BOTTOM LINE: Muddled Thriller Focusing on Repressed Sexuality
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Crime|
What Is the Story About?
Bhumika, an introvert constable, low on self-confidence, has just come out of an abusive marriage. She’s the only earning member in a family comprising her younger sister and an ailing mother. One among Bhumi’s many priorities is to prove her worth in her profession, which is largely a male bastion. Despite initial reluctance from superiors, Bhumi lands an opportunity to headline an anti-narcotics operation, where she is to honeytrap a drug baron Sasya and his boss Nayak. Where will the operation lead her to? Will it be an excuse to discover her dormant sexuality?
She, thanks to the efforts of its casting director Mukesh Chabbra, unearths a promising lineup of newcomers. Aditi Pohankar is a wonderful find to play a challenging role where she has to constantly confront her inner demons – she gives a voice to several women who’re slut-shamed in their profession daily and are taken for granted for the many sacrifices they make to make ends meet. Vijay Varma finds his feet yet again in a role that takes him back to his Hyderabadi roots – his underplayed villainy and near perfection diction lend authenticity to his portrayal. South-Indian actor Vishnu, though arriving a little late into the show, proves yet again why he deserves more appreciation for his craft – he’s so assured, comfortable while playing the role, so much that the sophistication and the aura in his villainy feel effortless. Vishwas Kini gets an interesting role while being an anchor to the protagonist’s progress in the operation and being insecure about her growing individuality later. Most supporting actors are well cast for their roles – many of their identities are subtly revealed through their looks and varied body language.
‘She’ is a premise that warrants your interest for its famed writer Imtiaz Ali. However, it’s a un-Imtiaz-ish story where the auteur tries hard to remove himself from the ‘self-discovery’ template (though it reflects in another form) and strives hard to alienate the show from many commercial liberties that surface in his movies. There’s nothing mushy about this. It’s an arresting premise whose world is seen through the lens of an ambitious woman in a profession where bravura is associated with masculinity.
The protagonist isn’t your average on-screen dominant woman constable. One of her colleagues even goes onto say that there’s nothing even remotely womanly about her. It’s as if she’s forgotten to be a woman who has an identity of her own, with likes and dislikes unique to her. The operation offers her a chance to tap into her seductive side and be appreciated for the same. But the show struggles to balance its contrasting subplots surrounding sexual discovery and an undercover operation. The worlds don’t appear to have a meeting ground, though the makers Arif Ali and Avinash Das force you to buy the union.
The tale isn’t sensitive about taking note of a woman’s discomfort in an operation where she’s in the disguise of a prostitute, even if it is happening under the supervision of her seniors. The men constantly blame and question Bhumi for her inability to bring the notorious men under her control – realising little about her internal horrors and unpredictability in the behaviour of the men around her. The threads are too many to take stock of – from the idea of beauty to child abuse to a sexually inactive marriage to a troubled relationship with her sister and professional confrontations. It tries to address too many concerns and fails to be concrete and holistic in dealing with any of them in the process.
Though short-lived, the conversations between Bhumi and the druglord Nayak in the later episodes are heartfelt and allow the show to redeem itself amid all the chaos. Yet, ‘She’ lacks the sharpness of a slick thriller or the emotional depth of a drama (about discovering one’s sexuality) – the blend of characters, their universes and the tacky treatment don’t leave you comfortable. ‘She’ is emotionally exhausting and muddled at the same time. It’s a show that asks several relevant questions about femininity and challenges the idea of beauty, but its heart isn’t in the right place.
Music and Other Departments?
Sound designer Sampath Alwar and composer Gaurang Soni unite to create an intriguing, haunting soundscape that adds value to the (inconsistent) edginess in the proceedings. The title song composer Ishaan Chabbra sets the tone for the show with a hazy yet effective number, offering the gist of the story crisply. The cinematographer Amit Roy paints a lingering portrait of Mumbai and its notorious nightlife. Imtiaz Ali and Pooja Johry as writers deal with a gamut of issues in the story, but the layers don’t come through in the storytelling. Perhaps, the editor Manish Jaitly could have worked harder towards making the narrative more organic and cohesive.
Performances of the cast
Indulgence in the writing
Absence of finesse and sensitivity in the storytelling
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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