Mumbai, 07 Mar 2020 7:30 IST
Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal is a commentary on the double standards about sex in Indian society. It is also the personal tale of a young man struggling with his sexual desires.
India gave the world Kamasutra, a book that defines the divinity of sex as a creative force of nature. But now, even in the 21st century, Indians consider sex and sexual desire taboo subjects. Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal tries to expose this double standard of our society.
The 21-year-old Aatish (Abhay Mahajan) is a big fan of the fictional sex symbol, Savita Bhabhi. He has a collection of her pornographic comics. One day his father finds the collection and throws Aatish out of the house. With nowhere to go, he ends up staying with friends at a construction site owned by PV (Virat Madake), son of a local politician.
Aatish, who is under the influence of drugs throughout the day, starts hallucinating about Savita Bhabhi (Sai Tamhankar). One day he suggests that the group should invite Savita Bhabhi to be the chief guest at their Dahi Handi celebration. But how will he bring the fictional character into reality?
Aatish also has a crush on his friend Sana (Parna Pethe), but his uncontrollable sexual desires cause a rift in their friendship, which complicates things further for him.
Abhay Mahajan has been cast perfectly in the role of Aatish. It was essential that despite the character's many questionable decisions and some downright despicable actions, the audience should not despise Aatish. For that, the film needed an innocent face and Mahajan fits the description to the T.
But that's just half the job done; the rest is accomplished by Mahajan's brilliant performance. He perfectly expresses Aatish's sexual frustration. The actor has also done a good job of imitating the behaviour of drug users, including the change in body language that is brought about by the addiction.
Mahajan's performance is matched by Parna Pethe. Though she does not get much screen time, her performance makes a longlasting impact. Ruturaj Shinde, Akshay Tanksale and Virat Madake have also done well as Aatish's friends. Madake's earnest performance is especially impressive.
Sai Tamhankar makes a guest appearance as Savita Bhabhi. Though her act did not need a lot of effort, especially for someone as talented as Tamhankar, she still deserves mention for walking the fine line between being sensuous and sexy and not making the act look sleazy.
Despite such a talented cast and the innovative concept, Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal fails to leave the desired impact on the viewer and a large part of the blame for that lies at the door of first-time director Alok Rajwade. His abstract style of direction does not let you focus on the story. Rajwade has directed the film as if he were doing an experimental play. The editing by Vikram Dambhare follows the same pattern.
Dharmakirti Sumant's screenplay is stuck between two narratives, one a social commentary on Indian society's double standards about sex — a society that is always ready with lectures on the immorality of porn but loves to watch it in secret; India's fascination with Savita Bhabhi is explained with the statistics — and the other a tale of a young man desperate to lose his virginity. Sumant sometimes fails to find the balance between the two.
But the most frustrating part of the film is the muting of any mention of Savita Bhabhi! It's very unfortunate that outside factors such as mindless censorship that have nothing to do with the film completely ruin the hard work of the cast and crew.
The cinematography by Satyajeet Shobha and Shreeram is standard, but the film's lighting, especially in one scene where Aatish dreams about Savita Bhabhi, deserves a mention. Ashleel Udyog Mitra Mandal does have its moments of brilliance, but on the whole the film fails to make the desired impact.
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