I decided to watch the Netflix original Bombay Begums only after I heard that NCPCR had asked Netflix to stop streaming the series. In the notice issued to Netflix, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights pointed out that portrayal of casual sex and cocaine use among teenagers is unacceptable.
Quick question, though: Which 13-year-old will actually be interested in watching Bombay Begums?
Maybe some, but the show caters to an older audience. Young parents who end up watching the show might benefit from the veil around teenage sex and drug abuse being lifted. Maybe they’ll decide to cultivate a more open and honest relationship with their kids where they can teach their teenagers to be responsible about sex. Here’s hoping.
This six-part series portrays women across different ages, and from different walks of life.
A teenager trying to navigate through the labyrinth of hormones and customs; a middle-aged CEO struggling with the onset of menopause; a sex worker and a former bar dancer fighting for respect; a woman more successful than her husband, and unable to conceive, and finally, a small-town woman trying to make her mark in the big bad city of Mumbai, while she explores her sexuality.
Bombay Begums is by no means the first show to show strong women taking the lead. Yet, it goes where no other work of cinema has gone before. It gives centre stage not only to women, but also to challenges that are truly unique to women.
Can you remember seeing a female character calling short board meetings because of hot flashes? Or an Indian show in which a woman who has miscarried insightfully talks about the guilt that mothers often feel after losing a baby? How about a bar dancer who enjoys herself?
There’s no doubt that women have become more visible in pop culture. Women are no longer props to men in films and T.V. shows, and this is especially on OTT platforms. Yet, no show or movie has quite taken us this deep into the world of women. We have several narratives of women struggling in a man’s world, and while Bombay Begums is that too, it transcends to a much deeper level.
While a female CEO can no longer be ignored, her taking breaks to put an ice pack on her forehead, and wash her face with ice cold water, is not something we see so often. In high school dramas, it’s the popular girls with a developing bosom who get the attention. But what happens to the girl who’s still waiting for her first period to arrive? Does she have to splatter her skirt with red paint to fit in? We are quick to make assumptions about the woman who is more successful than her husband. But how often do we try to understand the true intimacy that the couple may share?
From ‘the evil stepmother’ to ‘bossy wife’, there are many tropes and taboos about womanhood, that the show effortlessly challenges.
Watching Bombay Begums is like listening to a friend talk about her life’s struggles over a bottle of wine. Watch it before you no longer can!
P.S.: There are enough ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming moments.’
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87