Netflix series “Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” delivers exactly what it promises: a glossy window into the lives of four wealthy, glamorous women celebrating their enduring friendships on screen. Bravo may have gotten there first with its “Real Housewives” franchise, but the streaming giant’s take is the first of its kind out of India.
The chemistry between the four women — all of whom are married to actors — is palpable. Of the four, Neelam Kothari is arguably the most successful, having enjoyed a long career as a Bollywood leading lady in the 1980s and 1990s.
Some 20 years ago, Kothari called time on her acting career. She is now married to actor Samir Soni (“Student of the Year 2″). “To be back on screen after so many years and, that too, with my best friends, has been an exhilarating experience,” Kothari tells Variety. “We wanted the audience to see us for who we really are and have a good laugh along with us.”
Kothari made an on-screen pairing with actor Chunkey Pandey in films “Aag Hi Aag” (1987), “Paap Ki Duniya” (1988) and “Ghar Ka Chiraag.” Pandey’s costume designer wife Bhavana Pandey is also one of the protagonists of the show.
“How many people get lucky enough to do a show with their best friends?” asks Bhavana Pandey. “Well, we did and enjoyed every minute of it.” The Pandeys’ daughter Ananya is also a Bollywood star (“Pati Patni Aur Woh”), and appears on the show.
“The four of us have been friends for eons and we really enjoyed celebrating that friendship in this series,” says former model Maheep Kapoor, who is married to actor Sanjay.
In the first episode, the Kapoors take their actor-in-training daughter Shanaya to Paris for the Le Bal des Débutantes ball, where Sanjay is star-struck to meet Jet Li and takes an obligatory selfie.
If it all seems very cozy and insular, it is, as the show is produced by hugely influential producer-director Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment. Johar, apart from his films like “My Name is Khan,” is known for landing top Bollywood talent on his chat show “Koffee With Karan,” which airs on Disney’s Star network.
However, “Bollywood Wives” also serves up a stark reminder that only having access and opportunities is no guarantee of success in the industry. Sanjay Kapoor, for example, was born into Bollywood royalty with his producer brother Boney (“Mr. India”) and actor brother Anil (“Slumdog Millionaire”) both being A-listers, and was given a dream launch as a hero in the film “Prem” (1995). However, his career never took off in quite the same way, and it’s only recently, with Netflix’s “Lust Stories,” that the actor’s staged something of a comeback.
“I’ve seen this industry too closely; it’s not a fairy tale,” says Sanjay Kapoor in one of the show’s more candid moments.
The show’s protagonists repeatedly refer to themselves as family, rather than just friends, and in case that reminds viewers of another famous TV family, the Kardashians, they are duly name checked, with boutique owner Seema Khan, married to actor and producer Sohail Khan (“Dabangg 3,” starring brother Salman Khan) being a huge fan.
As the series globe trots like a well-oiled machine, (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” producer Michael Call is consulting producer on some episodes), the great and the good of Bollywood also make cameos throughout.
As Seema Khan says, “The only aim we had while making this show was to have fun with our besties (each other) and we had loads of it! We hope the audiences enjoy this 25-year-long friendship and all the madness that comes with it.”
“Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” streams from Nov. 27.