She, the latest Indian Netflix show that’s a brainchild of filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, is a middling attempt at understanding female sexuality and desire. By positioning its protagonist Bhumika, a female constable, amid a group of colleagues who consider her one among the many men in the profession, the filmmakers Arif Ali and Avinash Das take a renewed look at the skewed gender representation among cops. She is a tale of repressed femininity and deals with the protagonist’s awkwardness of discovering her dormant sexuality while discharging her professional duties,
A 29-year-old Bhumi is finding her feet in the profession after coming out of a toxic marriage, where the man chides her for not being responsive enough to his sexual advances. She finds herself less-desirable among men in comparison to her feisty, wayward younger sister. She fends for her and an ailing mother and has to deal with a problematic ex to sort out her impending divorce. Her superiors in the profession meanwhile taunt her for her inefficiency at work. ‘She’ is a journey where Bhumi finds an outlet to her personal void through her profession.
‘She’ crams numerous yet relevant issues concerning women into one show and the experience, even though heartfelt at times, is claustrophobic for the viewer. Although it weaves the deepest fears and desires of a woman in the script and the conflict is solid, the execution isn’t sensitive enough. The undercover operation surrounding a drug lord only becomes a tepid excuse to explore female sexuality – there’s no authenticity in the drug-mafia setting and the detailing remains sketchy.
The show doesn’t rise above the follies that every female-centric project commits – the men, beyond a point, are generalised as a bunch of insecure, perverse minds. And making Bhumi the only woman among the several officers seen in the show hints at the exaggeration the writers have settled for. They repetitively explore the protagonist’s issues in different forms and through a different lens. The sequences become so redundant that they run a risk of the viewer not empathising with the woman. That’s the worry of projects trying to focus on heavy issues – the issues hijack the need for a solid narrative.
In a show filled with many new, promising faces, She’s casting director Mukesh Chabbra remains its unsung hero. Aaditi Pohankar sinks her teeth into what’s a dream role for any actor with a layered, poignant performance that belies her experience. It’s needless to say that every woman would relate to the issues experienced by Bhumi in the story and Aaditi gives a strong voice to the part. Vijay Varma sleepwalks through a role that’s an extension of his appearance in Pink, but he shows tremendous growth as an actor her by playing out the creepiness in his character with stunning authenticity.
Popular Tamil actor Vishnu in a brief yet effective role makes a strong impact and the familiar Vishwas Kini finally gets a full-fledged role that taps the measured performer in him. The filmmaking, despite the best of technical efforts and performances, lacks the finesse that you expect for the sensitive subject it addresses. The show is many a time found wanting in terms of emotional depth too. The ending is far from satisfactory. While ‘She’ gives viewers a chance to look at Imtiaz Ali, the writer in a new light, the series misses a trick or two with its contrived view of gender, desire and is let down by the greed to pack too many issues. The result is an overcooked dish.