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'Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives'

Cast: Neelam Kothari, Maheep Kapoor, Bhavna Pandey and Seema Khan

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

Watch it on: Netflix

There’s some vicarious fun to be had in Karan Johar’s latest reality web series ‘The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’, but it should have ideally been called ‘The Frivolous Lives of Bollywood Wives’.

Four close friends, all married to fading and far from high-profile Bollywood actors, give us a sneak peek into their cocooned and privileged existence.

The better halves of Sanjay Kapoor (Maheep Kapoor), Chunkey Panday (Bhavna Pandey), Sohail Khan (Seema Khan) and Samir Soni (Neelam Kothari) attempt to inject grace and depth into their materialistic lives. Their idea of a life crisis is not having a new gown to wear for Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan’s bash and their idea of trauma is to survive flight turbulence while in a plush first-class cabin.

Maheep is perched as the glamorous mother-hen and the self-appointed leader of the mean women gang. Her trademark is all about being potty-mouthed, catty and shepherding her mates for decadent girl trips.

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Bhavana seems to be the sorted one, while Seema appears to be that flaky friend who never turns up on time for their brunches and is on her own clock. Neelam — who isn’t exactly a trophy wife but a star of the 1980s — is the precious one with a posh accent to match. At first, their personalities seem strikingly familiar — all gilded, grating and cringe-inducing. But if you can survive the first three episodes, the spoilt quartet might just grow on you.

The series opens with Maheep stressing out about her daughter being invited to the prestigious annual Parisian debutante ball, Le Bal, which showcases 20 young rich women from around the world, and how her actor-husband Sanjay Kapoor might not waltz perfectly with her daughter. Her inner circle comes to hold her hand before they leave for Paris. All of those opening scenes look staged and initially, they all seem to be aware that a camera is following their daily grind (if you can call it that).

The series — which is closely modelled after the mammoth Western reality series ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ — then morphs into ‘Sex And The City’ where the four embark on a luxury vacation where shopping and fancy dining are on top of their agenda. The women — who show signs of being fierce ‘momagers’ (mothers who will turn managers to their star kids) — cavort in pretty frocks as they attempt to inject purpose into their mundane lives.

“Why should we watch four pre-menopausal women?’ asks their friend and top producer Karan Johar while he invites them for an afternoon catch-up. Our thoughts, exactly.

Johar, who has produced this show, plays the acerbic uncle who always manages to trigger a cat-fight among the women. But that’s the only action and drama that’s worth watching. There’s some wicked fun to be had when two women bicker about some silly incident and bring out their well-manicured claws. Producer Johar knows it more than anyone and tries to milk it.

But all that drama in their lives is mind-numbingly superficial. While Johar is always a hoot, his role is limited to playing a foxy film patriarch.

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The episodes featuring the women at the home of Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan — called the matriarch of Bollywood wives — is an unapologetic homage to the A-list power couple. The wives swooning over Gauri and Shah Rukh’s kindness may seem contrived. On the plus side, it was a great plug to her interior design house.

The men in the series have very little to do. Actor Amir Soni — Neelam’s introverted husband — seems to be the most real one as he talks about being socially awkward at star-fuelled parties. These women claim they have identities that are independent of their actor husbands, but we are not fully convinced.

While you don’t usually watch a reality series for upping your intellect, the flamboyant series would have benefited from a more honest approach; one that finds the real mettle behind these so-called trophy wives. This series is strictly superficial and doesn’t crack their shiny veneer. Just like the tropes seen in a Johar film, this series is largely fluff, loaded with cliches and is far from sassy.