Rasbhari

Actors: Swara Bhaskar, Ayushmaan Saxena, Rashmi Agdekar, Neelu Kholi

Director: Nikhil Bhat

Rating: ***

Since its release on Amazon Prime, Rasbhari has been the subject of fierce debate in the Indian media. Best described as a desi mix of cult sex comedies, American Pie and Sex Education, the web series deals with the provocative subjects of teen sexuality and female empowerment in contemporary India. It’s ripe for controversy.

Written by Shantanu Srivastava, also known for penning the 2018 surprise Bollywood hit, Badhaai Ho, Rasbhari is set in Meerut where the action focuses on sex-starved teenager Nand Kishore (the naturally gifted Ayushmaan Saxena). Hell bent on loosing his virginity before graduating high school, Nand is popular amongst the female students but somehow gets the reputation of treating them like sisters.

His luck with the opposite sex takes an interesting turn when new English teacher, Shanoo Bansal (the perfectly cast Swara Bhaskar) enters his life. Every man’s fantasy, it’s not long before stories of his tutor’s ‘easiness’ do the rounds within the school grounds and around town. 

Inevitably sleeping with Shanoo becomes the ultimate goal for everyone around her, much to frustration of the wives and girlfriends of the men folk of Meerut.  The fact that Shanoo is a married woman is particularly problematic to them. Instead of admonishing the roving eyes of their own partners, they choose to bring the axe down on that ‘other woman’. But not everything is as it seems…  

What starts off as a straightforward crass comedy slowly develops into something more significant; thanks to a clever plot twist and deft handling by director Nikhil Bhat. Delving head first into tricky subject matters, like female sensuality and consent, Bhat manages to place a microscope over topical issues that are increasingly relevant in modern day urban India. 

Making a statement about the nature of lust, sisterhood and how women can sometimes be their own worse enemy, Rasbhari is daring if nothing else. Painting the key female protagonists as villains, is a bold move. While not an easy watch at first, if you get past the first of the seven episodes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Jaspreet P. Bajaj

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