Masaba Masaba Review: Not the 'hot mess' it wants to be
The series isn’t quite the heady mix of fashion and drama you would expect
When I heard a show about Masaba Gupta was coming up on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued. I find Masaba’s prints fascinating and her palette vibrant; her aesthetics fuse the modern with the traditional. Not to mention, she is the daughter of Neena Gupta, who is a rockstar in her own right. So, I was interested in the premise of this partly-fictionalised series based on the lives of these two unconventional achievers. But Masaba Masaba isn’t quite the heady mix of fashion and drama you would expect.
Cast: Masaba Gupta, Neena Gupta
Director: Ashvini Yardi
Streaming on: Netflix
The series begins as Masaba’s marriage heads towards a divorce. The celebrity fashion designer is not given much time to process this before the information hits the papers as a blind item. Masaba Masaba walks us through as she struggles to meet work demands, battles financial difficulties, and also relationship quandaries. There is a lot of material to work with, and yet the series picks a cliched narrative to tell this story. There’s a divorce, but we aren’t told why the couple separated. Masaba faces financial difficulties, but again this isn’t really explored. There is a thread about her visiting a life coach who, by Masaba’s admission, has ‘more issues than herself’. And yet, she keeps seeing her. The tone of the series is superficial, and it consistently refuses to take itself seriously.
Now, had the writing matched this tone, where we didn’t have to take the people seriously, it would have been more cohesive. But the moments we are given are quite real, only they sadly get buried under the superficiality. For example, Masaba realises the need to have her own space — not her mother’s, not her husband’s, but her own place. She and her ex-husband discuss grammar in an Instagram post about their divorce. Thanks to an argument, Masaba refuses to talk to Neena in real life, but that doesn’t stop her from backing her mother’s social media post about seeking work. It is ironic, but it is a reminder of the social-media-addled existences we lead.
The biggest disappointment is that the series doesn’t throw any light on how Masaba works — her creative process behind those celebrated designs. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do realise that this isn’t a biopic. And even otherwise, there's nothing wrong with showing the personal side of a celebrity, and not just sticking to their professional life. However, Masaba Masaba does absolutely nothing in this space. Towards the end of the series, Masaba comes up with a cool theme for her new collection. But, the series just skates over how she interprets this: the drapes, silhouettes, fabrics, patterns, etc. Even more baffling is how she just sails past a disastrous fashion show with merely a few good Instagram posts.
Despite all this, the lively screen presence of Masaba and Neena manages to give us a few good moments: like the one where a fabric vendor attempts to sell her own prints to Masaba, or the one where she has to design matching outfits for a celebrity’s dogs as well. It is charming that Masaba finds her inner child, at places, during this journey. The best of these are the exchanges between Neena and Masaba. “She did everything, and yet, stifles me all the time,” says Masaba to her therapist. The duo shares some tender conversation about work, handling fame, and all other debacles life throws at them. It is a narrative I wish the show had explored more. But these moments are few and far between. Consequently, Masaba Masaba doesn’t quite turn out to be the ‘hot mess’ it aspires to be.