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‘Rasbhari’ Review: Well intended but half baked

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Swara-Bhaskar

“Rasbhari” (series streaming on Amazon Prime); Cast: Swara Bhasker, Ayushmaan Saxena, Neelu Kohli; Direction: Nikhil Bhat; Rating: * * and 1/2 (two and a half stars)

By Vinayak Chakravorty

“Rasbhari” tries to be erotic and edifying at the same time. The idea is to set up a quirky, coming-of-age drama in smalltown India buoyed by sexual fantasy. Layered within is a subtext that teases with the paranormal, in a bid to leave a broader comment on the societal urge to scuttle a woman’s sexuality.

Nikhil Bhat’s series spreads its dual idea over eight episodes. You have Swara Bhasker as the sizzling English teacher Shanu, who arrives in smalltown Meerut with her husband and right away conquers all the male hearts, sending boys and men alike on a trip of fantasy.

Among Shanu’s besotted brigade is Nand Kishore (Ayushmaan Saxena) whose big dream — no surprises — is to lose his virginity before he finishes high school. The problem is Nand seems to develop brotherly vibes with almost all the girls he knows, and that includes the odd one who makes her advances quite apparent to him. Shanu’s arrival changes his life. Suddenly, Nand falls head over heels for the English teacher.

Shantanu Shrivatava’s writing adds a spin to the narrative here. As Nand is drawn to Shanu’s allure and even signs up for private tuitions to get close to her, he begins to hear unpalatable things about her. He learns that Shanu has been making out with many of the guys about town. As the town’s women prepare to lead a charge against Shanu for snatching their husbands, the mention keeps coming up of Rasbhari, the teacher’s alter ego who, we are told is the spirit of a courtesan.

Is Rasbhari to blame for the sexual trangressions that Shanu is blamed for? Or is she merely an imagination figment to let Nand protect his beautiful perception of Shanu?

Or, Rasbhari is perhaps a metaphor of Shanu’s liberated sexuality, something that smalltown societal norms do not condone in a woman.

“Rasbhari” obviously set out to craft a strong statement, but the narrative struggles to put across its point. Writing erotica for the screen can be tricky business, and one would really have to strain one’s imagination to think of sexually-loaded content in Indian mainstream that has assuredly put across its point (a recent commendable example would perhaps be “Lust Stories”). “Rasbhari” tries to come across as a layered allegory but the storytelling doesn’t always come up with the right nuances to support the notion.

The fact does not help either that the actual story takes time to start. The series of eight episodes tests your patience over nearly half of its runtime before the story really starts warming up.

This is Swara Bhasker’s show and if you can overlook a wardrobe that seems randomly borrowed from what Sushmita Sen wore in “Main Hoon Na”, she manages to make sufficient impact in an authorbacked role.

Interestingly, this is the second time after “Anaarkali Of Aarah” that Swara plays a smalltown temptress in a film that highlights double standards when it comes to gauging female sexuality. However, while that film stayed true to a singular intent and impressively put across its point, ‘Rasbhari” gets its purpose muddled somewhere down the line, as it tries playing out its episodes.

The series obviously has an intent. It falls short in execution.

Bollywood

Superstar Salman Khan dedicates his latest Insta post to farmers

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Superstar Salman Khan on Tuesday paid respect to all farmers.

On Instagram, Salman has posted a picture that shows him coated in mud.

“Respect to all the farmers,” he captioned the image.

A day ago, Salman, who is currently spending time at his farm in Lonavla, had posted a picture to hail the efforts of farmers.

“Daane daane pe likha hota hai khane wale Ka naam… jai jawan ! jai kissan,” he wrote alongside an image in which Salman is seen surrounded by greenery.

On the film front, Salman will next be seen in “Radhe”, which marks his return with director Prabhudheva after the 2009 film “Wanted” and last year’s “Dabangg 3”.

During the lockdown, Salman has been busy showcasing his singing skills. He released three singles — “Pyaar karona”, “Tere bina”, and “Bhai bhai”.

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Producer Ekta Kapoor to Sushant: We’ll make a wish when we see a shooting star and know it’s you

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Ekta Kapoor bids adieu to Sushant: ‘Odd different genius bon voyage’.

Ekta Kapoor shared an emotional note for late actor Sushant Singh Rajput on Tuesday. Sushant passed away here on June 14, exactly a month ago.

On Tuesday, Ekta shared a few throwback photographs clicked with the late actor on Instagram.

“Rest In Peace sushi!! We will smile and make a wish when we see a shooting star and know it’s u!! Love u forever!!” wrote the producer.

Ekta had launched Sushant as an actor in the Balaji daily soap “Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil”. He later became popular as Manav Deshmukh in another Balaji soap, “Pavitra Rishta”, before foraying into Bollywood.

Sushant’s last Bollywood film “Dil Bechara” is slated to release on an OTT platform on July 24.

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Bollywood

Former Miss World Manushi Chhillar: Painting helps me calm my mind

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Actress and former Miss World Manushi Chhillar has revealed that painting has been one of the earliest passions in her life.

Manushi took to Instagram and shared a few of her paintings.

“I started painting since before I can remember. I have been painting since my childhood days. In fact, I think I was painting much before I started reading,” Manushi said.

For Manushi, painting has always been a therapeutic experience.

“Being someone who has always been shy, I feel like I express myself best through art, especially fine art. It kind of always keeps me centered. It makes me feel much better whenever I feel low or am confused in life. I paint because that somehow helps me channel my creativity in a way which calms my mind and makes me feel more neutral,” she said.

Manushi added that painting has always been this one space where she can “explore” her “mind and its creativity”.

“I think I am my best self when I am painting,” the actress, who made India proud by winning the Miss World crown 17 years after Priyanka Chopra bagged it.

Manushi is a big fan of the iconic painter Raja Ravi Verma, whose paintings are considered priceless today.

She said: “I think his portraits are some of the best. The way he uses oil paint and the textures are quite realistic, like they are photographed. He truly brings out the beauty of a woman in his paintings. I feel he is at his next level.”

On the work front, Manushi is all set to make her Bollywood debut opposite superstar Akshay Kumar in the upcoming film “Prithviraj”.

Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, “Prithviraj” is based on the life of king Prithviraj Chauhan. It stars Akshay as Prithviraj, while Manushi will play the role of the Sanyogita, the love of his life.

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