Kirti Kulhari, Maanvi Gagroo, Bani J and Sayani Gupta star in the very, very popular Amazon Prime series Four More Shots Please!. The show’s first season premiered in 2019, and audiences loved it! So much so that it went on to a brilliant second season, and now the third season has just dropped.
The show follows the lives of four unapologetically flawed women as they live, love, blunder, and discover what really makes them tick through friendship and tequila in Millennial Mumbai.
In this special in-depth interview, Subhash K Jha catches up with Kirti Kulhari, Maanvi Gagroo, Bani J, and Sayani Gupta to talk about the series, their characters, going into the third season, and more!
What attracted you to your role when you first accepted it?
Maanvi: For me, what attracted me was firstly, the show itself, the fact that there were a bunch of women, a bunch of well-read, opinionated women like Rangita, Ishita Nandy. There was Anu, who was our first director; Neha Parti, and Aastha, Riya, the costume stylist. And they were just very clear about their vision. And when they came on board, they were very clear about the kind of show they wanted to make, the kind of things that the show will stand for, and the kind of messaging that they wanted the show to have. And I think it was that which was the first thing that attracted me to the show. Of course, after that, it was that when it came to the character of Siddhi, I loved the fact that it was very, very collaborative in the first season because I remember I had a few changes I wanted to make to the character, good or bad, whatever. And everybody seemed very receptive to it. We sat down; these guys worked on the script. We worked at a lot of places for Siddhi. And it just ultimately came out to be what it was. And so yeah, the collaborative nature of the show, the fact that there are women leading it, not just on screen, which is the four of us, but even behind the camera. And just everything that the show symbolizes.
Sayani: No, the character itself, I really relate to Damini. I love a lot of things that she is made of; there’s a lot of spunk, there’s a lot of spine, there’s a lot of strength, there’s a lot of fierceness. And all of those things I deeply admire and I can relate to.
Kirti: I think what really spoke to me was the overall show, overall narrative that I think… narrative and the take that Four More Shots was trying to take. That seemed like nothing I had kind of seen before in India or been a part of. And that was very, very fresh for me, and very I would say, very progressive for me. It’s something that I felt needed to be; things in the show needed to be spoken about, needed to be shown on screen for people to finally take off their blinkers and look at the bigger picture. And, in terms of female friendship, in terms of female bonding, in terms of sisterhood, I think it was too many things that matter to all of us, and a lot of women out there were finally being put in the form of a script, and somebody was trying to put it out there. And I think I just wanted to be on that bus, and I wanted to be a part of all the new narrative that was being put out there. So, yeah.
Bani: Why did I join the show, and what were my first thoughts about when I got approached with the character? That’s the question. Well, my character was pretty different from everybody else’s. You don’t get to see a bisexual character on any of these series, movies that come out, at least not one that’s been written in so much depth, with so much complexity, with so many different relationships going on, not just with her family, with her lovers, with her friends, with her self, and with society in general. So I thought that was a really cool role to have been offered. And I was, honestly, pretty flattered to be there, like, oh wow, this is pretty awesome a character you guys have written. And it was cool because they did rewrite a lot of Umang after they met me, which was also just awesome for them to have done that. So just to be able to portray something like that and to have proper representation for an LGBTQIA+ character, I thought, was just monumental, really.
Third time, third season. What does it feel like this time?
Maanvi: It feels like a bigger show, a better show, a deeper show, a show that’s going more into the lives, the internal conflicts of the girls, what they are going through emotionally and mentally. And it’s also cathartic for some characters, it’s closure time, it’s decision time for some of them. And, of course, the glamour quotient is again upped; the locations we have travelled to are more beautiful and exotic compared to the first two. So, yeah, I think it’s very fresh in terms of… I know it’s the same show, but I think it still has a lot of freshness to it.
Kirti: Also, I think this season there’s more excitement than there’s nervousness. We were saying it earlier as well, that let’s say there’s 20% nervousness and 80% excitement because we’ve been shooting for so long. We’ve been shooting, we’ve been working on the script since 2020. We started shooting; we went into production in 2021. We’ve had two lockdowns in the middle. We had to stop shooting in the middle and all of that, so, it’s been a huge gap. We’ve forgotten what we’ve shot and you know, we are really excited. We haven’t seen anything of the show, so we are really excited to watch the show. The audience has been waiting for the show for this season. We keep getting asked, all of us in our DMs and stuff that when is season three out? And there’s so much excitement and like positive feedback to the trailer as well of season three. So I think we’re quite excited and maybe a little nervous, but more excited.
