Guilty pleasures: The four flawed, fearless, fashion-forward friends of Amazon's Four More Shots Please!

Up, close and personal with Sayani Gupta, Kirti Kulhari, Bani J and Maanvi Gagroo of Amazon Prime Video's series Four More Shots Please!

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Sayani Gupta...plays Damini an ambitious journalist who suffers from OCD

What was the experience of working on this series? 

It was fun. It’s trying to do a lot of things, trying to change the narrative around women. We became close to each other and became friends.

To which of the topics addressed in the series are you closest? 

It’s not possible to single out one. There are so many things that are relevant... sexism at the workplace, homosexual rights, same sex marriage, freedom of speech, body positivity and through everything, finding and believing in yourself no matter how down and out you are. For any woman who goes out to work, one or many of these are true. 

Does it primarily address the urban woman? 

Not at all. It’s set in Mumbai for sure. But the issues addressed are universal: misogyny is a huge part of the society we live in, the taboo on homosexuality is a real issue everywhere, and so is freedom of expression. Girls continue to be told nobody will marry you because you are dark or fat. The lifestyle of the protagonists (in the show) is urban but the issues are universal.

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Also read: Malang star Aditya Roy Kapur’s attitude makes him a star, not his abs that are a national obsession

Is there an attempt to normalise words like sex, orgasm, vagina...? 

These are normal words, the attempt is to normalise the concepts. 

Is the show making a difference away from the cities? 

Girls are writing in to say they have been able to make decisions, and that parents can understand them and see their point of view.   

The men are mere props.... 

This is not a show just for women. The men are so sensitive and amazing. These are men you can fall in love with. None of them are bad. Jeh (played by Prateik Babbar) is considerate and caring. They are all loving men. The idea is not to bash men. 

What sort of man would you be attracted to? 

Jeh is always there for Damini. So many girls write in to say he’s absolutely fantastic. I could date a guy like that.

Anyone you know like that? 

No, that’s why its fiction.

Men haven’t evolved to that point...

Men have flaws but Jeh has no flaws. You don’t get better than him. 

Do you have OCD? 

No, but I’m particular about hygiene.

Your idea of friendship? 

It should be non judgemental 

Ideal relationship? 

It’s unconditional love

Ideal man? 

He should be intelligent, have a sense of humour

Your favourite series on Amazon prime video? 

Four Shots Again Please! Season 2

Your cheat meals nowadays....

Every meal is a cheat meal as I don’t diet

What’s the role you’d say no to? 

Many... If it isn’t interesting....

What’s in your bucket list? 

To travel the world...see the Northern Lights

What do you splurge on?

Lipstick, food

KNOW THE GIRLS

Maanvi is the happiest person to be around

Bani is disciplined and would work out even if it was a 3am call time

Kirti would sing songs in between shifts and when the lights were being set up. Or she would close her eyes and start meditating 

Also read: Love Aaj Kal 2's leading light Kartik Aaryan reveals the secret to his irresistible charm

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Maanvi  Gagroo...plays Siddhi who has a domineering mother and deals with some serious body-shaming issues

Have you ever had to face body shaming issues? 

Not really. At least, not up until I entered this industry. But we all have issues with our bodies, texture and colour of our skin, size of our feet and so much else. So, in that way, I always thought I had a funny smile. When I came to the industry, it was the other way — people said I had a great smile but maybe that I needed to lose weight.

Your most difficult scene? 

In season 2, I have to do a stand-up act. That was really tough because I find comedy quite difficult. In a comic situation, there are other elements that can salvage the scene. But in a stand-up performance, there is nothing else, just the stand-up comic. The act can go either way: people love it or hate it. And I personally don’t like doing comedy. 

Your biggest fear? 

I have this fear of losing people close to me. And my first reaction to something new is always that it could go wrong. When I’m reassured, I’m okay. In Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan, for instance, I was petrified of riding a horse. My director even teased me that my first reaction to something new is always a no. But once I knew that the horse wouldn’t bolt and that I would be okay, I was fine. 

Your take on relationships? 

Relationships and marriage are extremely personal and only the two people concerned should have a say in it. Also, each one should have an equal share and responsibility towards that relationship. Only then should they get married. 

What’s the sort of guy you are attracted to? 

In the series, Mihir is a guy with whom Siddhi has a level of comfort. He lets her be and is respectful of her wishes even when she’s turning him down. He gives her space and doesn’t judge her or put her down. He really gets her. So, yeah, I’d like to find a guy like that.

Do guys like that really exist? 

There aren’t too many around, but they are there. I know because all the men in my life, in whatever capacity, are like that. All of them respect women. 

What did you learn about friendship? 

