Aditi Mittal’s Netflix special may make Indian men squirm (and that’s a good thing)

Pradeep Menon

Jul,19 2017 17:02 57 IST

If anyone needed a disclaimer or a warning before watching Aditi Mittal’s Netflix special, then it’s there right in the title. ‘Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say’ is a simple, clear sign of the fact that in this world, simultaneously built on and handicapped by patriarchy, a woman saying things she wasn’t allowed to is likely to offend people.

So, despite knowing what the special was called, if you watched it and got offended by it in any way, then the joke’s on you.

Because here’s the thing: Aditi Mittal doesn’t hold back. If ever comedy needed a champion for reclaiming language, rhetoric, public spaces and the likes from the vice-like grip of male entitlement, Aditi is your person. Who cares that men are freely allowed to scratch their gonads in public while women are supposed to sit quiet, with their legs crossed and be the ‘adarsh nari’? Who cares that a man abusing verbally is often cheered, while a woman who abuses must surely be a ‘fallen woman’?

Aditi Mittal.

Because certainly, Aditi Mittal doesn’t care about the establishment.

That is, perhaps, the best thing about ‘Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say’ – the fact that she says things that help normalise so much of what is considered taboo, by men and woman alike, all of them a product of the same system that oppresses anyone who isn’t cis male.

She talks about body hair, vaginas, cup sizes, periods and sanitary pads. She speaks about the problems that a woman faces every single day when she steps out to interact with society, be it with regards to her own body, or how she is treated by the men out there. When she turns up in her Dr Mrs Lutchuke avatar, she goes a step further and gives out no-holds-barred sex education, particularly to the men.

What she says is likely to prick not just the men she is referring to – and they are the majority, mind you – but you can tell that even some woman would go, ‘But how could she talk about such things!’

But you can tell that while the keywords featuring frequently through the show are specifically those that are meant to make people uncomfortable, the stories she weaves and her delivery make the intent quite clear. ‘Let’s just learn to talk about these things’, she seems to say at all times.

It helps that she has a flair for self-deprecating humour, because if the first joke is about yourself, then that’s just sly permission sought to go after everyone after that.

Aditi picks issues straight out of Feminism 101 and incorporates them into her material, because let’s face it, we’re largely still at 101 level, and anything beyond is labelled ‘feminazi’ without a thought. This also brings the uncomfortable realization that Aditi is probably going to be trolled and shamed really hard for the show.

You know for sure that she’s going to be called ‘vulgar’, ‘shameless’ and other extremities precisely because of the issues she chooses to highlight. It’ll be an interesting exercise to see if people find this more offensive than the dog filter on the PM, simply because you know that the mindset at the heart of it is the same – regressive worship of the male hero.

Thankfully, none of the hate seems to matter to her, because she sinks her teeth into her anti-sexist material.

That’s isn’t to say that she hits the spot with every joke. In fact, much of the material works mainly for its sheer audacity, while a lot of her lines are funnier because of her accent and delivery, rather than the punchline.

Still, I couldn’t help feel that ‘Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say’ is essential viewing for the Indian Netflix audience, because if you truly want to enjoy global content, you’ll have to be a wee bit woke.