Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:
I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE to visit Bombay, but the city, or rather the ghost of it, lingered in the plotline of my Pakistani childhood. Both sides of my family were from Bombay: on one side were Iranian exiles from the uprooting of the Qajar dynasty in the 1920s, and on the other, Muslim businessmen from the heart of the city. Both sides decided to leave after Partition in 1947 and come to Karachi, where I was born. Disparate as their worlds may have been in Bombay, they had merged in Karachi, then a desert backwater. Neither seemed particularly sanguine about the choice, a judgment I made based on the frequency with which the magical Bombay of their memories and imaginations appeared in conversation. As a Pakistani born in the place wrested from India and the British, I could not go and see the city of Bombay. Naturally this has meant that I relish any chance to catch a glimpse of the “real” Bombay, even if it is provided via the very unreal creations of Bollywood or, more recently, the reality dramas dished up on Netflix. I devoured Indian Matchmaking in an afternoon, the tone and timbre and accent of matchmaker “Seema Aunty” as familiar to me as the soundtrack of my childhood, made up of just such gossipy fare exchanged by my migrated grown-ups. Then came The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, and now another one, a show called Bombay Begums.
Unlike Indian Matchmaking and Bollywood Wives, Bombay Begums is a drama, its protagonist played by the actress Pooja Bhatt, a once-upon-a-time Bollywood star looking to make a comeback in the relatively less-ageist environs of the Netflix drama. Her character, Rani Irani, is the just-ascended CEO of a powerful bank (the fictional Royal Bank of Bombay). Having beat out many men for the job, Irani has a lot to prove and she sets about doing just that. She is clad in the most resplendent silk saris, many of which hang in her office, a deliberately feminized backdrop to the conversations about sex or money or bribes that take place in the cream upholstered and tastefully backlit space.