Do you think your character has evolved over the three seasons? If so, how and where do you see it go from here?
Bani: Yes, for sure. How has my character evolved from season one to season three? Well, Umang has been through a lot. Like she has been living her life out and proud, proud of her choices, proud of her mistakes, proud of her relationships, proud of what she does for work. She came to terms with one major relationship, well, two major relationships, one being with her family in season one and two coming to sort of a standstill because her parents sort of pretty much disowned her because of her lifestyle choices. She wanted to move to a bigger city so that she could be free. But at the same time, it cost her her relationship with her family, which she hadn’t realized how much it was gonna obviously be pretty cut off. And the second relationship that obviously came to an end was her wedding with Samara. And at least, I mean, I was really upset with how it ended because I would’ve loved for her to have had that realization a little sooner. Because leaving someone at the altar isn’t like the nicest thing to do. But it just like, it took her time to realize this is a situation that’s not gonna improve with her relationship. And that if she really wants to not have the same thing repeat over and over again, that she needs to just put her foot down and say, hey, listen, what I want now is the relationship of equality. I wanna be more than just Mrs. So and so. So I thought that that whole thing was really important and really cool to see. And obviously, she’s pretty heartbroken pretty much all the time because of all of these relationships, which are her core foundational relationships with her family and her lover, just like not working out. So hopefully, with season three, it’s all about getting closure on all of these chapters that are just left open and are a little unwritten. So hopefully, she gets to take charge this season and write her maybe, if not the happiest ending, a pretty much okay ending for herself, you know.
Kirti: My character Anjana, the growth that she has in the last three seasons, right? That’s what we are talking about, right? So for my character, I think Anjana has had a couple of major themes that have been controlling her life. One is, of course, the single motherhood. The second is her past, which is with her ex-husband, to letting go of that. And, of course, she has had a bunch of men in her life. And her professional life. So for Anjana, I think what’s happening is by this season, she has sort of realized that she needs to… I mean, she thought she was done with Varun, but clearly, there is something, things happen, and it kind of comes back at her. And you sometimes believe that, okay, this is done. But when you are again exposed to those past scenarios, you really realize you understand where you really stand as far as that is concerned. So I think it’s a lot of realization for Anjana’s character. I mean, she is fighting her battles professionally. And last season, it was the whole personal professional equation with Sashank got very mixed up. So she’s turning into somebody who is getting more and more clarity in terms of who she is, who she wants in her life, where is she headed, with who is she headed. From season one to season three, Anjana is arriving at a lot of clarity, I would say. She’s closing chapters. She is, in fact, not starting any fresh ones but just getting done with all the mess of the past. And maybe after this, she will have a fresh start. But this is what her character arc has been in the last three seasons till today.
Sayani: Maanvi and I were discussing the other day, we’ve forgotten what actually happens to our characters in the show. But with Damini, one of the key features is that she’s so sure about herself in terms of her profession, the politics she believes in, the person she is, but she’s so confused vis-a-vis her personal life, her love, and what she wants to do with her heart. And it’s quite heartbreaking sometimes to watch her, as Sayani, watching Damini go through these things. And I think in this season, she again goes through, because, at the end of season two, she has a miscarriage, which obviously takes a huge toll on her, something that she tries to push aside, not deal with at the face of it. But I think that sort of ends up taking a toll on her emotionally, physically, spiritually. And that sort of shows, and that’s a journey she’s set out in season three. And sort of there are times that her friends, especially Anjana’s character, sort of shows her the mirror, and there are a lot of hard truths that her friends tell her. And then she sort of realizes and accepts some of them. She’s in denial through some of it. And I think finally she sort of comes to terms with who she is, who she’s become, the woman she has become today evolved as, evolved into. It’s a very tactile, heartbreaking, beautifully poignant journey that Damini has. Like I had so much fun playing those emotions and going through those scenes as an actor, as a human being. And I’m very excited to see how, what Joyeeta and I sort of envisioned, once it came off the paper, that has come out, how it’s come out and how it’s shaped. I’m very, very excited to see that.
