‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ Review: Watch With a Grain of Salt

Photo Source: Rachel Santos / Netflix

‘Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ (FLBW) premiered on Netflix last month, with a champagne-bottle-opening bang. It was met with mixed social media reactions and some rave reviews, coming from both inside and outside the Bollywood community. The new reality show, produced by Aneesha Baig and Karan Johar, follows the glamourous lives of four friends, Neelam Kothari Soni (yes, that Neelam), Seema Khan, Maheep Kapoor, and Bhavana Pandey, as they bond over matters of career, life, and motherhood. The four women are all the wives of Bollywood actors with different levels of fame: Sameer Soni, Sohail Khan, Sanjay Kapoor, and Chunky Panday respectively. The eight-part series features star-studded cameos by the likes of Raveena Tandon, Arjun Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, and Shah Rukh Khan, whilst focusing on the busy personal lives and businesses of the leading ladies.

So, in true reality tv-show obsessed fashion, I put away my cringe-reflex and watched all eight episodes over the weekend. Although I didn’t have any Maheep-approved wine or ‘Ministry of Crab’ food, I had my low-budget snacks, Google on standby (to somehow figure out the Kapoor family tree), and my mom right beside me.

“Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” is punctuated by a flurry of F-bombs. No, seriously, they do use “fab” an incredible number of times. Each woman brings their own eclectic style and personality, as we see them interact and organise meetups. There are memorable moments—a trash clean-up at Mahim beach, Neelam’s potential stalker in Doha, spiritual face-lifts—and funny catchphrases, although many of them just curse words. As the season progresses, we naturally get closer to the complexities of their lives, and the lives of their kids, who, to no surprise, are equally as glamourous.

Maheep Kapoor

Without reducing Kapoor to a single archetype by my Gen Z lens, she gives me BIG “I’m not like other moms” energy, à la Kris Jenner. Maheep is self-assured, outspoken, and not afraid to tell it how it is, even if it’s about herself, as on a glitzy shopping trip to Doha, she calls herself “vain as f*ck.” Self-awareness is key. If not a cool mom to kids Shanaya and Jahaan, Kapoor is a self-confessed cool aunt, claiming she’s the favourite aunt of both Arjun Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor.

Neelam Kothari Soni

Neelam has all the glamour and calm sensibility of an old-school movie star, which makes sense because she is. She channels all the grace we saw in Aag Hi Aag or Ghar Ka Chiraag to be one of the most ‘relatable’ wives on the show. Throughout the show, she expresses honest self-doubt and concerns about aging, whilst tackling the unique journey of re-entering the acting world.

fabulous lives of bollywood wives 1
[Photo Source: Screenshot / Netflix & YouTube]

Seema Khan

Seema is fashion-forward, funny, and again, a teeny bit relatable to viewers as she tackles her fear of heights in Doha or chides her son Nirvaan to spend more time with her over his university break. She owns her own fashion label and often dresses her friends (sometimes to their amusement) in sparkly sequin outfits.

Bhavana Pandey

I feel like Bhavana is an avid Poosh-reader and knows everything there is to know about spiritual skincare. Although she’s often the butt of many jokes (about her Reiki face-lifts or general superstitious-ness), it’s undeniable that she’s headstrong and determined to stay neutral during conflicts. Oh, also, she’s super proud of her daughter, Ananya’s Filmfare award, and doesn’t want you to forget it.

Karan Johar: producer, friend, fellow brunch companion. His frequent appearances were clearly explained by his close friendship with all four women, yet mid-season on the Doha trip, he becomes a makeshift Andy Cohen, sitting in the centre of two warring couches of housewives. Except, instead of resolving any fights or animosity (there wasn’t a whole lot, to begin with), he anticipates the criticism of the show even before its release, hilariously asking “why should I watch a show about four women who don’t have jobs?”

Sir, you made this show, why don’t you tell us?


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The not-so-subtle nods to other popular franchises that focus on strong female friendships (“Sex and the City”, “Real Housewives”) are glaringly obvious in later episodes when we watch their organised lunch dates and ‘girl’s trip’ to Doha. The cinematic parallels between their luxurious trip to Qatar and the iconic Sex and the City 2 Abu Dhabi trip did not go unnoticed.

It’s clear “The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” encourages an emotional investment into both the leading women and their respective families. However, it is painfully obvious that relatability is not the takeaway message of the show. It never will be. We laugh at all their outrageous antics, but then leave feeling an even larger divide between our lives, and those of the rich and the famous. But maybe, that’s the point. FLBW exists in the same realm of celebrity shows that depict unattainable lifestyles and lavish homes.

Critics have called it the “lovechild of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and it’s clear to see why. We are given more performance than reality, and an unapologetic display of wealth and privilege, which reminds viewers that if they wanted to watch something that resembled their own ‘normal lives’, they could just go talk to their friends. The show’s very purpose is to give us glamour, high fashion, and luxury to the point of excess. It invites us to marvel and gawk at French balls, fashion boutiques, and Gauri Khan parties. At the same time, we are expected to laugh with (more often, at) them, as they face fashion fiascos and cosmetic surgery procedures. Ishita Sengupta put it best when she summarised in The Indian Express,

“It is almost like being added to their WhatsApp groups or being a fly on the wall in their living space.”

