Paurashpur On ALT Balaji and Zee5 Tries And Fails To Infuse The Boner Into The Bhansali-Genre Of Beauty, Film Companion
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Director: Shachindra Vats
Cast: Annu Kapoor, Milind Soman, Shilpa Shinde
Writer: Baljit Singh Chadha, Rajesh Tripathi, Chital Rajesh Tripathi, Ranveer Pratap Singh
Producer: Sachin Mohite
Streaming Platform: ALT Balaji and Zee5

The Canadian feminist activist Susan G Cole wrote that the best way to instil social values is to eroticize them. ALT Balaji reverses this- the best way to instil eroticism is to instill social values in them i.e. their show, under the guise of dil, gives the dildo more importance. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but any pretense of socially relevant storytelling should be stripped bare.

So Paurashpur, another horny-historical (Netflix’s regency era butt-baring drama, Bridgerton, too, dropped this week) pretends to be a show of women empowerment, so it can legitimize showing sadomasochist sex. Here it is hot wax, branding women like horses, and literally, locking the loins with metal girdles requiring a key. The evil king Bhadrapratap (Annu Kapoor) keeps taking wives. All of them except for his first wife Meeravati (Shilpa Shinde) disappear after the first night when he rapes them. One part of the 7 twenty-minute episodes is about figuring who kidnapped these new brides and why. 

Paurashpur On ALT Balaji and Zee5 Tries And Fails To Infuse The Boner Into The Bhansali-Genre Of Beauty, Film Companion

Then there is the panoply of characters- Boris (Milind Soman), the transgender the king is both wary and disdainful of, and the king’s two sons- the gay-but-married elder one, Aaditya (Anant Joshi), and the younger one who is an artist, Ranveer (Shaheer Sheikh). They have their own lovers, who simper and sigh through the episodic orgasms. It took a while to wrap my head around all these characters because they are styled similarly and also look quite similar. I had to look for visual cues like dark kohled eyes, and septum rings to be able to identify who is who. This is never a good sign in a multi-starrer. 

Paurashpur On ALT Balaji and Zee5 Tries And Fails To Infuse The Boner Into The Bhansali-Genre Of Beauty, Film Companion

At the outset, I was intrigued by what Paurashpur could have come to mean, a meeting of two disparate worlds- the exotic and the erotic. It is a show produced by Sachin Mohite who gave us the mass-produced sex anthology Gandii Baat (5 seasons strong). But with Nitin Chandrakant Desai as the production designer, and Monty Sharma as one of the background composers, both of whom have worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the doyen of histrionic drama, there is now an infusion of something considered not only ‘respectable’ but artistic in the true sense of the word. 

Paurashpur On ALT Balaji and Zee5 Tries And Fails To Infuse The Boner Into The Bhansali-Genre Of Beauty, Film Companion

Flourishes of this can be seen in Paurashpur– there is a bunch of women dressed in red saris with blue borders swirling like dervishes every time someone is to be executed, and there are two men who, in a frenzy of lust, decide to do coordinated ballet instead. There are weeping women staged in the middle of pools, and the dhunuchi that is used in Ram Leela’s ‘Ang Laga De’ by Deepika Padukone to seduce Ranveer Singh is now used to perfume the loins, with the brides pulling up their ghagras and standing above the smoke. There is a queen who stands under a shimmering domes, like the one in ‘Deewani Mastani’, and the climax here too is set with a woman being burned at the pyre, like the Padmaavat jauhar scene bathed in red fabric and top-shots. 

But there’s something colossally rotten in the execution. It starts with the background score- the tense ‘Uttama Villain Theme’ from Uttama Villain composed by Ghibran is used liberally, and even Rahman’s ‘Jaage Hain’ is used, with neither of the composers credited nor acknowledged. 

Then comes the bigger issue of  boredom. I only expect entertainment from such shows, because that is the only reason to explain their existence. To expect delicate craft, is just unfair. (So, when in a chase sequence, there is a moon, and then a second later there is daylight, and then the moon again, I can’t fixate on this inconsistency.) But the characters here are so flat, written without flourish or fun, and only padded with rhetoric, that a fatigue sets in. If Kalank taught us anything, it is that empty, beautiful rhetoric and empty, beautiful sets, make for empty, beautiful films.  

Paurashpur On ALT Balaji and Zee5 Tries And Fails To Infuse The Boner Into The Bhansali-Genre Of Beauty, Film Companion

But Paurashpur is scraping the bottom of this barrel. The dialogues here aren’t clever, the set up isn’t exciting, and the staging is overdone- you don’t need repeated birds eye view shots of the swirling women- I get it, it’s beautiful, move on. The suspense of who the kidnapper is, is dead on arrival, and really what I was looking forward to, was some biting, dirty wit. 

But when the lecherous king says, “Prem ke badal samay se pehle barasna” to imply premature ejaculation, I should have known that this is not about the marriage of the exotic and the erotic, the dil and the dildo. It is the massacre of the former by the latter, under the guise of marriage between the two.

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