We (the four friends in the series) weren’t friends to begin with, so there was a lot of acting involved initially to show that certain chemistry on screen convincingly. But later we became good friends. I have friends going all the way back to school with whom I share a lot. They may not drop everything immediately (as in the series) to be with me in a moment of crisis. But they would turn up for sure maybe a day or so later. In real life, you can’t put your life on hold as in the movies.

Your definition of friendship...

Friends don’t judge, they love each other and show you the mirror when you do something wrong. They always support you, and there’s a lot of communication and trust. I’m like that and expect the same from my friends. Also, there is a different equation with each: you go to some for advice or gossip, to others when you want to cry, some to party with....

Your most cherished gift? 

A cake from friends in the shape of an Oscar when I was leaving Delhi for Mumbai. 

What’s the most just-not-me thing you’ve ever done? 

Sing on stage. I sing badly but I was made to sing.

What have you enjoyed watching recently on OTT?

Parasite

Which book has inspired you? 

Homo Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

What’s in your bucket list? 

Bungee Jumping, another holiday in Greece, making a collective for women...

Your cheat meals nowadays....

Chocolates and chips

What’s the most useless talent you have? 

A beat I can make with my hands that then sounds like music

What’s the role you’d say no to? 

Anything racist, sexist, propagandist...

If you had to offer one piece of advice to the world, it would be.... 

Please live your live and don’t comment on others’

What’s your most luxurious indulgence? 

Holidays. I like my comforts so I go all out to have a great holiday

Your favourite corner at home? 

A chair by the window where I have coffee and look out

What do you splurge on?

Clothes, shoes...

You’ve been living in....

Long tees

KNOW THE GIRLS

Bani is disciplined and worked out twice a day after a hectic shoot. She’d say ‘do you really want to do that’ when we were eating the wrong stuff 

Kirti would become a didi and start lecturing, so when she went into lecture mode we would tease her: Anjudi has woken up!

Sayani gets involved in the scene and takes a while to come out of it

Also read: Free spirited, with a timeless charm, Aditi Rao Hydari is a blend of strength and elegance

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Kirti Kulhari

...plays Anjana, a divorcee who must decide on her priorities, — personal or professional, the usual culprits

Have men changed and evolved at the same pace as women? 

Not as much. For women, the fight has always been uphill. Men are changing for sure, but slowly. Women have different motivations. Men are not driven by the same things. They are fighting different battles. They are changing not for the women, but because they realise that’s the best way forward. Women are moving too fast, it’s tough to keep pace with them.

What is the new age man? 

It’s not a matter of new age man or woman.  It’s the freedom of choice. It doesn’t matter if you grow as a man or a woman. You have to grow as a human being, evolve into a better version of yourself. The parameters are the same for both. It’s all about freedom of choice: were you conditioned to being what you are or is it a genuine choice? Marriage, profession etc, are tangible things. I’m talking about the choice to grow or not to grow — even that is a choice.

Any insights amidst the lockdown? 

We’ve all had time to sit back and re-evaluate our priorities, understand what is important. It’s not about male and female; Indian or American. When faced with death, one operates at a different level. Other issues come to the fore. We have to ask questions at a basic level. A man thinks his problems, his emotions are different from those of women. If it was a show for men by men, wouldn’t the issues be the same? Victimisation, fighting for self...every man feels these emotions. 

Did you have to fight to join films? 

I faced opposition to the idea of moving to the film industry. We are a society-obliged family: we have to tell everybody what we have to do. But two things worked for me. One was my intense desire to get into this profession and the other was my father by my side. And so, I didn’t have to bear the brunt of family opposition. My father probably did, but he stood by me. I am too selfish. I grew up not having an obligation towards anybody. I talk to people when I feel like, I do things because I feel like not because I have to. That might be selfish but that’s the way I am. 

Wouldn’t individualism impact society as a whole? 

We spent a lot of time doing what family and society expected of us. Patriarchy held sway for so long. Now it’s the other way. The balance has to come back to what it should be. The older generation calls millennials selfish, but we have to strike a balance by not suffocating ourselves and also by doing what is right. Individualism is growing, but empathy, compassion, concern and care need to grow, too. Individualism by itself ends up in selfishness. The way you embrace an idea depends on your intelligence. It has to be whole and holistic otherwise you won’t grow as a person. 

Is dealing with the tussle between the personal and the professional tough? 

All around me I’ve seen how important marriage is. It’s always been — education, marriage, kids. But marriage is not the be-all end-all for men or for women. It’s all about freedom of choice. Study, or don’t study; marry or don’t. If parents would allow their kids to make choices with love and with respect for their choices that would create a healthy environment.

Does one have to be sacrificed for the other - the perfect marriage or the perfect career? 

No. You can have it all. The idea of perfection is itself imperfect. You just have to give it your best. Even if a woman is working, she still has to take care of the house. One has to change with the times. Now there’s space for both. 

