She is aired at a time when there’s a lot of skepticism regarding Netflix content, especially from mainstream Indian entertainment industry.
Director Imtiaz Ali has also been surrounded with criticism regarding mishandling of female characters in all his recent ventures. Will then this web series – She – make any difference?
She is a recent Netflix web series, divided in seven episodes, co-written by Imtiaz Ali and Divya Johry, and directed by Arif Ali and Avinash Das.
Story of a Marathi woman constable’s struggles in patriarchal set up
The protagonist – Bhumika Pardeshi a.k.a. Bhumi (played by Aaditi Pohankar), has a broken marriage, and she solely supports her mother and sister living in a suburban one-room house.
Her life begins to change as she is picked to lead an undercover police operation against drug mafia.
While She traces the otherwise subdued Bhumi’s journey to sexual awakening and empowerment, film critics fault the storyline.
Their discomfort seems to be the objectified portrayal of a woman via male gaze, while some also criticize She for overt sexualization.
What does She deliver in 7 small episodes
She brings to audience the discomfort that Bhumi goes through every day – from being judged for her looks to puncturing her husband’s desire sorties, from being looked down for her timidity, to letting insensitive remarks and unconsolidated male gaze pierce through her body.
While reviewers, such as Quint’s RJ Stutee, complain about Bhumi’s hesitancy and easy subjugation before others, no one traces reasons for her casual submissions.
Why can’t they notice Bhumi’s sexual abuse at a younger age, which scars her entire idea of sexual pleasure?
Being undercover, Bhumi accidently feels sexually aroused for a while, which moment she gradually begins to celebrate with a sense of pride, ability and empowerment.
Amidst many inappropriate reviews, NDTV forwards the weakest of the arguments, and the least the news organization could do was avoid entertaining a male to decide for women.
NDTV’s reviewer Saibal Chatterjee should have been sensitive enough to refer to the 29-year-old independent protagonist as a ‘woman’ and not ‘girl’.
Another review by John Serba on decider.com (Stream It Or Skip It: ‘She’ on Netflix, an Indian Drama About a Female Cop Posing as a Prostitute) views Bhumi’s transition as ‘sexually aggressive’, ‘antithetical’ and ‘regressive’.
Yelling ‘yuck’ multiple times in his review, Serba only highlights the privileged position he occupies in our society.
Most reviews praise Sasya’s character (played by Vijay Varma), and even the averagely written and performed character of Jason Fernandes (played by Vishwas Kini), but they foreshadow Bhumi’s sister, Rupa (played by Shivangi Rangole) who needs appraisal for being carefree, bold and unapologetic.
What is however disappointing about the web series is that even when Bhumi holds the maximum screen presence, the audience gets to know very little about her.
In fact, every information that one learns about Bhumi throughout the series is repeated in the final two episodes only.
As Swetha Ramakrishnan points out in her Firstpost review, giving more screen time ‘in building (Bhumi’s) aptitude as an agent’ and her ‘relationship with sex and sexuality’ could have helped to elate the series from what has been otherwise reduced to an erotic thriller.
Final Word on She
Why should a woman not prefer a man who promises to not hurt her, over the ones who do? What is really so bothering about womxn making choices for themselves!
As She web series wraps, Bhumi offers herself to the elusive don, to save her life. What must not go unnoticed is the way she looks at herself in the mirror, enjoying sexual pleasure and most importantly enjoying herself. That’s She for you.