Netflix drama She is back for a second season and that’s both good and bad. Imtiaz Ali’s story about a female constable with the Mumbai Police going undercover as a prostitute exuded promise in its first season. But in the second, it keeps you hanging, hoping there’s more than the original premise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a lot of different things.
Directed by Arif Ali, She treads the timeline between sensuality and vulgarity, most often venturing towards the latter. Undeniably, it’s a show you don’t stop mid-way, and the edgy vulgarity makes you press ‘next’ on the list of episodes.
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The world of ‘She’
Aaditi Pohankar, as Bhumi, had seen an evolution, both as an actor and as a character. From an undesired, timid constable to a woman who chooses who she wants to have sex with, Bhumi has finally taken the reins of sexuality in her own hands. The second season picks up from where the first ends—just as she reaches the climax of her sexual encounter with the Telugu drug lord Nayak, played by Kishore Kumar G.
Aaditi looks more confident straddling the ‘respectable’ world of undercover police agents and prostitutes picking up customers at night. The costumes are on point, as is her swagger when she struts about rejecting customers on the basis of their looks or how much they are willing to pay for her.
From the woman being rejected by her husband for her looks and sensuality, she discovers her power of seduction and tests its limits, constantly. Be it Nayak or a random passenger who has never paid for sex but changes his rules for her, every conquest is a building block to her confidence as a sexual being.
The sexual bantering, the need to be seen as desirable and to command desire, while also being drunk in the power of it, is portrayed flawlessly by Pohakar. But she cannot do more, and that’s the restraint of the script.
Imtiaz writes the part well but doesn’t know where to take her beyond a point, and that is his characteristic, persistent issue. She might inspire other prostitutes to rebel against their pimps or make her sister hit her abusive boyfriend, but it does not move forward or lead anywhere.
Be it Indian or foreign OTT series, writing well-rounded female characters who are sexually maturing is a challenge only a few have been able to overcome. Shows do not know where to head with them and end up getting stuck like an old cassette tape.
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Nayak is an evil drug lord intent on making Mumbai the drug capital of India, evoking Pablo Escobar-like methods of meticulous planning and mass murders. But the drug distribution itself is a trope that Bollywood writers miss by a mile. It’s more imaginary than real. Nayak’s backstory tries to establish his character but you end up losing interest after a point. You don’t really feel like knowing why he is the way he is.
The dialogues are wonderfully crass but also unimaginative. From the police to gangsters to the prostitutes, stereotypes play out.
Vishwas Kini does his part well as ACP Hernandez. He seems to be convincingly concerned about the fame that the success of his undercover operation will bring and about Bhumi’s safety.
Imtiaz Ali, however, cannot help but have long poetic moments, sometimes for absolutely no reason. Bhumi’s interactions with a homeless man are a case in point. It adds nothing to the narrative except for you to scratch your head and wonder if he will suddenly wield a gun.
She is promising but it takes itself way too seriously and complicates everything. There will be a third season in all likelihood, and hopefully, the third time it will be a charm.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)