5 Thoughts I Had About Paurashpur Trailer: Peddling Soft Porn In The Guise Of Feminism Isn’t Cool
I remember this old interview that Ekta Kapoor did, where she said that the younger Indian audience will lap up American movies and shows that show the supernatural (The Vampire Diaries) or sex and violence (like Game of Thrones), but when Indian shows attempt to do it, they will criticise and mock it. For a second there, when I saw the Paurashpur teaser for ALTBalaji and Zee5, which seems to attempt a very GOT-esque take on gender politics, I stopped and checked by snobbery. Was I dismissing it because I was biased? And then, after watching more of it in the trailer, I am sure. It’s not me, it’s you, Paurashpur. The period drama stars Annu Kapoor, Milind Soman, Shilpa Shinde, Poulomi Das, Sahil Salathia, Shaheer Sheikh and Flora Saini.
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I won’t deny, the scale looks grand. And the cast is all of primetime Indian television’s favourites. If you were to go to the comments section, fans are losing their mind over Shilpa Shinde’s Cersei act, and the very short but impactful cameo by Shaheer Sheikh. Especially the final dialogue that he delivers in the promos, ominously threatening to bring about the end of Paurashpur kingdom as we know it, that seems to have hit a chord with the fans.
But for me to get to that point, I had to see the entire trailer, which is not much different from the teaser. And can I just say, both feel sleazy AF. For all the proclamations it makes about flipping gender politics in the fictional kingdom, it seems to be using sex and violence for the shock factor more than to advance the plot or make a point.
Here are five thoughts I had while I managed to watch the Paurashpur trailer. You also watch it once, because why should I suffer alone.
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1. Nope. Sorry. My brain cannot process Annu Kapoor like this. NOPE.
Okay, so for the 90s kid, Anu Kapoor is the host of Antakshari. He is Mr. Gaitonde, newspaper editor and Seema’s boss who keeps getting those annoying wrong number calls and is shit scared by Mr. India. And he is the guy who DJs our parents and grandparents’ mehfils every evening with his ‘Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor’ wala old songs programme on radio and TV. The man has excellent comic timing and is a brilliant actor. And sure, I’ve seen him in movies like Vicky Donor, Chameli Ki Shaadi, etc. where he’s played characters that might say/do scandalous things. But my brain cannot process him in this role of a psychotic, lust-driven, rapist king.
Like, it just can’t. Sorry, Annu Kapoor. I love you, and have too much respect for you and your art. But humse na ho payega.
2. So this show is making a point about gender equality. Toh where are men’s naked bodies, pray tell?
Not that I want to see more sleazy stuff here, I think I have seen enough. But as you can tell from the dialogues and the, erm, visuals, the show is about an oppressive, sex maniac king who kills off queens that don’t satisfy his deviant urges (Geoffrey? or Ramsay?). There’s a main queen (Cersei?), who lusts but for power, and so she allows the king to probably carry on with this crap, and finds new women he can turn into his playthings. I have a feeling that his newest queen is going to have a boyfriend who wants to save her from the evil king’s clutches, and then there’s love story + Game of Thrones kinda politix that’ll play out.
The ultimate point of this whole thing is that the women of Paurashpur are going to rise up against the men of the kingdom who use women, abuse them, and treat them like objects. But if this is a show about empowerment at its core, and gender equality, toh where are the men’s naked bodies? Women’s bodies are on display every few seconds, so then why don’t we see the men in similar, compromising positions?
3. Wait, I know why. Is this soft porn and violence porn, just for the heck of it?
There’s a very thin line between showing sex and violence as actual instruments to further the plot or add some gravitas to the moment and using them as soft porn or violence porn for shock value. And the Paurashpur trailer makes me think the latter is more likely the case. The trailer is full of just titillating intimate scenes that are violent and make you want to look away or clench your teach in cringe. Actual story kidhar hai?
4. Milind Soman looks great in this avatar. But once again, the question arises. Why not cast trans actors in trans roles?
Milind Soman is BAE. When he posted a sneak peek of his look as Boris from the show, the day after Laxmii dropped, everyone wondered what it was about. And now that we know, it begs the question again, why don’t we have trans actors playing trans characters? Again, is this done for the shock value?
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5. Why does everything look more sleazy than it needs to?
Hmmm…. And this is where I am going to revert to Ekta Kapoor’s remark about the younger generation being snobbish about Indian content when it tries to be bold. I’m not going to compare the production scale or the costumes or whatever here. I’m just going to ask you to look at things like camera angles, the colour palettes used, the dialogues, and the moments that points in the story where sex and violence were being used as plot devices. Look at it from an objective perspective and you’ll see how the show makes it all look sleazy when there is no need for it to be.
I mean, look at movies like Call Me By Your Name with its peach scene. Or pick up the episode of Outlander, where Claire and Jamie get married. They’re practically strangers. They don’t even know each others full names. But the sex, the way it is written, approached, and shot… you’ll get a whole new lesson in gender equality if you watch Outlander’s sex scenes!
So sorry, ALTBalaji and Paurashpur, you can sell it, but I am not easily buying it.
Paurashpur releases on ALTBalaji on December 29, 2020.