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Kriti Kulhari Image Credit:

Even in her wildest dreams, Bollywood actress Kirti Kulhari had never thought that she would be a part of a hit web series that’s often labelled as India’s answer to the hit American show, ‘Sex And The City’.

In the glossy four-women drama ‘Four More Shots Please!’, streaming on Amazon Prime now, Kulhari plays a feisty lawyer and divorcee Anjana Menon who has to balance her career and her personal life deftly. The second season of ‘FMSP!’ dropped on April 17 and the reviews have been mostly positive. The women in her series are unapologetically flawed and own up to their highs and lows.

For someone who wasn’t hooked on to ‘Sex And The City’ much, Kulhari has done well.

“I never thought I would play one of the women in a series that’s compared to that? … Honestly, I didn’t grow up on ‘Sex and the City’ and I didn’t take to it too strongly. It was never THE show for me. I watched it more out of curiosity,” said Kulhari in an exclusive interview over the phone with Gulf News.

While she wasn’t enamoured by the Sarah Jessica Parker-led show, this Bollywood star counts ‘Four More Shots Please!’ as a rewarding creative gamble that helped her evolve as an actor.

‘FMSP!’ chronicles the tale of four women who live in South Mumbai and lead a contemporary urban life filled with heartbreaks, stressful careers and friendships.

Actors Sayani Gupta, Bani J and Maanvi Gaagroo complete the fabulously-flawed quartet. Directed by Nupur Asthana and created by Rangita Pritish Nandy, ‘Four More Shots Please!’ explores life in all its messy glory in the background of four thick girlfriends who are a strong unit.

Excerpts from our chat with Kulhari…

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Were you happy with the way ‘FMSP!’ season one was received?

Absolutely. I expected it to do well, but the response we got was absolutely overwhelming. Even during lockdown, many new people have joined in wondering what our series is all about. The love for our show is heartwarming.

The women in ‘FMSP!’ are flawed, vulnerable and fabulous. Did that excite you as an actor?

I come from Bollywood where most of the characters are larger-than-life and are absolutely perfect... They were in complete control of their situations in those movies and I thought that was the way to be while growing up. But when I began working in cinema and started watching international cinema, I realised it was stupid not to play characters who aren’t flawed, layered or conflicted.

To me, it is just natural that we are drawn to such characters because that’s who we are. I think that’s a reality that the audience is waking up to that reality too. They are craving for someone who’s is flawed and real. FMSP has a different, fun vibe to it. It’s about four women and in the past we didn’t have enough stuff with women in Indian cinema. All of this put together makes it an exciting project for an actor to be a part of. People are just finding it relatable. They find us aspirational and inspiring.

Did you consider this a creative gamble in your career where your project could be a misfire?

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One of my main concerns was that I felt the show was very bold, not in terms of sexual content alone. Here we showed four women in all their beauty and glory. We showed them having [intimate scenes].

My main concern was how are they going to depict all of it? Are you going to make it look cheesy? But as an actor, I want to do things that challenge me and there’s this possibility where it may not go down well with the audiences. But that process excites me and makes me grow as an artist. I wasn’t worrying about whether the series will be hit or a failure.

How does your character Anjana Menon, who is yet to gain closure from ex-husband and marriage, develop in the second season?

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You will see some of Anjana’s problems being resolved in the second season and you will find out that she has grown up a bit. While she hasn’t go it all figured out, she has understood the conflicts in her personal life. But also gets into new trouble in the second season.

Her first husband was the most important relationship that she has experienced in her adult life. They had an interesting journey. But you will see new facets of Anjana in the second season. She isn’t over her problems with men.

Your character Anjana Menon, who is the responsible parent of the two, never has time to take care of herself. You are always the nurturer …

Yes, that was one of the defining shapes of my character. She’s always caught up taking care of everyone and everything, that she rarely has time for herself. She is always the brave one during conflicts. But she often forgets she doesn’t have to always be the strong and brave one. But as the season progresses, you will find Anjana giving more time to herself.

While ‘FMSP!’ was widely adored, many were uncomfortable that it shone the spotlight on women who followed their desires unapologetically, be it pursuing men or their careers…

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It takes a lot to do what we are doing in this series. People find it difficult to even discuss their sexuality among friends. Literally, we are showing you — as a part of the story — that physical desires are normal among women and they exist. We are trying to show you that it’s all normal.

For years, many have refused to see that women are sexual beings too. They do have their own desires and sexual needs. But as a society, we have become closed. India was never like that earlier. But a lot has happened over the years and we are now closed. It’s the first time in my career that I went all out. But I was ready to take this plunge as an actor and I was ready to take the consequences of it too.

It was no surprise to it that a certain section of the society sees our series through a certain kind of myopic lens. We are called names or perceived in a certain way and we are affected by that. I come from a family who support me. None of them have pointed fingers at me asking me why I did the series. They respect my work and me so much. The experience of putting myself out there has made me so much more stronger and surer of who I am. I am more respectful in my own eyes and what I do. It’s all just for the best.

Do you think the criticism that came your way stemmed from gender prejudice? Had your series featured four single men pursuing their dreams, women and career in Mumbai, would they have been let off more easily?

We live in a sexist world. Unfortunately, we don’t look at gender equality the way we sometimes speak about it. Sexism exists and that’s what we are trying to break and shatter through this show. Through FMSP, we are trying to make you question your conditioning and been brought up to think. All your ideas about what men can do and what women can’t do are being questioned through this show. What you take from my show is your choice and where you are in life.

I am not playing the gender card here. How was it being directed by a woman?

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We were predominantly led by a mostly-female crew and that was one of the reasons why I signed up for the show. It’s easier to talk about a lot of things with women. You feel intrinsically safer during that conversation with women. As an actor, I have reached a point where male and female directors are the same.

We also had a female Director Of Photography and it was a great way to break the ice because she handled the lens. I felt more comfortable. But now as an actor, I will be comfortable with a male DOP too. I would say, bring it on.

Don’t miss it!

Season 2 of ‘Four More Shots Please!’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

QUICK TAKE

“Only a couple of things that I loved, I got to keep them,” said Kirti Kulhari on whether she got to keep the dazzling wardrobe.

“It’s a long time to spend with another and not have your own share of arguments. There have been days when I didn’t want to talk to one or two of them for my own reasons, but these two seasons have made us understand each other better. We don’t have to be the best of friends at all times, as long as we are able to do a good job … We have learnt to respect each other,” said Kulhari when asked if she got along with all the women on the sets.

Did you know?

Kulhari went on a holiday with Maanvi who plays Siddhi after filming together in Istanbul.

“We care a lot about each other. But that bonding is not stemming from being nice to each other. You can’t be nice to each other over 120 days of shooting together. Even if we have issues with each other, we share and discus, learn to get over it and move on.”