Real vs reel marriage 

Varun (Anjali’s ex husband in the series) says we were best of friends. Sahil (Kirti’s husband) and I have that; we can tell each other anything. 

Your most cherished gift?

A stone bracelet that Sahil (her husband) got for me from Europe

What would you like to be famous for? 

I’m already famous for one of my favourite things, and that’s acting

What’s in your bucket list? 

Travel to Japan and the Edinburgh art festival

What have you enjoyed watching recently on OTT?

The Darkest Hour

Your favourite series on Amazon? 

The first season of Jack Ryan

Which book has inspired you? 

Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafaq

Which book would you recommend? 

How to Stop Acting for Actors

Your favourite corner at home? 

My bed

You’ve been living in....

My mom’s old cotton skirts from Goa

Your cheat meals nowadays....

Adrak ki chai with gur

What’s the role you’d say no to? 

Anywhere that I was just a prop....where I had nothing to do

If you had to offer one piece of advice to the world, it would be....

Stay calm. It’s okay to be not okay

KNOW THE GIRLS

Bani would bring dabbas from home and had a particular time to eat. She was usually calm, but if her schedule got disturbed, there was no one more ‘hangry’. You wouldn’t want to get in her way!

Sayani had this thing about cleanliness and would drive the art team crazy. She’d want to clean something multiple times and we’d be like, come on, let’s just do the scene

Maanvi was a chatterbox. We would jokingly wonder what she ate that made her so talkative! She would start talking at 5am when the rest of us were still trying to wake up! 

Also read: Rajkummar Rao: A good film is a good film, but we look only at the commercials

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Bani J...plays Umang, a physical trainer who’s bisexual

You play a bindass/badass sort of character? How close are you to that person in real life? 

Umang and I are more different than we are similar. She drinks and smokes for one, I totally don’t. She goes out a lot and is quite social, I’m quite a hermit. Also, she really dresses up; I’m more laid back in my personal style. She is still quite naive and innocent when it comes to matters of the heart...to name a few things. I’ve learnt some lessons. 

Your most interesting scene? 

I think I enjoy exploring the emotions and the scene to play out a lot. Also, because I know the moment I start to stress about something, it’s game over. Umang’s coming out scene in season 1, her confrontation scene with Samara continuing into season 2, of being so open and vulnerable, especially the scenes where she gets to dig deep (within herself) and to speak her truth... those are gold for me to get to do. 

Your most memorable moment in your acting career so far? 

Just that I get to play a character like Umang in a show like this, on a platform like Amazon that has such a huge worldwide presence, more so to be a part of the changing landscape that is the LGBTQIA community in India — to get to portray a relationship, and a person like Umang so wholly, without a facade. I find it liberating and important.

An anecdote about something really funny on the sets of the series...

Oh man! I don’t know if this is funny anymore (lol), but once we discovered that our director Nupur cries when she gets overwhelmed by a good a scene, I made it my mission to move her to tears as much as possible on set... and I think I came pretty close to achieving that.  

This series is about friendship. What’s your idea of friendship (as different from what is portrayed onscreen)? 

It’s probably pretty similar, just less drinking, smoking and noise. And less drama, thankfully. 

What’s your take on relationships (as different from what is portrayed onscreen)?

Umang is pretty lucky to understand the hard truth of her relationship, and what it should be like ideally; its shortcomings despite the love, to be able to take a rational call about what’s good for her without getting swept up in the dreamy imagery of what could be, and to come to that conclusion as fast as she did. That’s pretty lucky. In real life, I feel people are not as fortunate to arrive at those realisations so quickly. But it’s a good lesson to learn, for sure. 

Which of your priorities has changed after the lockdown? 

I find I don’t like spending time on my phone at all. 

Something special about your home? 

I have so many plants at home and I’ve been exploring the plant world,  learning more about it. I’m getting quite good at taking care of them!

How many tattoos do you actually have? 

Oh, man! I count them as in the tattoo world, a half sleeve or a full sleeve, half a body suit, etc. So, I have two full sleeves @80 per cent and a half leg and a quarter of my other leg. 

Your most difficult scene? 

There’s no such thing as a difficult scene

What are you like in real life? 

I’d like to think I’m pretty chilled out

What do you enjoy the most about acting?

I enjoy exploring emotions and the scenes  

what is your idea of friendship? 

It is similar to what is shown the series but minus the drama

What do you find special about your role? 

To  play a character like Umang so wholly, without a facade ― I find it liberating and important 

A realisation? 

I don’t like spending time on the phone

KNOW THE GIRLS

Maanvi knows some of the filthiest swear words you can imagine 

Sayani can only come up with a comeback after 24hrs (minimum)!

Kirti likes to have only gur in her coffee

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