January 14, 2021
Netflix’s Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives begins with Maheep Kapoor (Scorpio, married to Sanjay Kapoor, sister-in-law of Anil Kapoor) preparing to leave for Paris so that her daughter, Shanaya, can make her debut at a cotillion called Le Bal. Maheep loves this white, old money tradition of debutante culture that has nothing to do with Indians. This encapsulates the ethos of the show, which attempts to inspire alienation (in response to their lavish excess) and identification (“they’re just like us after all”).
The wives, four Tinseltown-adjacents — other than Maheep, there is Seema Khan (Pisces, possible ex-wife of Sohail Khan), Neelam Kothari (“Scorpion,” in the words of her husband Samir Soni, ex-actor), and Bhavana Pandey (Gemini, married to actor Chunky Pandey) — certainly alienate, with their mammoth privilege, inexplicable accents, and desperate imitation of the West. But it fails spectacularly at identification.
Perhaps Netflix greenlit the show as part of its globalization strategy, recreating popular franchises in other countries. To satiate demand for content about ‘how the other half lives,’ the company also produced Made in Mexico, its Spanish-language reality series based in Mexico City’s wealthy Polanco district. Viewers who catapulted Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives to the top of Netflix’s chart likely expected the show to be the Indian Real Housewives, but were left thoroughly disappointed, and even a little duped. There is neither the salacious escape of Real Housewives-esque reality television nor the anthropological window into the lives of the Bollywood pseudo-elite.