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Imtiaz Ali’s Dr Arora is all about men’s sexuality. But plot, characters don’t hit the spot

SonyLIV's latest OTT venture is aced by its cast and failed by its characters. It's all about Kumud Mishra and Vidya Malvade's acting.

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What if I cannot perform when the time comes?’—the question that bothers most men in Dr Arora, Imtiaz Ali’s latest OTT venture on SonyLIV. Written by Ali and his brother Sajid and directed by Archit Kumar, the series looks at the sexual problems faced by men.

Set in the 90s, the story chugs between Jhansi, Morena and Sawai Madhopur, with occasional hiatus at Agra. The clinics spread over the cities, as do the problems. The show is aced by its cast and failed by its characters. While we have had movies like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017) and Khandaani Shafakhana (2019), Dr Arora looks at a gamut of ‘sex issues’ and how bedroom problems spill over into every aspect of men’s lives.

Dr Vishesh Arora, played by the extremely talented Kumud Mishra, becomes Dr Arora because his wife Vaishali, played by Vidya Malvade, leaves him because of his inability to perform. So the man decides to become a better performer and also help other men like him. But time and his ex-wife have moved on. She is a different person with a different life—she has a husband and two kids now. But Dr Arora still behaves like a typical Bollywood stalker who considers himself an ardent lover or aashiq and watches her from afar as she stands on her balcony.


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Men in the show

The show is led ably by Kumud Mishra with a brilliant performance. Displaying a range of emotions from affection to despair and connivance, his character will keep you invested and curious. He handles his patients with sensitivity and also makes errors, his own past interferes with his good sense and profession. He is deeply flawed, stalking his ex-wife, and yet, you sympathise and understand. But it’s more about Mishra’s acting than the script of Dr Arora.

Mishra does get a romantic song with Malvade as the Mehram plays in the background in a montage of scenes, and the duo really do light up the screen.

There is also a brawny, crony of the local vidhayak, MLA Devendra, played by Gaurav Parajauli, who has erectile dysfunction but has a thing for Putul Bhabhi who lives next door. Chambal’s newest Superintendent of Police Tomar, played by Ajitesh Gupta, is the dread of dacoits in the region, with his trigger-happy behaviour. But he misfires when it comes to his wife Mithu, played by Sandeepa Dhar. Then there is also a hormonally charged son creating ‘discomfort’ for his newspaper editor father Dinkar. He has nightfall and the father is unwilling to have any kind of sex education talk and would rather that his son ‘suppress his hormonal tendency’. The episodes delve into the physiological, social and sexual implications of many issues faced by the men.

The most entertaining character is probably the firangi baba, possibly inspired by Guru Ram Rahim. Women throng his aashram for a ‘special darshan’—knowing full well what it implies—instead of him assaulting his ‘followers’. The ‘special darshan’ loosely translates to sexual encounters, as the husbands of these women have turned ‘bhaiya‘ from ‘saiyya‘, or basically stopped satisfying their sexual needs. Played by Raj Arjun, firangi baba is funny and ludicrous.

The overarching trope is of course the Vishesh-Vaishali love story, which is never consummated.


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Women in the world of Dr Arora

In Dr Arora, women do not get much say or agency. Payal, played by Anushka Luhar, is the sole female patient, who has gonorrhoea because of her sex work. The first time we see her, she is already being judged by the doctor for her choice of profession.

Both Vaishali and Mithu struggle with underperforming husbands. While one chooses to leave, the other stays. In an interview with ThePrint, Malvade said: “I told Archi I am going to get so many brickbats for this role.” The reason is obvious—her character doesn’t endure her husband’s deficiencies like a ‘good’ wife and leaves when she’s not satisfied sexually.

Malvade plays the role of Vaishali with sensitivity and portrays her loneliness, errors and self-judgement masterfully. She does not get a lot of scope to shine through until the last three episodes, and that is a shame.

The duality of Dhar’s character— the understanding wife with her husband, and ‘police wife’ avatar for outsiders, is well scripted. The show occasionally reminds us of Netflix’s Taj Mahal 1989.

Imtiaz and Sajid score with Arora’s character but lose the plot with the script. It does leave behind a lot of space for a second season, which can also be an opportunity to tighten the loose ends. The script is ambitious but lacks execution.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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What if I cannot perform when the time comes?’—the question that bothers most men in Dr Arora, Imtiaz Ali's latest OTT venture on SonyLIV. Written by Ali and his brother Sajid and directed by Archit Kumar, the series looks at the sexual problems faced...Imtiaz Ali's Dr Arora is all about men's sexuality. But plot, characters don't hit the spot
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