Indie Meme Film Festival Review: Ask the Sexpert
Bio-documentary of India's Dr. Ruth
By Tinu Thomas,
5:42PM, Tue. Apr. 24, 2018
India's population is in the billions, yet the topic of how they all came to be is vehemently avoided. Documentary Ask the Sexpert” explores the taboo of openly discussing sex in India, following one man who is using his platform to break down these stigmas.
Dr. Mahinder Watsa is a former gynecologist turned sex advice columnist for Mumbai Mirror, India’s largest compact newspaper. Watsa uses his column titled “Ask the Sexpert,” to answer people’s innermost sexual concerns with amusing causality. Little to nothing fazes Watsa as he nonchalantly recommends oral sex to nervous young couples who feel their spark has died or assures an anonymous young woman that masturbation is completely healthy as long as she follows hygienic procedures.
Director Vaishali Sinha attempts an impartial depiction of contrasting perspectives on sex in Indian media, which is largely devoid of sexuality - and starkly different from American media which utilizes sex to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers. Watsa’s role as the protagonist clear, and most of the film is a retrospective of his life and career. To provide contrast, the film shares the narrative of Dr. Pratiba Naitthani, a social activist and professor of political science. Paralleling Watsa’s pro-sex battle, she crusades against sexual permissiveness in modern India, when her mission to uphold modesty for future generations materializes in the form of a lawsuit she files against the Mumbai Mirror and Watsa’s sex column.
One perspective which felt intentionally unexplored is that of Bollywood which is ironically located in the same city as Watsa and his column, Mumbai. Bollywood is the world’s largest movie industry and almost exclusively known for tantalizing music videos, over-the-top love stories and sexy female bombshells.
However, this aspect of Indian media is rarely portrayed in a film which paints Watsa as the leading purveyor of sex-positivity in the country. His candid viewpoints on sexuality are considered new-age and radical to many: despite such opposition, Watsa uses his social position to harness respect for openness about sexuality. It’s hard to shame someone who is as unbothered about consensual sex as Dr. Watsa.
Ask the Sexpert screened as part of the 2018 Indie Meme Film Festival. For more in Indie Meme, read From Tibet to the Indian Ocean, April 13.