Netflix’s new web series, Bombay Begums, explores the tangled lives of five women in Bombay – each with their own uniquely feminine perspectives, big dreams, and even bigger challenges. Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava (‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, ‘Dolly Kitty Aur Who Chamakte Sitare’) the unquestionably female-centric series has been released fittingly on the 8th of March – International Women’s Day. Check out our review of Bombay Begums through a lens of feminism.
With an impressive ensemble comprising Pooja Bhatt, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, Plabita Borthakur, Aadhya Anand, Rahul Bose, Vivek Gomber, and Imaad Shah, the series explores the intensely emotional, layered, and complicated relationships that women share with their careers, the people around them, and themselves.
There has been a wave of female-centric, feminist releases in the last few years, along with which has inevitably come the wave of criticism against the “feminist formula” we see on-screen. While we in this review of Bombay Begums believe any narrative that is feminist today is important even if formulaic, Bombay Begums strays away from the “formula”, simply in the numerous unique and real perspectives it offers into the world of women. Each woman has her own beliefs, insecurities, flaws, ambitions and struggles. And in these varied perspectives, there is something relatable, something significant to their own lives, for every woman.
Bombay Begums Review: Five Unique Stories Of Women Trying To Find Themselves Through Personal, Professional, And Social Barriers
The series follows each woman’s story as she attempts to find herself amidst the societal roles imposed on women, their bodies, and identities, across age, status, and background.
Rani (Pooja Bhatt), is the CEO of a large bank – a woman who has truly attained the position of a “queen” in money, power, and status. She sits regally at the centre in family portraits, and assuredly at the head of the boardroom table at work.
However, at home she struggles to find the acceptance and love she desires from her step-children and husband. At work, she knows that as a woman, her wrinkles will not be seen as a sign of wisdom, but weakness. She doesn’t allow anyone to realise that she is struggling through menopause, and doesn’t allow herself the care and consideration she needs either. Retaining the perception of power and perfection assumes priority over her health and happiness, as it does for most women fighting to prove themselves and break the glass ceiling at work.
In this Bombay Begums review we look at, Lily (Amruta Subhash), a sex worker and bar dancer, is as hopeful of a better future for her son as she is discontented with her own life. She is driven by her “kartavya” to be a good mother, but has dreams for herself as well. She attempts to break the societal shackles that tie her down by starting her own business, even when society refuses to see beyond her body and her choices.
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Fatima (Shahana Goswami), who is offered a promotion at work, just as she finds out she is pregnant, struggles to balance her identities as a wife, future mother, and woman with aspirations and desires.
Ayesha (Plabita Borthakur), who is from a small town, trying to make it in the big city, faces the kind of dilemmas a lot of young women face – trying to understand what they’re passionate about, navigating their desires, finding their voice, and standing up for themselves in the face of injustices. “Society humare bodies aur choices ke aage dekh hi nahi sakti,” Ayesha laments in one episode, tired of the hurdles she’s constantly having to cross.
Shai (Aadhya Anand), Rani’s step-daughter is grappling with her mother’s death, while navigating the turmoil of being a teenager. She snipes at her step-mother, remains aloof from her classmates, struggles with body image issues, and tries to come to terms with her first love, all while allowing her art to be the only outlet of her deep pain and confusion.
Bombay Begums Review: The Show Makes It Clear That Empowerment Is A Process Of Continuous Learning And Growth
What is empowerment? For one woman it could be hierarchical mobility, while for another it could be personal wealth and security. For one it could be finding the courage to speak up, while for another it could be simply prioritizing her desires.
There is no right or wrong – no one standard of reference for empowerment.
The Bombay begums enter grey areas, go down faulty roads, and make mistakes in their path to discovering and empowering themselves.
No one woman has empowerment down perfectly, and we’re all still learning and growing. We may falter, fall back, or shove too hard sometimes, in our attempts to break the barriers that society has always had up for us.
But to err is human, and to become empowered is a continuous learning process for all women.Bombay Begums is a web series that takes this idea forward. All we can do is learn together – pull each other back from the edge, give each other the push we need towards our goals, and support all our fellow begums in what makes them feel empowered!
We hope this review helped you enjoyed our take in this Netflix’s Bambay Begums review!
Additional contribution: Shayri Bhattacharya
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