Rasbhari – A Small Town Story with Big Aspirations of Questioning the Taboos
Watch Rasbhari if you are open and unbiased. Either you will feel it is a a touche topic dealt with because of the sensual angle to a teacher. Or, you will feel sick about how we go about things in our daily life – without ever thinking about it. It isn’t a sensual web series. If you are in for that, you will be disappointed.RG’s Blog’s Take on Rasbhari!
It took me a couple of days (rather more) to attempt to write this feature (I’m not calling it a Rasbhari review – except for the SEO part). I have been lost trying to make sense of the climax, and was it a really simple story that was turned complex or it was a complex story that was simplified? Either ways, there are some of the issues that have been tackled, while some of the issues have been left unresolved. I won’t give out spoilers, and hence you can only speculate – or watch for yourself.
Then I look for other reviews for solutions. But they only offer something that is not really asked. And the IMDB shows how much Swara Bhaskar (also read- Swara Bhaskar: Heroes of Today) (I read Bhasker in titles if I remember) has irked a type of people. But what kind of questions does the web series start? Why is nobody talking about it?
Meerut is one of the small but loud towns in the Norther Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. One of the best stories to come out of the city was ‘Jolly LLB’ starring Arshad Warsi, Amrita Rao, Boman Irani and Saurabh Shukla. This one is a slightly less loud tale, because the topics it addresses are slightly below the belt. Meerut feels the heat when a new hot English Teacher joins the school. Shanu Bansal is a devoted teacher and a loving wife to Naveen. She holds a dark secret inside her, she has a split personality disorder and her other side is Rasbhari – possibly a ghost of a Mughal era prostitute from Lucknow. Nand Kishor Tyagi, the protagonist, finds Shanu Madam attractive because she seems easy to get, owing to the news of her adventures. But Nand isn’t alone. Apparently all of Meerut’s men are after Shanoo Madam. And the women are after Shanoo Madam too, to protect their men. There’s Priyanka, Nand’s rakhi-sister turned friend, who has more on her mind. And then, everything is a witch-hunt.
Coming back to the questions it sparks. Firstly, I didn’t see anything that was closely related to feminism. Yeah, loose talks on equal rights (or rather some rights -equal rights in UP might be going too far). The main conversation remains about how deeply embedded patriarchy is in our society. The scene where a woman is getting beaten for an affair – despite her being single and the man being married (and his wife leading the assault) sum up our society by and large. Men are never wrong. The women are always wrong.
The more important question, something that has hitting my mind from a few months, but exemplified further, is that women have been the primary carriers of patriarchy. They protect the men. They are okay with their disloyalty. But women need to be loyal. It is in their nature. And here, they are running behind a woman, aiming to drag her out of the city, merely on suspicions that their men may be after her. I’ve not seen a truer reflection of how patriarchy runs than in this witch-hunt.
Another conversation, the mental health and diseases, and how lightly they are taken. Baba and tantrik and ghost-busters are called more often than doctors – even in supposedly educated sections. Although I would like to believe this doesn’t exist, but we all know the truth.
As a budding filmmaker, my mind turned towards the implications of gray shade to the character that is portrayed as mentally unwell. But isn’t that all a mental game? I would struggle to bring it in this way.
About the web-series in general, it will make you sick to the bones at some point. And that is, in essence, it’s victory. How gossips and rumors spoil lives – we know that, don’t we? Aren’t we a part of spreading that ourselves? It will also keep you delighted at many times because of the matter-of-fact tone and dialog.
The writing and direction are both almost on-point. I’m still not sure of the climax. I’m hoping it isn’t what I’m thinking, but that’s for another day. Somehow I love the song ‘Rasbhari’ and the idea there is, of a seductress. I’ve been fascinated while reading about the role of the courtesans, and how some of them had more respect than women in some parts of the country.
The performances – where to really start? Okay, Swara Bhaskar it is. The woman who continues to amaze. I’ve already written about her. And I’m sure this isn’t the last time, but Swara, you are one heck of a actress. Although in Rasbhari, at times Swara’s performance felt like it dipped, but when I connect it with the climax, it makes sense. She has these two personalities to take care of, and she does it. Rasbhari is cheesy, while Shanoo is sharp. Neelu Kohli is one of the actresses I’ve seen in so many roles, and she does this so effortlessly, as the leader of the kitty-gang, and mother of Nand, wife of Tyagi – both the men somehow in touch with Rasbhari (especially in her mind).
Rashmi Agdekar is a breath of fresh air. An uninhibited performer. I’ve seen DevDD and I loved it, especially Chandni. And here, she is a show stopper, whenever she is on screen (imagine me writing that about another female while the main lead happens to be Swara, she is that good). Ayushmaan Saxena as Nand Kishore Tyagi is a revelation. I’m sure he is from Meerut itself. There’s no other way someone can be so natural. He is also effortlessly humorous. Overall, the entire ensemble cast is brilliant.
Rasbhari is about Meerut, and the locations, the accents, the language – everything has been presented in the same way. Even the educated people’s English has an accent (for example, Swara’s English is much smoother, but here she has the famous thick Indian accent). Everything seems to be well-thought.
Watch Rasbhari if you are open and unbiased. Either you will feel it is a a touche topic dealt with because of the sensual angle to a teacher. Or, you will feel sick about how we go about things in our daily life – without ever thinking about it. It isn’t a sensual web series. If you are in for that, you will be disappointed.