The urge to create seasons and sequels to existing bodies of work is pushing creatives to harm their own craft these days; the latest example is Hush Hush. The seven-episode series begins as an absolute winner that lets us inside the world of four well-heeled female friends who have a secret to hide. But after serving the appetisers, the makers suddenly turn stingy when it comes to offering the main course, stretching the series, and testing the patience of the audience.
Set in the opulent side of Gurugram, it sees the world from the gaze of ‘self-actualised women’. Yes, this is the term that one of the entitled men in the series uses for the feisty women grappling with their past and present. This is one rare moment where the writers allow a male character to openly express his opinion in the series which is essentially a fight between deep-seated patriarchy and a new world order where the women are claiming their equal space. In a powerful sequence that sets the tone of the series, Ishi (Juhi Chawla), a power broker, makes it amply clear to a fidgety male client. For a change, we have a series where a husband almost pleads for his say in decision-making in the family, and a wife doesn’t turn to infidelity just because her husband is infertile.
The writers have created an interesting quartet of friends. Ishi is a public relations professional who doubles as a fixer for the high and mighty in the corporate and political space. She guards her childhood memories of the orphanage where she grew up with Meera (Ayesha Jhulka). She helps her former inmate, but her support becomes a handcuff that Meera wants to break away from. If Ishi measures every word that she speaks, Saiba (Soha Ali Khan) is quite the opposite. A former journalist who chickened out of the risky job to start a family, Saiba has her own ghosts to bury. Dolly (Kritika Kamra) is the chirpy Punjabi girl who is being pushed into yielding an heir for the family by her domineering mother-in-law. She guards the secret of her unproductive husband, but for how long? Zaira (Shahana Goswami), a noted designer, who is looking beyond the next collection, is being pestered by an old flame and a young colleague with a mental condition.
Co-directors Tanuja Chandra, Kopal Naithani, and Ashish Pandey, backed by the strong writing team of Juhi Chaturvedi, Ashish Mehta, and Shikha Sharma, create an engrossing space for the competent actors to navigate. The delicious detailing of the backdrop and side characters add a rich texture to the narrative, and Juhi’s (Chaturvedi) dialogues generate a dialectical relationship with characters.
Above all, the sisterly chemistry is evident and is the primary reason for us to stay invested, even when the writers start withholding essential information for the second season. Soha is a revelation in a part that allows her to speak in a mix of Hindi and English. After Bombay Begums, Shahana delivers another stirring performance that speaks to you even after the credits roll. Kritika has a difficult role as its tonality changes midway, but the actor beautifully brings out the change in Dolly; it is not just about removing the nail paint, she lets the audience inside the heart of Dolly.
Curiously, it is Juhi, making her streaming debut with the series, who is saddled with an underwritten part. Karishma Tanna makes an interesting entry as a middle-class Haryanvi cop solving a case that involves the rich and famous, but she fails to leave her manicured past behind for the role. And the investigation is stretched so thin that writers leave little space to hide. Ayesha makes an impressive return as a mother struggling with a moral dilemma, but her equation with Juhi also suffers due to the writers’ indulgence.
Instead of characters holding on to the secret, one can sense that it is the writers who are allowing the evidence and anticipation to rot. Having said that, Hush Hush deserves a second chance!
Hush Hush is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video