Release Date: 9th May, 2014
Cast: Rahul Bagga, Tara Alisha Berry, Akash Dahiya
Director: Akhilesh Jaiswal
Writer/s: Akhilesh Jaiswal, Gunjan Saxena
Producer/s: Ajay G Rai, Sanjeev Singh Pal
Music Director: Manan Bharadwaj
Plot: Rajaram, a bank clerk in a small town, dreams of traveling to Delhi and becoming a reputed writer. No one takes his litterateur aspirations seriously, least of all his uncle, who marries him off to the beautiful Renu. Although a simpleton, Renu wholeheartedly supports her husband’s ambition. Edged on by her encouragement, Rajaram starts stealing writing time from his humdrum work routine, and is eventually forced to leave his job, when his boss publicly humiliates him, and derides his fancy aspirations.
To his utter surprise and delight, Renu unstintingly supports his decision, and starts doing odd jobs from home, while Rajaram begins to focus completely on his writing. But, being a stay-at-home writer doesn’t go down too well with prying neighbors, who are quick to pass judgment on other peoples’ lives. Rajaram becomes a butt of all jokes in the neighborhood.
Turning a deaf ear to the all the snubs, Rajaram starts in earnest to show his work to several publishers. Each time he is rebuked. They tell him he should stick to writing text book material, and give up fanciful ideas of writing a novel.
Finally, Rajaram encounters a fledgling publisher duo – Purohit and his brother-in-law, Bharti. They agree to publish Rajaram’s story about the plight of a small town girl. However, there is one hitch. Rajaram would have to add some necessary sensational elements to his dull tale – some `masala’, as they refer to euphemistically.
Rajaram is initially miffed by this writing brief. The only meaning of `masala’ familiar to him is the kind that adds spice to food. He is not sure what it means to bring that to his writing – till he meets Chacha, an eccentric, old village Idiot. Chacha is an anomaly in the hypocritical society we live in – he is unashamed of showing Rajaram the spicier side of life and of saying it out loud. He introduces Rajaram to the salacious and secret world of soft pornography. It’s on everybody’s mind, but no one will admit it. Chacha does.
Rajaram, scandalized at first, accedes to the “compromise”, and thus starts discovering another facet of literature – erotica. He adopts the colorful pseudonym of `Mastram’ becomes the first author of the first pornographic novel seriesin the Hindi language. He churns out colorful stories about sex that his eager readers voraciously devour. Yet, Rajaram’s success still remains elusive to him, as all the glory is due to `Mastram’.
Will the “real” Mastram finally be exposed? Will Rajaram’s sudden windfall arouse suspicion in his ever-supportive wife? How will Rajaram face the hypocrisy of a society that secretly enjoys reading porn, but otherwise treats such matters with disdain?
Rating: 4/5 Stars (Four stars)
Star cast: Rahul Bagga, Tara Alisha Berry, Akash Dahiya
Director: Akhilesh Jaiswal
What’s Good: It is a risky film that arouses and amazes with its unique and unusual story. With writer’s block prevailing as a persistent problem, here’s a story that isn’t even remotely heard of.
What’s Bad: I found nothing to complain about this film. It is an original, semi-autobiographical story with every intended ingredient right in place.
Loo break: None
Watch or Not?: Mastram is a film that must definitely not be missed. It is a indulgent tale which makes for quite an unconventional watch. Requiring its audiences to remain consistently emotionally invested in the film, the narrative is alluring and fiddles with the sexual repression that is ingrained in the Indian psyche with the hypocrisy that plays an accomplice.
Rajaram is a guy with an ordinary bank job but harbors within him the aspiration to make it big as a writer. With one novel in his stride, the guy is humiliated for his initial failure. With everyone rejecting his novels due to the lack of its ‘masala’ factor, he ends up writing his ‘masala’ best by penning down erotic literature. The man strikes gold with fame coming his way in abundance but he cannot come out in open about his success due to the society’s expectations of being virtuous. The story is about Rajaram’s journey to be Mastram.
Mastram Review: Script Analysis
Set in the cozy hill station of Manali, the film is an exciting tale about a writer who is shunned for his apparently plain works and later makes a fortune out of writing erotica. The reason why the palette served in this film sounds exciting to me is because it is reflective of the Indian thinking process. The same has been established quite early in the film as the writer shows us , Raghuram ties the nuptial knot simply out of gluttony; his wife cooks great mutton. The man’s manuscripts are trampled around by publishers constantly, rejected due to the lack of the edgy, spicy factor in them. A failed author then begins his journey to write erotic books and gets them published under the pseudonym ‘Mastram’.
What catches your attention is that Mastram stands quite true for the Indian psyche. With sexual repression quite infused in our mentalities, the scene where a man compliments Mastram in one scene only to act virtuous to his oblivious wife just the next minute, is ironical, amusing and yet is the perfectly painted picture. The stories come from within the society and hence the rate at which it struck the chord with all wasn’t entirely unexpected.
The small town’s Delhi dream begins the film but as Rajaram finds his own footing in an unusual genre of writing, the story furthers into reveling in its own subtlety at unveiling the myriad layers of the Indian thinking. Not exactly rebuking it to bits, the script here dissects it without taking sides or getting preachy.
In the second half, the film shifts its focus on understanding and exploring why Mastram is such a hot. Equating it to the real scenario, one cannot deny that erotica channelizes the sexual energy and paves a let out for the sexual repression that as a society we breed. Though pornography isn’t legal in India, the country is probably one of the world’s biggest market for it for the same reason. Making a scathing commentary on the nation’s hypocritical thought process, Mastram succeeds in painting a delicious picture of something banal yet exciting.
Mastram Review: Star Performances
Rahul Bagga is a great actor. Doing justice to his character, Kapil Dubey too exhibits the right shades understanding every bit of what his role requires.
Tara Alisha too does a tremendous job and matches Dubey’s charisma with her own intrinsic charm. The supporting cast too were spectacular in their work but the real story of this film is it’s script and direction over its actors.
Mastram Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Akhilesh Jaiswal evokes a standing ovation for being able to narrate a story this challenging. It requires more guts than potential and the guy whom we remember from Gangs Of Wasseypur, tells a story about the dichotomous life of an author who strikes gold by writing about the most profane and undiscussed thing. The protagonist wins your heart with his vulnerable self and yet his bold works speak the contrary. Jaiswal creates a character which is multi faceted and uses him as a mouthpiece in commenting on many issues, hypocritical mentality and sexual repression being his prime most focus.
The screenplay is tight and has minimal loose spots, maintaining its coherence for a large part. The film’s impact increases manifolds due to its crisp editing which quite won my heart.
Mastram Review: The Last Word
Mastram brings out the Indian thinking process in its most unadulterated form, by introducing a character who would rather be a flop writer telling domesticated stories over being a successful writer writing erotica. It is not his dual life, stuck between divine and profane that forms the focus but the story’s inherent ability to convey so simply India’s most lamentable and gruesome mentality of turning a deaf ear towards: Sex. This is not for the prurient. Others must not miss it. I am giving this a 4/5.
Mastram releases on 9th May, 2014.
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