Ladies Up review: Female comics win out in new Netflix special
Comedians Prashasti Singh, Kaneez Surka, Supriya Joshi and Niveditha Prakasam spill out hilarious interiors in the four-part series
Netflix India has been scraping along in its bid to tell intricate female stories. After the #MeToo drama Guilty and the underworld procedural She, the stage is clear for four female comics to take the mic. The format works: Prashasti Singh, Kaneez Surka, Supriya Joshi and Niveditha Prakasam spill out hilarious interiors in Ladies Up, a new standup special out on March 27, bringing the sort of incision and bite beyond the grasp of fiction.
Featuring: Prashasti Singh, Kaneez Surka, Supriya Joshi and Niveditha Prakasam
Streaming on: Netflix
The sets are capped at fifteen minutes each. Like another Netflix series, The Degenerates, there’s no unifying theme or order, just a common push for all things weird. Nonetheless, three of the four comedians end up trading quarter-life woes. And there’s a flickering self-awareness to their bits. Prashasti is introduced as ‘recently empowered’, Kaneez ends her riff on female privilege with a dark swerve, and Supriya’s mentioning of suicidal thoughts isn’t as offhanded as it seems. It isn’t the punchiest of stuff — a blessed relief from the constant breathlessness of Indian comedy.
Prashasti goes first. She talks about hookups, matrimonial sites and living in Mumbai. Her drifting Hinglish is in full force since Comictsaan. Here, she equates casual sex with ‘vrat thodna’ (breaking fast), switching swiftly between delivery styles. She finishes awkwardly, though, and her fraught relationship with her mother deserved better fleshing out.
Kaneez fulcrums her act on her divorce. The comedian has spoken about it before, how coincided with the standup boom in the early 2010s. It’s the most emotionally charged set, sneering and volatile in spurts. Her improv skills come in handy too: when a maternity joke fails to land as intended, she follows it up with timely crowd work. The biggest name on the slate, Kaneez keeps it real and taut.
Supriya takes on fitbits and flavoured condoms. “Aubergine…” she drawls in her animated voice, making eggplant sound exotic. Her setups are great — revenge bods, Siberian huskies in Malad — but don’t draw as many laughs. Skimming themes of heartbreak and body positivity, she finds a winner near the end: a pantomime of the strangest job on earth.
That brings us to Niveditha. Coming up last, the Coimbatore comic and Queens of Comedy winner walks away with the special. Her deconstruction of Tamil cinema and its prejudices hits the mark. Later, she tackles colourism as a peculiarly Indian flaw. “I won’t even call us racists,” she says. “The right word would be self-loathing.” Self-possessed and sharp, Niveditha packs a lot into her set.
There’s been a push for increased experimentation in Indian comedy. Too often, it’s our female comics at the helm, tinkering with subject and form and narrative depth. Yet, you won’t find as many one-hour specials dedicated to women comedians in the OTT space. It’s about time we fill up that gap, and pass the mic to the funnier sex.