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TV

Rasbhari (2020)

As The Swivel Chair Spins #10

Yes, blame it on the virus. 

We should have gotten the warning when there was narration from the protagonist, but we went along. 

Amazon Prime’s latest series is a Meerut-set tale of teenage troubles and libidinous louts, it is one thing to generalize based on stereotypes, but it is completely another thing to reduce the entire city of Meerut into this this village of villains who are waiting for any woman (other than their wives) to appear. 

We start with the city because the narration too begins with the city, Meerut, just like every other small town in India, the voice says, now the scope of generalisation has been extended from one small town to all small towns in India. 

Ok, playing along, let’s just say we bought this narrative. Umm let’s say it’s a bit like magical realism where the entire town goes blind(!), or let’s just say it is like all the old men from the village who come to look at the teacher in Mundhanai Mudichu. 

There’s a teacher here too, an English teacher, played by Swara Bhaskar. Teachers in Indian film join the list of maligned professions owing to the inability of our makers to put pen or pencil to paper and think about writing actual characters. Teachers are either the strict and morally upright ones who teach students a thing or two or it is the generously minded and controversially dressed lady teachers who too teach students a thing or two (umm).

Swara Bhasker plays the second type, her appearance in the class creates a flutter among high school kids and her appearance in town, as discussed above, makes the men of Meerut into wolves with tongues wagging. While all this is played for comedy, we couldn’t sit and not wonder, what item of interest would follow in the rest of the seven episodes. 

Let’s try and keep it short, just because a web series is eight episodes long doesn’t mean our write-up should be too, in the remainder of the seven episodes what was truly lacking is the contrast. Not in terms of colors in the cinematography but in the colors of the characters. 

Humor and its popular uncontrollable cousin, comedy, comes from opposites, like to use an often seen example of a really large man being afraid; so if two sides to the same character do not contain these extremes then there is very little to play around with.

While the central character of Shanu Ma’am, if we could use the phrase,leaves a lot to be desired, then the series kinda makes up with the surrounding characters of Nand, Priyanka and we wanted more about them. While none of them get any close to arc, how Nand (Ayushman Saxena) and Priyanka (Rashmi Agdekar) move from awkwardness to mutual respect is one of the best transitions we have seen in sometime. The actors too are comfortable and maybe waiting for the story to turn their way. 

But alas Rasbhari, wants us to be interested in english teacher Shanu Ma’am and her sex obessed alter ego courtesan. Which is where it gets really confusing- the point where the teacher student fantasy ends and the social commentary begins. Maybe we should just applaud the makers intention to “excite” as well as “educate” us. The fantasy too doesn’t go the whole way for it to be classified as bold, but is definitely pictured in a way to be called as vague. 

If it is this type of fantasy that you are looking for over the weekend, maybe Amazon Prime Video is not the right site. 

Nevermind. 

Rasbhari in its entirety is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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