Maanvi: So I think with Siddhi, after what happened to her at the end of season two, which was that she lost her father, and we see in season three, I mean, losing a parent, losing anyone that’s close to you, and especially a parent, and especially for someone like Siddhi who was so pampered and protected by her parents, especially her father, is obviously very, very hard. So suddenly, we see, in season three, that a lot of adult things are happening to her, in the sense that you know what we call adulting. Like suddenly she’s forced to do a lot of adulting. And I don’t think she’s really ready for it. And she knows she’s not ready for it, but she thinks she’s ready for it and she’s fighting it and is struggling with that. And that is her major conflict. Because up until now, a lot of her problems were either seemingly frivolous problems or problems inflicted by society, which by virtue of the kind of show it is, she was able to break those barriers with her friends or just through the arc of the show because of her mother. All of these things. But suddenly now the things that are happening are very real and they’re very mature. And she doesn’t know how to kind of grapple with it. And I think that’s her primary struggle, and whether she comes out of it alive or not, and how does she deal with it, is something that we’ll have to watch the show for.
What was it like, the four of you girls uniting during the Covid crisis when you were shooting for the third season?
Sayani: Well, it was really tough for everyone around the world, but also for us; we literally were supposed to go on the floor a week before Covid hit us, before the lockdown. So everything sort of went into a halt, and, every time, there were multiple times that we were going to shoot or just started shoot or shot for one day, like, I literally shot for one and a half scenes and then again, second wave came in. So it was very, very tough. I got into this hair continuity that I had to match for like two years. And I had to keep cutting my hair short every week sort of to match the hair and things like that. And I think emotionally, we all went through so much, a deep upheaval, really, and individually and as a community, as human beings of the world. And every time we came back, there was a deep sense of gratitude, I think, to be able to be there, to be doing that. And I think there’s a… I mean, there was so much, people losing their jobs, and there was so much like unemployment peaking, and one had to be grateful for having that, that we have something that we are excited to work on, we have this show, and it sort of gave us that little bit, a sense of normalcy. The show is also, the season is also reflective of what we went through individually because I think that it’ll, you’ll be able to see it, there is a gesture and layers and things like that
What has life been like for you during the last two years? What has the pandemic taught you? And what was your biggest strength during those tough times?
Sayani: The pandemic has taught me to be bloody grateful to count the glass half full, to be generous with my time, to myself and my loved ones and my friends, to live for the moment, today, do everything that I want to do this moment and not wait for later, which includes a lot of traveling, taking time off. I think it’s sort of put a break in the pace that I was in, the inertia that I was in, which is working 360 days out in a year. I mean, as extreme that it sounds, it was true. And suddenly, the pandemic forced me to sort of forced all of us to take that break. And I think now I’m at a space where I’m in no hurry. And the work will happen; things will happen when it’s meant. And also, I think be generous with my resources. I feel, I believe that what we are, what God has given us, be it money or time or whatever, all the resources that we have needs to be shared. And that’s how I sort of live my life. I believe in giving, and I get more and in manifold, and I’ve seen that sort of come true. So yeah, that’s what the pandemic has taught me.
Kirti: Because you suddenly got a break from everything. You were at home; there was nothing keeping you busy. There was nothing keeping you engaged and escaping your own self and your…. So I think it gave me a lot of time for contemplation. And of course, one of the major things that happened to me is that I separated from my husband. And that was a very, very big decision. And what followed that was, again, a lot of consequences of that in terms of understanding a lot of things about myself, about others. And just, I mean, just realizing and I think realizing things and in terms of what really matters and what doesn’t in life. And realizing that so many things that we spend so much time and energy on really don’t matter in the bigger picture, you know? And also the fact that what are we living for? I mean, why are we so busy living for the future when everything lies here in this moment, you know? And there’s like, everyone seems to be in a rush. I don’t know to get where. So I think the pandemic really slowed me down, really made me sit back and think about everything that matters to me. It, of course, filled me with a lot of gratitude. I also travelled a lot during COVID. And travelling is something again, which is very spiritual for me, very contemplated for me. And another beautiful thing that happened is I finally found what self-love means. I learnt to truly love myself. And I think that’s been the biggest and the most beautiful takeaway from the pandemic.
