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Swara Bhasker’s Rasbhari Has A Scene With A Young Girl Dancing Suggestively. But Haven’t We All Danced To Innuendo-Filled Songs?

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I recently watched all the episodes of Rasbhari. Oh stop it, I don’t want the applause. No really. The thing is, the series has Swara Bhasker in the lead and because she’s extremely vocal about her political views and leanings, her work is dismissed by an audience largely influenced by the person she is. Her movies, series – anything she touches- are often glossed over because she has views that don’t gel well with a certain section of the audience. And that’s exactly what happened with Rasbhari. It was quickly rated badly and audiences claimed it looked like a B or C grade movie, an analogy meant to insult her work. Now, I am not saying Rasbhari is ground-breaking cinema, it’s not. But it certainly is interesting.

Swara has been known to not shy away from roles that are very sexual in nature. Her masturbation scene Veere Di Wedding got her a lot of bouquets and lot of brickbats. In Rasbhari, she plays the role of a English school teacher but one that isn’t everything she seems. A boy in her class, Nand, has a massive crush on her. But it’s not an innocent, cute schoolboy crush. This is a testosterone-laden, hormonally-charged crush that has him lusting heavily after Swara’s character. From the start this makes you uncomfortable, because it’s so sexual, it feels wrong. But the makers want you to feel that way. There’s a voyeuristic quality to it, one that makes you realise how boys that have their heads wrapped up in the concept of sex, think. And there are many scenes that make you realise how sleazy men can get, or how having a maa or behen at home means nothing to boys who think with their penis.

One scene that particularly stood out for me, was when a young Swara is asked to show off her dancing skills in front of parent’s friends and she gyrates to the song, mimicking the steps that she’s seen on loop on TV. She’s a little girl, with little or no understanding of why these moves might be sexy or suggestive. The pelvic thrusts, the skimming of the body with the fingers is done with a child-like innocence in the presence of drunk men. And this is what Prasoon Joshi recently claimed was disturbing.

While it was not comforting, and it certainly wasn’t meant to do that, it wasn’t irresponsible. A series like Rasbhari has to be seen in the context of its setting and in that time and place, it seemed natural.

Then again, let’s take a moment to consider it. Haven’t we all grown up dancing to songs whose lyrics have been filled with innuendo? I don’t know of a single desi girl who hasn’t shaken a leg to Channe ke khet mein, a song that almost entirely talks about sexual harassment. We have all danced to song, not fully comprehending the meaning. We have copied their moves, even if they were sexy (we didn’t know that!) and replicated them. Songs like sexy sexy sexy mujhe log bole made Karisma Kapoor quite the glam icon in our heads, and while we pranced around to the song, we had to no idea it was sexualising us.

For a long time, putting up a performance of singing or dancing when our parent’s friends come over was a thing. Proof that the child had some talent and wasn’t a complete waste of space. That needs to stop. Children shouldn’t be treated as unpaid performers and it certainly shouldn’t be to songs that would embarrass the adults who understand what it means.

That’s exactly what happens in Rasbhari. And instead of doing what we do with every issue, which is brush it under the carpet, we should own and stop stupid traditions instead of calling it ‘freedom of exploitation.’ Let’s call a spade, a spade, shall we?

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Mansi Shah is the resident humour writer and random conversation starter. Tends to laugh manically at puns. Deeply enjoys the blunt force of sarcasm. Preys on chauvinists and people with incorrect grammar. Hoards makeup and beauty products. Attacks Nutella with vigour.

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