In the ’90s India experienced the IT revolution with an unprecedented increase in the number of TV sets owned by Indians. Any ’90s kid can vividly recall that even in that loud, raucous television-obsessed India of the ’90s Neena Gupta was one frequently discussed woman, in whispers of either reverence or nosiness. The woman was a scene-stealer, one who could easily capture a moment. She had worked in cinemas, had a child out of wedlock (very uncommon at that time), and lived independently. A dazzling epitome of a “strong woman”.
Thirty years past those times, post the turn of a new century, most of these things are still said about her, although with fewer eyebrows raised. Thanks to a new shot in Gupta’s movie and television career. It might be quaint of us to premise an article on Gupta and not her daughter. Well that is because, Neena Gupta, as she is, still remains Netflix India show’s trump card.
Masaba Masaba…The mould-breaker!
Although Neena Gupta is one towering personality, that’s not to say that 31-year-old fashion designer Masaba Gupta is not stellar in this herself. The daughter certainly takes after her mother. Here’s what’s unique about Masaba Masaba, Netflix India’s original: It features a hyperbolic, exaggerated rendition of two very real and very unique women, and the people in their lives.
To what extent does the show portray the reality of the Bollywood glitterati, who swoosh in and out of the screen and the lives of Masaba and Neena, is not known. But what Netflix probably knew going into this is that enough of Neena and Masaba’s lives are already out in the public domain – by their own choosing – for the viewer to take some, if not, most of their fictional lives at face value.
This cognizance of the lives of the two women leaves the viewers in part-awe and part-compassion as they play past the familiar snippets of the two women’s lives. Two very unique women who have fascinated households for decades.
Masaba Masaba plot
The show chronicles the very uncommon life experiences of two very untraditional, nontypical women: Neena Gupta and her daughter Masaba. Masaba Masaba is a realistic representation of their lives. So real that even Masaba’s very real divorce is written into the show, as is her attempts to keep up the happy-couple farce in front of most of Bollywood. We even get to see, and quite annoyingly, her Instagram stories and posts about it.
The show also features Masaba’s tumultuous fashion-designing career trajectory, some very real financial troubles, and a disastrous fashion show (eponymously called a “Hot Mess”) that endears you to the fact that this 31-year-old woman who lives her public life in the public eye was okay with “documenting” catastrophic failures for a public show.
Although we do wish to see more of Neena Gupta. In a conservative India of the late ’80s, Neena eventually raised her mixed-race daughter alone at times when people were obsessed with the fairer skin colour. An unwavering Neena made waves by refusing to marry someone else for a “name” which, at that time, was considered one of the purposes of marriage. Her choice of raising a half-black child out of wedlock may have been touted as “strong” but otherwise jeered at.
There comes a time when Neena is puzzled by the lack of rolls being offered to her. So much so that she took to Instagram advertising herself as “a good actor looking for good parts to play”. This eventually opened the gates for her phenomenal Bollywood comeback.
Masaba on the other hand is a confident, upper middle-class Indian woman, who bears her ‘Caribbean body’ with pride and considers the curves a gift from her father. Notwithstanding these privileges, she still faces censure for her choices in her love/sex life. She has struggled in the past for her skin colour, trying online dating apps and even renting a home alone.
Masaba Masaba: a brave attempt
It is very brave of the two ladies to play out their unconventional personal lives, which includes her sex life, for her predominantly Indian audience.
In the end, you may not know how much of Masaba Masaba is dramatised – and unless you were in the pair’s inner sanctum, you would have no way of knowing. But you do know that these are onscreen renditions of Indian women, whether they’re 31 or 62: living, loving epitomes of a hot mess.