own space. She is denied one house because the owners don’t want a woman who is single/divorced and a celebrity, this causes her to lose it and scream at the broker, who is blameless to be honest. Immediately after, her house hunting frustrations are alleviated when her boss sends across a friend’s number, who just happens to be leasing his house. How nice. Obviously, Masaba loves the house and moves right in. For some reason, her employees also help in packing up and moving to the new house. With this the house hunting plot point is neatly tied up, complete with a red ribbon. This happens a lot in the series. Even Masaba’s love interests fit into boxes: the tired ex-husband, the shuddh-hindi-speaking stoner, the douchebag ex, and the business – from – the – outside – but – shy – and -sweet – from – the – inside boss.
Throughout the series, Masaba’s privilege is obvious, and so is her oblivion to it. Although Rytasha Rathore (who plays the best friend) does administer a reality check to Masaba, it ends at just that. As if being aware of your privilege is the end of it, when it’s only the first step.
Contrary to the title, it is Masaba’s mother, Neena Gupta who shines throughout the series. Although her story runs parallel with Masaba’s, her narrative is somewhat on the backburner. At the age of 60, she is trying to land a ‘meaty’ acting role. In Bollywood, for a woman this is -to put it crudely- difficult. And that’s why the series-worthy struggle is Neena Gupta’s.
Ironically, ‘Masaba Masaba’ attempts to portray Neena Gupta’s difficulties in landing a role because of her age (despite having won a National Award for her acting), but passes up this very woman as their project’s protagonist, in favour of her daughter.
Masaba’s behaviour as a boss, in the show, is also questionable. The writers have tried to pass her off as the ‘cool millennial boss’, but there is certain abuse of power. After the fight with her mother, Masaba storms out of the house with just her phone, and because none of her friends pick up her calls, she crashes at her assistant, Gehna’s house. I don’t know about you, but I would hate it if my boss showed up to my house late at night, because they ‘have nowhere to go’, after a fight with their mother. Gehna fussing over the breakfast she made for Masaba the next day is just painful to watch. Towards the very end, the series hints that Gehna is attracted to Masaba (Masaba is unaware), I don’t know if this is supposed to justify the overstepping of boundaries, because it does not.
Masaba is sexually active but embarrassed to be given a vibrator as a housewarming gift. Why?
It completely throws off the sex positive arc that the series tries to build, because masturbation is just as much a part of it. Instead, she calls over her douchebag ex (who cheated on her) and after the deed is done, Masaba learns that he is cheating on his current girlfriend with her, and throws him out. The vibrator could have also got the job done, that too without the emotional trauma.
‘Masaba Masaba’ with it’s laundry list of cameos (the only good one being Gajraj Rao, and the worst being Pooja Bedi as a ‘life coach’) and uncomfortable acting, seems to fit perfectly with Netflix’s current rebranding (of cancelling Patriot Act, for 6 seasons of Riverdale, and Kissing Booth 3). This series has a lot going on, things keep happening for no reason other than the story requiring them to. Nevertheless, it is a fun, mindless watch for when you are bored, and in need of Masala TV.