Maanvi: So Sayani and Kirti have already kind of covered pretty much what I had to say, but just if I had to, I mean, yeah, I’ll just reiterate the fact that I’ve come out of the pandemic with a lot of gratitude. Just to see all my loved ones happy and alive and healthy after having seen so much loss with the people around the world. And in terms of, yeah, like what Kirti was also saying that we plan so much about the future that we forget to live or enjoy what we have right now. So while I would still continue to keep planning my future. But I’ll stop getting worried about it. And I’ll stop getting bothered by it. So earlier, like you would plan and worry that it’s not working out according to plan. Now you are just like, okay, you know what? I planned, and that’s it. I mean, it didn’t, it didn’t work out. If it works out, great. And also what Sayani said that taking time off because there were a couple of artists also who died. And I remember telling a friend of mine that an artist who was working with Pearl Jam had died. And I was like, when are we going to watch them live? Like these are, I mean, people we’ve heard, actors or artists we listen to, we watch, they’re dying one by one. And there’s so much to see in the world. There’s so much to experience. And while obviously building a life for yourself, making money, and all of that is very important for sure, but we need to do this also because this is what we are living for, This is what we are earning our money for, and sweating for, so that sense. And also, I think one major thing that happened in the pandemic was that a lot of your superfluous relationships were shed. That you ended up staying in a close touch with very close friends of yours. So I mean, while those acquaintances still remain acquaintances, But you know now that you recognize them as acquaintances, now you know who your close friends are, and it’s okay to not… people have somehow become more tolerant of each other in the sense of boundaries, and they know that okay, someone’s busy, someone doesn’t have time. Then you don’t make the other person feel guilty for not keeping in touch. It’s fine. We’ve just come to accept each other the way we are.
Bani: The one thing that I struggled with during COVID – Zoomies. I would constantly keep deleting Zoom off my phone. Because I was just like, ah, if I can’t do an in-person interaction with somebody, it’s not worth it. But, what did I learn during COVID? Those were the tough times. I guess that was the number one struggle for me, which was having to do all these virtual interactions and stuff because, obviously, season two came out during COVID. But apart from that, I didn’t really struggle too much during COVID because I was pretty busy. Like I was doing construction in my gym, and then I was traveling a bunch internationally, which was really cool. And then, of course, I got stuck in America for three months, which was also okay. Yeah, I opened a gym, basically. And then… sorry, I’m actually on location right now, so you’re gonna hear a lot of background noise. But I would say that definitely, like everybody else has shared, we had the existential crises going on about purpose and meaning of life, and what on Earth are we doing and why are we doing it? That did happen. But I mean, that’s like an ongoing thing, actually. So it’s not really that…
Tell me about the other shows and films that you guys are doing?
Bani: I’m currently shooting in Bangalore for the show that I’m doing called… it’s a dirt biking show, India’s first one for Hero, and I’m shooting that with MTV, literally right now.
Maanvi: So I have Tripling season three also releasing, along with Four More Shots Please season three. So that’s kind of exciting. And I have another film which will release sometime in the first quarter of next year. And I don’t know if I can really talk about that yet. And there’s another film which I can talk even less about which is gonna release in May, June sometime. But we are still left to do with a little bit of patchwork for it, so it might get delayed further. But it’s exciting, and exciting stuff is happening; good content is happening. Thankfully we are in a position, I’m speaking for all four of us, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we are all in a position where we have the luxury of choosing the projects that we say yes to, and saying no to certain projects. And I think it’s a very lucky place to be in for any creative person.
Kirti: For me right now, there’s nothing I’m working on as such. I just have a film called Nayeka which is a dark comedy that is under postproduction, so maybe sometime early next year maybe, people will get to see it.
Sayani: Well I have three films, three features in postproduction right now. A few short films actually that I did this year are very, very different. In one, I play a man which is very…. I mean, it was fun doing it. And one of the films actually is a romcom that I am very excited about because, well, romcom it’s my favorite genre, never grows old, and it’s a fantastic part. And it’s a comedy, so full win win. So I’m looking forward to that. But yeah, as Maanvi said, I think we are in a position to, I anywhere was always very choosy when I wasn’t in the position. Now it’s become even more. And I think this year particularly has been all about travels and just seeing the world, going to places that I’ve been wanting to. And I have a pact with myself. If I work for six months, I have to travel for six months. But right now, the ratio per month is 10 to 20. I travel for 20 days, and I work for 10. So yeah, I’m enjoying the space.
