Shubh Mangal Saavdhan: How women become prima facie accused of their men's sexual inadequacies
In Sharat Kataria's 2015 romantic comedy Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, Bhumi Pednekar made an unconventional debut as an overweight, self-respecting woman who earned more than her dejected husband, played by Ayushmann Khurrana. While she was the bread earner of the house, patriarchy relegated her to a secondary position in the household.
Two years later, when Ayushmann and Bhumi reunite for RS Prasanna's romantic comedy Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, the discrimination has not changed, though the arena has. The grounds are now performance in the bedroom. Though it is Bhumi's character Sugandha who is sexually healthy, Ayushmann's character Mudit suffering from erectile dysfunction often places the blame on her.
Throwback to 2012, when Ayushmann made his debut as the titular character in Shoojit Sircar's romantic comedy Vicky Donor, his reel wife (played by then-debutante Yami Gautam) was established as infertile. However, not even for a second, Vicky's sexual capabilities were questioned. In fact, he was hailed as a sperm-churning machine.
While that discrimination can be attributed to creative liberty or demand of the script, Prasanna subtly addresses this gender discrimination, as far as sexual capacity is concerned, as an underlying theme of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, when seen through the eyes of its female protagonist Sugandha.
Picture this: Sugandha, self-admittedly, has perennially been surrounded by women. From school to college to tuition to hobby classes, she has always been strategically planted in environments devoid of testosterone. It is little surprise that such a woman would lack the practical experience of reacting to men or distinguishing between healthy flirting and cat-calling.
Though she instantly connects with Mudit and gets involved to the extent of resorting to pre-marital sex (a big deal for secluded women like her), she is turned off by his restrained approach. While Mudit refrains from coming clear on his sexual disorder to his to-be wife, Bhumi is left to figure out possible reasons on her own.
In such cases, an underexposed girl like her is expected to doubt her own sex appeal. While she comes to terms with her prospective husband encountering a 'gents problem', she attributes a major chunk of that to her perceived lack of ability to arouse him.
Thus, in an attempt to seduce him, she watches female porn DVDs to learn the moves, tricks and trades of the bedroom game. Though she disapproves of the icky tactics and props in the porn stars' arsenal, she observes and tries to incorporate the same into her own set.
In a hilarious yet extremely significant scene, she invites him to a park (since PDA is partially acceptable there). She follows it up by playing audio porn on a speaker, sucking out plums rather seductively (despite her complaints of them being sour) and repeating the dirty talk rather unconvincingly.
"Come to me, baby," she repeats, as tears roll down her cheek. Within seconds, Bhumi switches her comic act of a misplaced simpleton to a heart-rendering act of a victim of patriarchy. She continues to repeat the dirty talk as the realisation, of losing herself for the sake of sexual appeasement, dawns upon her.
It is right then that Mudit feels the turmoil that Sugandha is going through. He realises that she has been blaming herself for being sexually inadequate in some way which is causing his rather thanda performance in the bedroom. He also discovers the extent of investment she is willing to make for him to regain his lost confidence.
It is this realisation that snowballs into a rant towards the climax, directed towards his family who refuses to come to terms with the sexual disorder of their young lad and blame the girl for the sexual inactivity in him. Mudit goes on to deliver a monologue, where he dispels one patriarchal notion at a time.
He echoed the same thought in an exclusive interview to Firstpost, when he declared that masculinity is not just about getting it up. It also encompasses how one treats women. It was not long ago when we saw in Leena Yadav's film from last year, Parched, that Radhika Apte's husband abuses her for being infertile while she eventually discovers him to be impotent. She then feels sexually liberated to become pregnant with another man who does not make her feel sexually inadequate.
Another instance was in Ajeeb Daastan Hai Ye, Karan Johar's short film from the 2013 anthology Bombay Talkies. Randeep Hooda, a gay man married to a straight Rani Mukerji, fakes sexual advances in order to please an unsure Rani who dresses rather raunchily every day in a desperate attempt to sexually excite her dormant husband. But when she finds out that he is gay, she stops wiping the incessant tears rolling down her cheek and embraces her worn out, no-make-up face. She caresses her hair and admires herself in the mirror at the epiphany of her sexual adequacy.
In a similar vein, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan revolves around a 'gents problem', but it it as much about the lady, who has to bear the brunt of not only sexual pleasure but also the patriarchy's rebukes of having some evil part to play in the conspiracy. Because it is convenient to assume that out of a million sperms, at least one would make it. Little do they know, that they have a 'long' way to go.
Updated Date: Sep 02, 2017 09:37:09 IST