Cast: Aditi Pohankar, Vijay Varma, Vishwas Kini, Dhruv ThukralDirectors: Arif Ali, Avinash Das
It’s better to not judge Netflix’s new Hindi web series She immediately. It’s layered and may not hold the same meaning on second watch. There’s also the possibility of all this being a futile exercise and it actually being a superficial show.
Showrunner Imtiaz Ali’s India original has a chawl-dweller female cop Bhumika Pardeshi (Aditi Pohankar) at the helm of affairs. One day, a crime branch officer Jason Fernandez (Vishwas Kini) spots her and decides to induct her into an undercover operation.
As part of the planning, she gets dressed as a sex worker and roams in and around Mumbai bylanes in the hope of catching a big fish. Vijay Varma’s Sasya turns out to be the first to take bait, but the directors—Arif Ali and Avinash Das—decide to give it a twist right there.
Bhumika, whose husband keeps complaining of her not being sexually proactive, finds a new side of her persona during the encounter with Sasya, and there onwards, decides to weaponise her sexuality to survive in the job and life.
The show gives the impression that a woman’s body could also work as the chain to control the developments around her. We keep meeting saliva-dropping brothers-in-law and philandering boyfriends, but none with much writing backup. At certain points, everything begins to look really surreal, making you wonder whatever happened to the docile girl scared of the world.
This could also be a way of assessing the lead woman’s character transition, but all this happens in such a way that you get worried about the tangential drift of the plot. Credit goes to Pohankar for never leaving the basic traits attached to her character which somehow keep us in the knowhow of the undercover cop’s story.
There is also the pretense of being a thriller as characters keep emerging out of the gloom. Here, Vijay Varma arrives in style and then slowly becomes a victim of the nonchalance on the creators’ part. They set up a premise and leave it to sloppy writing and mostly disjointed plot points.
There are scenes that hint towards She being very indulgent, as if Ali and his fellows are hell bent on making it about a ‘different kind of ordinary woman.’ You know, the kind who can be a femme fatale in a ‘salwaar-kameez.’ We have seen different versions of such females in films and shows, where they are sometimes seen coming from a rural or semi-urban background with big Bollywood dreams but ending up in B-grade films.
Pohankar’s Bumika, in a way, is the urban-poor version of the same. She finds her mojo in her sexuality and wages a war on men with absolutely no sense of civility.
In fact, the show appears more nuanced when Bumika gets scenes with her sister and mother. There’s a certain feel of comfort during such interactions.
But whatever smoothness is achieved through such communications gets lost in the very next one as we see Bhumika indulging in strange conversations with beggars, homeless and undercover officers.
She mostly suffers from the wrong idea of an empowered woman, but there is this thing: Nobody in the show takes Bhumika for more than her face value, which means she is not the usual girl with new ideas and strong notion of self but an ordinary woman looking out for a better life. If this is the case then the makers might have a justification for her actions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well on screen and remains a mystery.
The first season of She fails to impress much.
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