Wistful look at a porn-writer's life

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Film: Mastram

Starring: Rahul Bagga, Tara Alisha

Director: Akhilesh Jaiswal

Rating: ***

Unzip those inhibitions, will ya?
If in Mastram, you expect a Boogie Nights kind of all-encompassing panoramic peek-a-boo at the porn industry, then you are in for an anti-climax. Mastram chronicling the life-story of a man who would be kink(y), is a sad, glum, wistful look at the life of a litterateur who was persuaded to give porn a chance, just to make ends meet.
Director Akhilesh Jaiswal lets the porn writer Rajaram, aka Mastram, played by Rahul Bagga, grow within the space where sex is a synonym for survival. He must write dirty books to make a living. In Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, the poet Vijay faced the same dilemma. Write pulp, or perish, he was told. Vijay preferred to perish.
Rajaram is a product of consumerist culture. With creditors knocking down his door, he chooses a life without debt. For those expecting to see the rise and fall of a generation fed on porn, Mastram is not your cup of tea. It never goes into the author’s libidinous craft. It stays in his mind, probes and punctuates the protagonist’s perverse practice dispassionately.
There is a pronounced absence of frenzied excitement in the narrative. We feel the pain beneath the porn. Director Jaiswal tears at the layers of titillation and touches upon the pain and loneliness of an artiste compelled to sell sex when all he wants is to write literary works.
Rahul Bagga plays Mastram with an air of boyish curiosity and impassive mystery. We never know what he is thinking, maybe because he isn’t thinking much. Could this man be faking his enthusiasm for erotica? We never touch the man’s soul but feel its presence in his life and specially in his bond with his wife, played with understated grace by Tara Alisha.
SUBHASH K. JHA