Bollywood re-creates life of Indian erotica writer Mastram
A new Bollywood film traces the fictional journey of a real-life writer of erotica whose racy low-cost works in Hindi spurred sales at bookstalls and pavement shops across India in the 1980â€™s and 90â€™s.
The identity of the author, who used the pseudonym Mastram, was never revealed, but the filmâ€™s director Akhilesh Jaiswal said he remembers sneaking the books in as a teenager, one of millions of adolescents in conservative India with little access to erotica before the Internet made pornography widely available.
Mastramâ€™s works included â€śYauvan ki Pehli Baarishâ€ť (First Rains of Youth), â€śSexy Nurseâ€ť and â€śManchali Bhabhiâ€ť (Salacious Sister-in-law).
â€śEvery time I read the books, I used to wonder who this man was and what on earth he must be telling his kids about what he did to earn a living. Did his family know?â€ť Jaiswal, 28, told India Insight in an interview.
Jaiswal, best known in the Hindi film industry for co-writing the 2012 revenge thriller â€śGangs of Wasseypurâ€ť, chose Mastram as the subject for his debut film as director.
Booksellers never openly displayed Mastramâ€™s works, bringing them out only if a customer asked for them. Jaiswal said he found several authors writing under the pseudonym in later years, but the language was sleazier than that of the original Mastram.
Today, books stalls at railway stations and markets in North India stock the newer versions, usually hiding them under a pile of magazines. Their lurid covers feature half-naked women with lurid titles and nearly all have explicit sex scenes.
â€śThe ones who are publishing now donâ€™t even print their names or logos on the books, so there is no way of knowing where they came from,â€ť said Jaiswal.
He began constructing his own version of the writerâ€™s life. In â€śMastramâ€ť, which opens in cinemas in May, the protagonist dreams of writing novels but unemployment forces him to start writing erotica. When his identity is eventually revealed, Mastram — played by actor Rahul Bagga — is denounced as an immoral man.
â€śIn public, everyone wanted to be a decent person, no matter how false that facade was,â€ť said Jaiswal.
The director said he hoped to expose hypocritical attitudes to sex and erotica in many of Indiaâ€™s smaller towns and cities, chronicling an era when talking about sex or reading about it wasnâ€™t taboo as long as it was done behind closed doors.
Bollywood is increasingly tackling risquĂ© topics on the big screen, with mainstream actress Vidya Balan winning a national award for â€śThe Dirty Pictureâ€ť (2011), loosely based on the life of 1980′s soft-porn star Silk Smitha.
â€śWhat is in the trailer is not really in my hands, but my film is not one that is trying to cash in on the sexual aspect of the story. Perhaps it might bring the audiences in, but essentially it is about a writer who finds himself unable to take credit for his work, and instead has to feel ashamed about it,â€ť said Jaiswal.
(Editing by Tony Tharakan andÂ Robert MacMillan; FollowÂ Tony on Twitter atÂ @TonyTharakanÂ , RobertÂ @bobbymacReportsÂ and Shilpa @shilpajay |This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)