(From L to R) Prateik Babbar, Aishwarya Lekshmi and Rohit Saraf
How do men feel when they are objectified, as women often are? Prateik Babbar and Rajeev Siddhartha seem quite chipper about it. The actors are in a unique spot in Four More Shots Please!, surrounded by women behind and in front of the camera. Both joined the Amazon Prime Video show in 2019 when the streaming revolution was just taking off. They were not sure where this show, with its candid conversations on women’s bodies and sexuality, would go. But they took a leap of faith, encouraged both by the production house (Pritish Nandy Communications led by the formidable Rangita Pritish Nandy) and the platform (Amazon Prime Video led by Aparna Purohit). The result? Two memorable male characters who seem to be the stuff of women’s fantasies, not in the least because they’ve been written that way by show constant Devika Bhagat. Babbar says he loves playing Jeh Wadia, now into his third season on the show. “I love his clothes, his aura, his little world,” says Babbar, who plays the owner of the bar where the four leading ladies of the show first meet. “Plus he came into my life when I was particularly fragile,” says Babbar of a career that has seen failures and successes. Since his debut as the irritating brother of the heroine in Abbas Tyrewala’s Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na (2008), Babbar has seen critical hits like Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat (2011), and some big disappointments as well, like Ekk Deewana Tha (2012). His second innings, where he’s been everything from a misguided terrorist in Mulk (2018) to the romantic Jeh, has been a delight. Siddhartha, who has done a lot of theatre in Mumbai, acknowledges the draw that his character, Mihir, has for women, as someone who just won’t give up on love. “It’s even influenced the way I think,” he says. Both realise the show doesn’t ride on their shoulders but it has given them an audience in more than 200 countries. Add to that it’s a new frame of reference, with even the head of the lighting department being a woman. “I love being part of the girl gang and how they’ve accepted me,” says Babbar. This season, the two of them are joined by yet another hunk, Jim Sarbh. This season is directed by Joyeeta Patpatia. Anu Menon and Nupur Asthana directed the first two seasons.
Bollywood’s First Teenager
He was all of 15 when he decided to move to Mumbai from Delhi with a part in Channel V’s Best Friends Forever? Ten years later, the Kathmandu-born Rohit Suresh Saraf can safely claim he is everyone’s first port of call when they want a likeable, well-adjusted teenager called Kabir or Bunty. Having played Alia Bhatt’s almost perfect brother in Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi (2016), Saraf has managed to deliver a series of knockout performances as the amiable young man caught in a series of circumstances, ranging from tragic in Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink (2019) to joyous in Mismatched. Saraf, who loves reading self-help books and refreshing himself with workshops such as Veenapani Chawla’s Adishakti in Puducherry (a laboratory for theatre art and research), trained to be a ballet dancer. It has clearly helped him in his acting career with a breakout performance as the small-town boy with big dreams in Vikram Vedha, Pushkar-Gayathri’s Hindi version. The film set, with the fine directors and actors he’s worked with, has become his film school as well as college. On the anvil is a remake of Ishq Vishk, the 2003 movie that made a star out of another dancer, Shahid Kapoor. Saraf’s father, a businessman, was always keen to see his son become an actor. He died when Saraf was 12.
Scene and Heard
Sai Pallavi is not the only doctor-turned-actor who is making news these days. Aishwarya Lekshmi, seen recently in Mani Ratnam’s epic Ponniyin Selvan-1, is the star of Amazon Prime Video’s first original Telugu movie, Ammu. Lekshmi, a trained doctor, plays the victim of domestic abuse who turns the tables on her abusive police officer husband. She is convincing as a strong woman caught in unfortunate circumstances, and though she radiates vulnerability in the movie, she never looks weak. Quite fascinatingly, Lekshmi was also one of the producers and actors of Gargi, Sai Pallavi’s critically acclaimed recent film. With Taapsee Pannu producing for Samantha Ruth Prabhu, this trend of the sorority standing up for each other is only growing.