Big Girls Don't Cry Review: Boarding School Adventure Is Frothy, Flimsy And Fun

Big Girls Don't Cry Review: Pooja Bhatt lends gravitas. Zoya Hussain is perfect as the teacher who unwittingly sparks an anti-patriarchy insurrection.

Big Girls Don't Cry Review: Boarding School Adventure Is Frothy, Flimsy And Fun

A still from Big Girls Don't Cry. (courtesy: primevideoin)

In an all-girls boarding school in a hill town, a group of students grapples with strict regimen, the constant pressure to conform and the burden of legacy. They look for ways to break free from their ambitions, inhibitions and obsessions even as the hawk-eyed authorities at Vandana Valley Girls School strain to rein them in.

The title of the seven-episode Amazon Prime Video show centred on the boisterous sorority - Big Girls Don't Cry (BGDC) - is the mantra that they live by. The adventure of growing up as the girls prepare to graduate to the final year of high school is frothy and flimsy. It is fun nonetheless thanks partly to components of the storyline that promise a degree of depth and partly to the principal actors who get into the swing of things quickly and with conviction.

That may not, however, be true of the entire series. Big Girls Don't Cry, created by Nitya Mehra and directed by her with Karan Kapadia, Sudhanshu Saria and Kopal Naithani, takes quite a while to warm up and pick up pace. It isn't until the third episode that the characters begin to individually emerge out of the crowd and fully reveal their contours.

Once that happens, Big Girls Don't Cry, produced by Ashi Dua Sara and Karan Kapadia, is engrossing enough as a young adult drama that says a thing or two about fitting in and breaking away, if only in a manner that keeps the complexities involved at bay. As long as one does not expect striking insights into campus life and the challenges it poses, the show does not fail to engage and entertain.

Kavya Yadav (Vidushi), joins Vandana Valley Girls School as a scholarship student. Gifted and determined, she tries everything she can to be accepted by a sisterhood made up of members from far more privileged backgrounds. She makes steady progress, but the hiccups do not stop because she is among people who are temperamentally at a sharp remove from her.

Two best friends, Jayshree Chettri (Tenzin Lhakyila) and Roohi Ahuja (Aneet Padda), have no such issues but find themselves up against matters of the heart that threaten their bonding. The former is royalty, a Nepalese princess being groomed by her grandmother to be maharani in place of her ailing mother. The latter is the daughter of a constantly bickering couple - Vipin (Mukul Chadda) and Uma (Raima Sen) - who have more than a say in the way the 75-year-old school is run.

Noor Hassan (Afrah Sayed), Leah "Ludo" Joseph (Avantika Vandanapu) and Anandita "Pluggy" Rawat (Dalai) complete the sextet that the storyline revolves around. Noor, who aspires to be the school captain in her final year, wants to drop her surname to conceal her identity. Ludo, a talented hoopster, has her sights set on the sports captaincy. All that gawky Dalai seems to want is sex.

Apart from the teachers and administrators led by the stern principal Anita Verma (Pooja Bhatt), the plot accords importance to three other students - a rebellious Dia Malik (Akshita Sood), a nerdy debater Monjoree Haldar (Monjoree Kar) and a sporty Vidushi Mendiratta (Himanshi Pandey). Each of them has them has her moments in the sun.

While the girls have their hands full dealing with a bunch of issues, many of which stem from the presence on the fringes of boys from the nearby Wood Oak High School, notably Asad (Bodhisattva Sharma) and Veer (Aditya Raj). Of course, there is a zero-tolerance policy in the school for the pursuit of happiness and pleasure. The girls wage a constant battle to break the shackles.

The show reveals very little of the teachers at work in the classrooms but the ladies are exactly what the institution would want them to be - unyielding and unsmiling, nobody more so than the dean of academics Jeanette D'Souza (Loveleen Mishra). Drama teacher Aliya Lamba (Zoya Hussain), from the Class of 2009, is an exception - she is more a friend than an instructor.

The story incorporates a wide array of themes - class dynamics, identity, sexual orientation, feminist assertion, rebellion, love, friendship, heartbreak, peeves and rivalries - that often prove to be too much to chew on given the limited scope of Big Girls Don't Cry. But that lacuna does not take anything away from the harmless joy that the series delivers in abundance as the girls battle and clamour to be true to the school's motto - "know thyself".

The many obstacles that the girls face as they make their way through the penultimate year of high school are never life-threatening or even life-altering, but the run-ins, snafus and dead-ends that they encounter does give them the wisdom and clarity that they seek.

Big Girls Don't Cry may not be your ultimate campus drama but it has sufficient meat at its heart for it to frequently strike notes of import. The show is visually lush. The hilly setting has vistas that lend the series physical allure. It is replete with spaces that breathe - the hostel rooms, the school corridors, the basketball arena, the playground, the woods and the watering halls.

The performances keep the show on an even keel even when not much appears to be happening on the screen barring a whole lot of chatter. Pooja Bhatt lends gravitas to Big Girls Don't Cry. Zoya Hussain is perfect as the teacher who unwittingly sparks an anti-patriarchy insurrection. Mukul Chadda and Raima Sen, cast as a wealthy couple trapped in a loveless marriage, are among the others who stand out.

The younger cast members bear the burden placed on them without wilting. Afrah Sayed, playing a girl caught between her lofty aspirations and the mundane considerations of the collective good, has the meatiest role. She does full justice to it.

Avantika Vandanapu as the basketball star in danger of being eclipsed by her own desires, is a close second. That is not to say that the others - Tenzin Lhakyila, Aneet Padda and Dalai - are any less. While Big Girls Don't Cry scores with its casting, that isn't all there is to the series. Its greatest strength is that it knows itself and does not unduly overreach.


Pooja Bhatt, Zoya Hussain, Lovleen Misra, Mukul Chadda, Raima Sen, Dalai Tenzin Lhakyila, Avantika Vandanapu, Aneet Padda, Akshita Sood, Afrah Sayed, Vidushi


Nitya Mehra, Karan Kapadia, Kopal Naithani and Sudhanshu Saria