For India’s urban liberal youngsters, the saas-bahu soaps on Indian television have just not relatable for ages. In fact, this was a gap filled by American television content in the last few years, especially since online streaming and web-content became popular in the country – thanks to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Zee5 etc. Interestingly, a bunch of these serials and mini-series have women-oriented tales which are attractive to male audience too.
Following the path paved by Sex and the City (1998-2004), The Good Wife (2009-2016), Orange is the new black and Jane the Virgin (both 2013-2019), we have recently enjoyed had Amazon Prime’s Pushpavalli , Four more shots please, and Emmy winner British series Fleabag in India.
These entertaining yet thought-provoking series are worth the binge-watch, especially during the ongoing nation-wide lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Here are some of the recently-released and ongoing series which are available on your favourite platforms:
Little Fires Everywhere, Hotstar+Disney
Starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, this Hulu original mini-series of eight episodes was released a few weeks ago. Vaguely reminiscent of HBO television series Big Little Lies (2017-2019), it deals with gender, race, sexuality, class, and family dynamics in 1990s’ American suburbs. An adaptation of the 2017 novel of the same name by Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere leaves you with unanswered questions.
How much can Law understand women and how much can women understand and support each other? When it comes to motherhood and domesticity, why do women have to pay the price with losing their career ambitions and love-lives? The solidarity between Mia and Bebe is in contrast to the hostility between Mia and Elena. Despite being very different as individuals, Mia and Bebe are bound together by being victims of class and racism, whereas Mia and Elena are similar people pitted against each other by class and race.
Three American high school students – all girls, from different races, social classes, and even popularity at school – become friends at the strangest of places: a meeting of shoplifters’ anonymous. The trio’s story - spanning over 10 episodes, each hardly 30 minutes long -is one of sisterhood and how they support each other through abusive relationships, family drama, personal loss, and facing the world together.
In a fresh twist to the average high school dramas, the popular Tabitha is not a ‘mean girl’ and the street-smart Moe is an above-average student. Elodie, around whom the story is built, is your average introvert yet surprisingly comfortable with her sexuality. Between their heartbreaks and setbacks and little joys, it’s hard for the audience to not side with the trio against the unsupportive families and school systems. The web series, which released in June 2019, is set to have its second and final season this year.
Released in late 2019, this mini-series of eight episodes is based on real events that took place a few years ago. With each episode lasting less than an hour, Unbelievable follows a series of rape cases reported in Washington and Colorado between 2008 and 2011. While the first episode has a teenage rape victim being falsely charged of ‘lying about rape’ (by two male cops), the rest of the show follows two female cops chasing separate rape cases, figuring out that there is a ‘serial rapist’ out there.
The critically-acclaimed series, which former US President Barack Obama had listed among his favourite television series, portrays the need for gender sensitivity among the police department as well as the helplessness of sexual assault victims. The crime thriller’s narrative covers women from across races and age-groups who fall prey to the culprit, and how it changes their lives forever.
Hundred, Disney+ Hotstar
Released on April 25, Hundred follows the lives of two women - Netra (Rinku Rajguru) and ACP Saumya Shukla (Lara Dutta). After finding out that her days are numbered (due to a brain tumour), Netra wants to live the rest of her life with excitement. ACP Saumya, who is struggling to make her mark as a good cop, is reduced to playing the department’s poster girl. Saumya presents Netra with the idea of an adventurous last 100 days by working for her in clandestine.
Although the show is over-the-top at times, it is fun to see a female cop in Dabangg style. Also, seldom have we seen a female lead who does not shy away from awkward situations just because she wants to tick it off her bucket list - be it losing her virginity or calling out a boy for ‘ruining her first time’ because she was expecting a lot better!
Sex Education, Netflix
The British series that revolves around a bunch of high schoolers and their relationships between each other and their families was a breakthrough in teenage dramas, thanks to its never-before-seen treatment of sexuality among adolescent boys and girls.
Although the protagonist is an introverted boy – Otis Milburn – who advises his peers on sex, thanks to his learnings from his mother who is a professional sex therapist, this Netflix original also provides an insight into the lives of girls everywhere.
The second season, which released in January, throws light on how deep friendships form between girls and how toxic masculinity plays a part in bringing them together. In fact, towards the end of the second season, Sex Education gives a subtle shoutout to feminists across the world by showing the one unfortunate experience that every woman faces in her life, regardless of age, race, class, sexual orientation or any other identities.
(with inputs from Varnika Gupta)