‘Bollywood Wives’ Is an Accidental Documentary About India’s Gilded Class


Every thrives on an similar system. We comply with a bunch of impeccably attired girls as they go about managing their households and social lives. There isn’t a lot plot, however there are copious tears and charged moments as rivalries flare and disparaging feedback are made in regards to the high quality of wigs or beauty dermatology. And typically, in between, one thing deeper is captured in regards to the singular universes these girls inhabit — the distinction in social mores of rich wives in Atlanta and Miami, or the distinctive customs of these in New Jersey. A really good rich-wife actuality present is equal components tawdry dramatic rigidity and anthropology.

“Bollywood Wives,” sadly, lacks each the sly self-awareness of the “Actual Housewives” franchise and the dramatic ruthlessness. Of the 4 Wives, three are married to former Hindi movie stars, and one is a former star herself, however all of those figures’ heydays have handed. It’s their kids who are actually being groomed for movie careers, and the Wives need you to know that their priorities are with their households — even when good mothering, on this universe, entails making your husband be taught the waltz in order that he can escort your daughter to her “coming out” at a Parisian debutante ball. The Wives maintain imprecise jobs designing jewellery or clothes, however these professions are likely to languish within the background of an limitless sequence of lunches. For essentially the most half, we watch them carry out some mild cosplay of the second “Intercourse and the Metropolis” film: taking a whirlwind women’ journey to Doha and lounging poolside in diaphanous caftans, or carrying Gucci to do volunteer work cleansing trash from a seaside. The plot contrivances are laborious and low-stakes (in a single the Wives faux, unconvincingly, to have reservations about beauty work), and the topics too pious, too certain of their very own persecution and, frankly, too boring — even for me, an avowed librarian of Nineties Hindi-film arcana.

However within the present’s unguarded moments — when its slick pandering to the Netflix viewers falls away, and the Wives slip into the wounded belligerence that comes so simply to the rich — it unintentionally gives unparalleled documentary perception into the nepotistic depths of the Hindi movie trade. It might be asking us to care about one Spouse going through public scoffing at her daughter’s Paris debut, however the true gag is her teenage son’s confidence that he, too, will grow to be an actor in Hindi movies, regardless of having a questionable grasp of the language and talking with a placeless, affected accent. (Like all proud Indian mom of a mediocre Indian son, she beams as she brags about how cute he’s — and like anybody who follows the trade, she absolutely is aware of the household identify will take him far.) We watch one of many husbands shyly divulge to his Spouse that, after years as a middling character actor, he has lastly landed a key position with a notoriously unique director’s firm. The sudden sweetness of the second lasts for roughly three seconds; in his subsequent breath, he laments the general public’s unfair complaints about trade nepotism, which can’t exist as a result of, in his case, “It took me 25 years.”

However essentially the most telling unintentional revelations occur because the Wives frenetically put together for a celebration hosted by the spouse of one in every of India’s biggest stars, Shah Rukh Khan. His partner, Gauri Khan, isn’t only a Spouse; she presides over her personal galaxy, orbited by the lesser Wives, who nervously titter and collect round her, basking in mirrored glory. Too well mannered to smirk at their sequined outfits however not well mannered sufficient to allow them to move unmentioned, Khan dryly chuckles about feeling underdressed. With a placid smile, she sweetly says that if solely she have been “only a designer,” she’d possibly, simply possibly, have thought of taking part in a present like this. When requested in regards to the 4 official Wives, she notes that she was a giant fan of 1 “within the ’80s” and, after a deadly strategic pause, describes one other as “humorous.”



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