Do you feel OTT is the way forward? Has OTT changed your life?
Sayani: Of course it has.
Maanvi: Oh yes, completely. I think it’s definitely the way forward. In fact, we would’ve; the pandemic has hastened the process. Like we would’ve gotten here maybe in another four, five years. But because of the pandemic, it kind of compressed time and reached here sooner than we would’ve otherwise. But I think, in terms of changing the game for sure, because I think a lot of us, not just actors, but writers and filmmakers and technicians, so many people. So yeah, I think now it’s changed the game for us in the way that, like for me, I remember when Tripling happened, it happened at a time when I wasn’t getting the kind of roles that I wanted to do. I was only getting a particular kind of character, and I was, personally, extremely bored of doing that, for the lack of a better word. And then with OTT, like people in the industry and people outside, it kind of gave us the currency, which is the currency of social media and social media following, and that kind of helped people also, Because there were times when I was being considered for a project, but they were like, oh but we want to go with someone who’s more famous. But the director was pushing for me, but the producer would be like, no, who is this person? But now I have the currency of having a lot of projects wanting me. And also another thing which the OTT platform has done for me personally is that I’m no longer desperate to do a film. Like there was maybe six, seven years ago, there was a certain itch to do a film, to do a Bollywood film or even a South film or some, but do a feature film, like a long format. But now, because of OTT, I think I’m getting to do a lot of good content, and I’m focusing on the script and the project rather than the platform or the medium. So, yeah.
If you had to define your character in Four More Shots in five words, just five words, what would that be?
Bani: Good, flawed, honest, romantic, and looking for closure.
Bani, one last question for you before you go. How close are the four of you in real life?
Bani: I would say we have phases, and then we have pairings of which two or three of us are closer at a time. Because it’s four of us, a lot of people to stay close to at one point in time. But when we’re together, I feel like we have a really good time, the majority of us.
Kirti- your character in five words, what would that be?
Kirti: Five words? Emotional, intelligent, independent, gutsy, straightforward.
Okay. Last question for you, Kirti. I’ve noticed quite a few chick flicks coming up on OTT. Do you see your show as a kind of pioneer in the field?
Kirti: Yes. I think our show is really, really leading the way, and I’m so glad that we have kind of defined the genre check flick for a lot of people, and I’m glad we are the torchbearers.
Sayani, Five words to define your character?
Sayani: Fierce, strong, vulnerable, genuine, passionate.
Do you see your show as a kind of pioneer in the field of OTT?
Sayani: Not just OTT. I see the show as a pioneer in terms of women’s stories, women telling women’s stories, representation of women in India on the big or small screen, any screen. So it is a pioneer of many sorts, women with agency, women with sexuality. So not just OTT, but in general, in media, like in films and shows.
How close are the four of you in real life?
Sayani: There’s something that we all share, which is the warmth and that understanding which has evolved with time, and I think we’ve understood each other more deeply over these five years actually, of three seasons. And we have our good days and our bad days. But mostly, I think season three has been a lot of laughter and banter and just amazing memories, and I’m quite grateful for all of them.
Maanvi, five words that would describe your character best?
Maanvi: Entitled, immature, vulnerable, funny and romantic.
Do you see your show as a kind of pioneer in the field?
Maanvi: For sure, without a doubt. Because they weren’t any films celebrating womanhood the way our show has since season one and a depiction of female friendship in all its glory with the good and the bad and the ugly, and just an unapologetic portrayal of the female experience.
How close are the four of you?
Maanvi: I think it’s like what Sayani said, that it has evolved for sure. I have a very different relationship with all three of them, actually. And I’ve come to cherish my individual relationship with each of them and our collective group dynamic. And I think there is this very strong feeling that we are all part of something very special. So even on our worst days, I think we are quite aware of that fact, and that’s what kind of keeps us grounded together. That what we are creating here, along with the other makers, of course, Rangita, Ishita, and everybody, that what we have is something really, really special, and we must not let anything taint that experience for us.
Directed by Anu Menon and Nupur Asthana, Four More Shots Please! Season 3 is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.