ASK THE SEX­PERT

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - SCREEN REVIEWS - Di­rec­tor: Vaishali Sinha { Coast to Coast Films }

Ask the Sex­pert is a fas­ci­nat­ing por­trait of Mahin­der Watsa, a 91-year-old for­mer gy­ne­col­o­gist who writes the “Ask the Sex­pert” col­umn for the Mum­bai Mir­ror. From the start, we learn that In­dia’s Dr. Ruth is a beloved fig­ure in his con­ser­va­tive coun­try, but ab­sti­nence ac­tivist Prat­i­bha Naithani is tak­ing him to court to “pre­serve the nation’s moral­ity.” She be­lieves his col­umn is akin to pornog­ra­phy and “de­bases” In­dian so­ci­ety.

Many con­ser­va­tives be­lieve a moral line has been crossed when chil­dren can read a col­umn that dis­cusses ev­ery­thing from mas­tur­ba­tion to golden show­ers.

In­dian Amer­i­can di­rec­tor Vaishali Sinha qui­etly shines a spot­light on the wider so­ci­etal forces that this tough-as-nails nona­ge­nar­ian is up against. Sex and sex­u­al­ity are not dis­cussed openly in In­dia; even ba­sic sex ed­u­ca­tion is banned from most class­rooms, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas. While film­ing Watsa at a panel dis­cus­sion, Sinha’s cam­era notes a sign that reads “53 [per­cent] of In­dian chil­dren un­der 12 years old have ex­pe­ri­enced sexual abuse.” That’s the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try’s youth pop­u­la­tion.

Although Watsa does not of­ten ad­dress In­dia’s sexual-vi­o­lence prob­lem in his col­umn, he be­lieves that bring­ing hu­man sex­u­al­ity out into the open makes so­ci­eties bet­ter. Still, Sinha doesn’t delve deeper into the cul­ture of In­dia. How did In­dia end up with such a heinous pa­tri­archy—one in which chil­dren marry adults and rape vic­tims are blamed for their per­pe­tra­tors’ crimes?

Watsa is cer­tainly the star of the movie, spend­ing hours an­swer­ing emailed ques­tions by dic­tat­ing his wry re­sponses to his young as­sis­tant. He ap­pears at con­fer­ences sur­rounded by stylish twen­tysome­things and poses for self­ies with his mostly fe­male ad­mir­ers. He also pri­vately coun­sels the dis­traught mar­ried folks who of­ten show up at his doorstep unan­nounced, to the cha­grin of wor­ried fam­ily mem­bers. We hear from one gay ac­tivist who re­calls how Watsa once sup­ported him, but it would have been fas­ci­nat­ing to hear from the doc­tor him­self. Un­for­tu­nately, his views on ho­mo­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships are never dis­cussed in the film.

Both Watsa and his liti­gious neme­sis de­scribe them­selves as “drops in the ocean of change.” As the Mum­bai Mir­ror’s ed­i­tor in chief Meenal Baghel says, “Ob­scen­ity, like beauty, lies in the eye of the be­holder.” Which way the sexual tide will turn in a coun­try of

1.2 bil­lion is any­one’s guess.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.