Review of the Hindi Film 'Mastram': Life of a Pornographic Writer

BackgroundHindi cinema for that matter Indian cinema for long avoided subjects that dealt with sex. So much so that for decades after independence in 1947 even kissing was taboo on the Indian screen. However during the days of the Raj, there was no taboo and actresses did kiss. The artistic world did try to shake of this taboo on kissing but prejudices were so strong that Kissing was not allowed on the Indian screen.The Khosla CommissionAgainst a demand for realism a commission headed by G.D. Khosla, a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Punjab was appointed on March 28, 1968, and submitted its report on July 26, 1969. The important operative paragraph of the commission statedNo court of law will hold that a kiss by itself, irrespective of the circumstances in which it takes place or the individuals between whom it is exchanged, is indecent or immoral. In the same way, nudity of the human form may or may not be indecent. If there is, for instance, a brief shot of a woman undressing and entering a bathing pool, as in the filmThe Visit, no suspicion of indecency or immorality attaches to the shot which is relevant to the story.The GD Khosla commission was the forerunner to the liberalization that is in vogue in Hindi cinema these days.The Film MastramThe present film Mastram draws heavily on the liberalization introduced in Hindi cinema and is a path breaking film on the life of a porn writer named Mastram. The film is released last week and was made on a budget of Rs 75 lakh, but in the first week itself it netted for the producer and distributors Rs 3 crores.Who Was Mastram?Mastram was a fictional writer whose true identity is still not known. But right through the sixties, seventies and eighties this writer churned out cheap pornographic books which were avidly read by young men as well as older men and women with relish. Mastram was the fictional name adopted by this writer and he never disclosed his true identity. But now some facts of his life have emerged and are the subject of the film on his name.Mastram was an ordinary writer named Rajaram who could not sell his books and turned to writing pulp fiction laced with pornography and in the process built up a formidable readership. It is also learnt that Rajaram was in debt and a chance encounter with an old man who gave him insight into the 'spicier' side of life galvanized him to write porn.The FilmOnce upon a time, pornography was read in the loo and nobody read such books in the drawing room in India. Mastram fed the dream to the boys and girls of that period. The movie chronicles the life-story of a man who perhaps is a bit kinky and has a sad, glum and wistful look at the life of litterateur who made his living by writing porn, just to make both ends meet and have enough to eat at home.Director Akhilesh Jaiswal lets the porn writer Mastram whose real name is revealed as Rajaram, played by Rahul Bagga, grow within a space where sex is a synonym for survival. He must write dirty books to make a living.Rajaram is a product of modern culture and he is heavily in debt and so he must write titillating porno stuff to make money and get out of debtThe director brings out the pain of the porn writer, who writes by compulsion. But there are plenty of scenes that suggest that the writer had a tremendous imagination and a great fantasy to sell.Its an artistic film as the director explores the mind of the porn writer and how he get ideas of sex with the Bhabhi, the girl next door, the milk maid and office sex.The StarsThere are no big stars in the movie and two small time actors hog the lime light. Rahul Bagga plays Mastram with - busty milf - lan and his wife is played by Tara Alisha. She is all grace and sex.Other CreditsThe film is produced by Anurag Kashyap. He is a man who has produced path breaking films like Gangs of Wasseypur and its sequel Gangs of Wasseypur Part II. He has picked up this topic of an unknown porn writer and produced a film for just Rs 75 lakh ($125,000). Thedirector isAkhilesh Jaiswal who has spared no stone in trying to create an authentic film.Last wordThe censor board has given an Adult certificate to the film, but there is no pornography in the film itself and that will disappoint fans who are looking for pornography. The film is a hit and shows that Hindi cinema has come of age.DetailsDirectedby Akhilesh JaiswalProducedby Sanjeev Singh Pal Ajay RaiWrittenby Akhilesh Jaiswal Gunjan SaxenaStarringKapil Dubey Rahul Bagga, Tara Alisha, Vinod Nahardih Istiyak Khan Akash DhaiyaCinematography Gavemic AryEditingby Apurva MotiwaleStudiio