The very purpose of a show like this exists as a form of escapism, where viewers get to see a carefully-crafted display of what life appears to be like for a ‘Bollywood’ wife. It certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste, and whilst it’s admittedly easy to brush FLBW aside as yet another reality show that provides little to no substance, I challenged myself to find features I liked, moments I admired, and even some parts that looked like progress.

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[Photo Source: Screenshot / Netflix & YouTube]
Whilst the focus on a career is definitely a constant advertisement for their individual businesses and brands, I appreciate how the four women actively reject the idea that a wife of a famous person has to live in their shadow. From Neelam’s jewelry business to Bhavana’s new affordable clothing line, the women are shown to be invested and passionate about their creative ventures, alongside their love of shopping and attending parties.

The very premise of the show is female friendship. It was surprising to know that their girl group (apart from Neelam who got close later), has been together for over 25 years, surviving inevitable ups & downs, marriages, babies, and more. The show succeeds in conveying the supportive bond between them, which extends to their businesses, husbands, and kids. The final episode shows us a sentimental sit-down with Gauri and Shah Rukh Khan where SRK recounts fond stories of babysitting Ananya and Shanaya, partying with the group, and being starstruck by Neelam early in his career.

It’s clear “The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” wants us to take away a resounding message of friendship — a friendship that can exist and thrive within a cutthroat industry that often pits women in competition with each other. Bollywood, like many other media industries, profits from creating a false sense of ‘drama’ or competition between popular actresses, assuming that there’s a limited stage, and only the best can be on it. Watching the various personalities and actresses in the series gave me the impression that the stage can and must be bigger. Successful women can thrive in the same industry without unnecessary comparison and falsified competition. I’d like to think this show promotes the idea that Bollywood, despite all its flaws, does have room for many stars to shine simultaneously.


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A post shared by Maheep Kapoor (@maheepkapoor)

They are shown as doting mothers, with tight-knit families that may resemble our own. However, they have access to things that can only be considered as “abnormal” solutions to maternal worries. Case in point, Maheep’s casual comment:

“I never have to worry about where my kids are or what they’re doing, as they always get papped.”

Imagine if our parents could conduct paparazzi-aided investigations into our social lives and whereabouts (although, texting our friends does kind of count).

Again, it is small details like these that emphasize the glamorous gulf between ‘normal life’ and the life of the Bollywood glitterati. Through the emphasis on motherhood, we gain insight into the lives of star-kids– Ananya, Jahnvi, Shanaya – who’s very position in the film industry is constantly criticised for being an ‘easy-way-in.’ With the recent increase in dialogue surrounding the damaging effects of nepotism and family friend-based hiring in the arts industries, I assumed the show would have provided a more humbling angle on the lives of star-kids. Rather, we see a blatant defense in early episodes, in a conversation with Maheep and Arjun where she passionately defends her daughter Shanaya for “taking advantage of her privilege and contacts.” The sentiment is also echoed by Sanjay Kapoor who insists that solely hard work and talent have gotten him to where he is. Eye roll.

[Read Related: With ‘Beyoncé Sharma Jayegi’ Bollywood Proves it has Learned Nothing From the World Around It]

In summary, if you are looking for a show that attempts to critique or radically dismantle issues prevalent in the Bollywood industry, like colourism and nepotism, you don’t need me to tell you that “The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” is not that. Since its first announcement in early November, it was obvious from the title itself that this would be a show intended to give viewers an intimate peek into Bollywood’s inner circle, and perhaps to come away more tolerant or sympathetic (even if that’s not consistently achieved).

They join the greater league of Kardashians, Jenners, and Van der Pumps to create a show that is as glitzy as it is humorous. although, it’s understandable why we would find it unbearably obnoxious – especially in the face of a global pandemic. This show is very much a guilty pleasure, whilst reminding us to hold those in this industry accountable when they *conveniently* forget about the immense privilege they actually possess.

By Ketki Mahabaleshwarkar

Ketki currently studies Classics and English Literature at King’s College London. She is the deputy editor-in-chief of Strand Magazine, KCL’s … Read more ›

‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’: A Perfect K Jo Showcase Celebrating the Filmmaker’s 25 Years in Cinema

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.

“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.

The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.

K Jo

Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.

[Read Related: ‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra]

Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.

There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra,  and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.

K Jo Rocky aur Rani

Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.

Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.

Stills Courtesy of Media Global House



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By Anushka Suharu

Anushka Suharu is a British Indian journalist, with a Masters in Interactive Journalism (City, University of London) and a BA … Read more ›

Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi on ‘Ghoomer’

“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.

“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.

[Read Related: 5 Tidbits About Bollywood Royalty Abhishek Bachchan For His 41st Birthday!]

Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.

And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.

Take a look!

The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global. 

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Managing Editor at Brown Girl Magazine, Nida has worked and written for several publications in a journalism career spanning almost … Read more ›