Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mumbai Film Fest Review: Mastram

Cast: Rahul Bagga, Tara Berry

Director: Akhilesh Jaiswal

The film starts into a late night scene, reminding you of Udaan (2010), in a boys’ hostel room. One boy is reading Hindi porn magazine aloud while rest are masturbating to it in their bed. In next scene, we learn that it is ‘80s of Manali, much before the Internet-DVD age. That explains why a new sex magazine in a small town market there would be such a huge hit among men of all ages (one sexagenarian refers to it as ‘history’ book, saying it is his history). The regular author of that magazine is someone who goes by the name- Mastram.

Akhilesh Jaiswal (co-writer, Gangs Of Wasseypur) sets his story and characters in the microcosm of Manali with a persistent Delhi-dream infused in them. Raghuram is a struggling writer who gets married only because the girl cooks delicious mutton and she would do her sewa; gives up his job at bank because his boss “insults” his writing; and dreams of becoming a full-time writer in Delhi. He has already failed as a published author of his first novel “Mann Ki Vilochna” (The Contemplative Heart). After being asked to add some “spice” in his stories by a publisher, he sets on to write some really spicy ones under the pseudonym Mastram. 

His spicy sex stories never came out of any sexual frustration or so. He is a very shy man… he was reluctant of the idea of having sex on his first night of marriage. He derives ideas of those stories from his surroundings… the one about a girl buying salt from a grocery store and getting an unexpected lollypop in return, is a woot. The amount of subtlety in the lines from those stories with perfectly calculated verbosity thrown in them leaves you amused, aroused and amazed, all at once. In any case, you shouldn’t be laughing at it. That would just make the irony in this film come alive. 

As soon as Mastram gets popular, we see a lit-geek criticizing it for being a rage among the youth as he fears literature as an art is disrespected and will be neglected. Mastram only gave society a medium to ejaculate its sexual repressiveness. That’s the reason why it was such a huge hit. That’s the reason why porn exists in the world. 

Mastram was openly circulated and distributed at local stalls but was not very openly discussed. You would be looked down as a pervert if you confess that you enjoy Mastram, but the one to whom you just confessed has already read more issues of it than you did. This, yes, this makes our society even more sexually repressed and a bunch of hypocrites.

We meet one such character too, whose wife thinks he hates such “vulgar” magazines but only few scenes earlier, he had unknowingly confessed his love to them to the author himself.  This hypocrisy is the reason why our Raghuram had to write this magazine under a pseudonym rather than his original name, because he has a “respectable” family and friend circle who think he writes novels like, um, Mann Ki Vilochna.

He was happy to see his work getting published at least. That was enough for him to continue his work, as he was getting richly paid too. He buys his wife new saarees, a second hand scooter for himself with his new income from his successful publications. But he can’t openly celebrate his success. He has started living two lives, their dilemmas, and conflicts of both, both of writers… one failed, another a star. Ironically, he is a star by writing what no one talks about: Sex.


Aaftaab said...

Nice article!
It's "Mann Ki Vilochna" not "Vedna"
(NO offence) :)

Anup Pandey said...

Hi Aaftaab,

Correction made. Thanks. :)

CA. Vivek Agarwal said...


Love. Cheers.