Amazon Prime has dropped its latest Swara Bhasker starrer comedy series Rasbhari on Thursday. The show is a coming-of-age story of a few high-schoolers in the small town of Meerut. The series is directed by Nikhil Nagesh Bhat and created by Tanveer Bookwala and Shantanu Srivastava. It also stars Ayushmaan Saxena and Pradhuman Singh in key roles.
Rasbhari is an ode to female sexuality, as much as it is an attempt to re-cite the importance of sex-education. The trailer promised to take its audience through the memory lane of school days. The eight-episode-show not only delivers what it promised but also does so much more. One relates immensely to the horny, sex-starved school-goers who are constantly finding new ways to fulfill their adolescent desires. They too after all, are living in the same society that tries to repress all sexual urges. On the other hand, one also yearns to go back and get a chance at learning about sex in the way Rasbhari teaches two teenagers in a bold feat of storytelling wonder.
The story is set in the small town of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. The audience sees the world through the eyes of Nand (Ayushmaan Saxena), a horny teenager. Enter Shanu Bansal (Swara Bhaskar) as the new teacher who becomes the fantasy of every boy in school, including Nand. In fact, Nand becomes so obsessed with Shanu that he goes to insane lengths to get to know her better. From paying people to stalk Shanu, to getting personally tutored so that he can spend time alone with her, Nand’s desperation knows no bounds.
Meanwhile, the town is abuzz with sexual adventures of Rasbhari (is she Shanu’s alter ego/ or her look-alike? You’ll have to watch to find out). These adventures largely include luring strange men to bed in the absence of her husband, Naveen (Pradhuman Singh). Eventually, Shanu becomes the focal point of everyone’s life in Meerut. The men want to get inside her house, while the women want her out of their town. The husbands can’t stop thinking about her, while the wives can’t stop talking about her. And stuck between this hilarious yet sensitive situation is Nand, who in his attempt to pursue Shanu, gets access to some critical information from Shanu’s past.
Rasbhari is a story that lures the audience in with the false promise of erotica. But it ends up holding a mirror to society’s double standards of stifling female sexuality. At the same time, the show also emphasizes on the importance of sex education in schools. Through the character development of Nand, it portrays the positive effect that a healthy conversation around sexual desires can have on the youth.
As a female viewer, I was initially quite upset that I had to look through the eyes of a male teenager who’d easily pass as a member of another bois locker room. The minds of 17-year-old boys is not a pretty place to be. Especially if those boys have grown up in the pathological space of a typical Indian household that proudly promotes misogyny. But what we usually forget, I know I myself did while starting the show, is that these young boys are not the problem. They are merely symptoms of a larger disease that has gripped our society for ages. It took eight episodes, impeccably well-written character developments and an enormously talented bunch of actors representing those characters, for me to come to this realization.
Bhasker’s Shanu/Rasbhari is a commentary on the inherently lustful human nature. Her character is also a critique of the Indian society’s hypocritical attempts at trying to suppress it. Men in Meerut are given all the freedom to be licentious. But when it comes to women, the audience is provided with glimpses of the moralistic judgment attached to female sexuality. An example would be the way in which the wives constantly blame “the other woman” (Shanu) for their husbands’ debauchery.
Female sexuality is radically explored through the show, although the second part of the show does fail to set any revolutionary benchmark. The writers attempt to justify Rasbhari’s overt sexuality, and that is where the show gets entangled in the same patriarchal web it was initially trying to break out of. Bhoot (Ghost) and mental illness are cited as reasons for her sensual behaviour. Female sexuality in the show, like in the patriarchal society, does not eventually get the space to exist independently on its own. The show raises some critical questions on the subject. But near the end, it almost felt like the creators believed that the audience needed sympathetic reasons to digest Rasbhari’s unapologetic sexuality. And this move, to be very honest, came off as slightly disappointing.
Having said that, Rasbhari is still a must-watch for all the TV-addicts out there. It is guaranteed to give many laughs with its playful storytelling, as well as some significant food for thought.
Picture Credit: YouTube screenshot
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.