Mastram: Masaledaar

Movie: Mastram

Director: Akhilesh Jaiswal

Cast: Rahul Bagga, Kapil Dubey, Tara Alisha Berry, Vinod Naharidh, Istiyak Khan, Akash Dhaiya

Rating: ***

Is this a biography or a fictional story of ‘Mastram’ writer? The answer to this question is not found in debutant Akhilesh Jaiswal’s adult-comedy “Mastram”, which gives us a glimpse into the porn (not so erotic) world of the 80s and 90s in our country through the story of a writer who hid his true identity behind his pen name Mastram. I have never read Mastram, and for those who have been its fans, the film fails to take you back to the era which was once celebrated as a coming-of-age period for several sexually deprived men.

Rahul Bagga plays Raja Ram, who hates his bank job and aspires to be a writer. He has a supportive wife who is ready to even work if needed to help her husband fulfill his writer’s dream. But it’s not easy to get your work published especially if it doesn’t have any ‘masala’ in it. Raja Ram realizes this after several visits to publishing houses. He seeks the advice of his best friend Mahesh and an elderly companion to decode the word ‘masala’ and why is it so important to be included in all stories. Thus begins the journey of Raja Ram, who turns Mastram overnight, and writes most erotic stories that are soon published and are sold like hot cakes to readers spanning all age groups. At home, his wife, family members and close friends are celebrating his success as a writer, unaware that he writes Mastram stories for a living.

If we set aside the fact whether the film does justice to the real Mastram writer or not, you realize that it addresses the fate of aspiring writers who are always forced to write something commercially viable and it doesn’t matter what they write is self-satisfactory or not. I’m sure there are hundreds of young screenwriters turned down by big studios and publishing houses because their stories lack ‘masala’ (commercial elements) in it. There are also writers who have been forced to make their stories ‘masaledaar’ to be sold and made into films. This story of Raja Ram pays tribute to hundreds of such writers who had to sell themselves short to earn a livelihood and because it’s set against the backdrop of Mastram stories, it becomes a fictional biography of the writer behind it.

The film also focuses on the plight of writers who write adult stories filled with sex. Should all such writers hide their identity and opt for a pseudonym because the society might condemn them? We are talking about the same society that bought hundreds of copy of Mastram and continues to consume erotica in any form. Director Akhilesh raises such valuable questions through some important scenes in the film, which strikes a perfect balance between sex and humour making the whole experience enjoyable.

Trying to see the film as a biographical recounting of Mastram writer may disappoint you, but it won’t when you see it as an inspiring story of a writer who was forced to write what he never aspired to write.

Sprinkled with some titillating dialogues and mildly erotic scenes, Jaiswal captures the social milieu and aspirations of small towns in our country through the eyes of a porn writer who included characters from his own life in most of his stories thus making it very realistic.

“Mastram” takes you into the salacious and secret world of soft pornography, which is on everybody’s mind, but no one would admit it. Would you dare to admit it?

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