Vikram Bhatt’s web series “Maaya”, which was advertised as the first Indian fictional work on BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism), is surprisingly tame and non-emphatic in its erotic excursions.
The first two episodes, which were released this week, show the protagonist Sonia leading a double-life as Maaya, a girl heavily into BDSM.
Not that we see her do anything that matches up to her erotic aspirations.
In one darkly lit-up handsomely shot sequence (the series director Vikram Bhatt’s father Pravin Bhatt has shot the series with his habitual elan), Sonia/Maaya is confronted in a long empty hospital corridor by a masked stranger (who by the way, speaks in Vikram Bhatt’s voice).
The stranger leads her to an empty room luring her with promises to “hurt”. He cuts open her hospital gown with a pair of scissors. We see the girl with the heaving bosom surrendering to her desires.
But little happens. This is a series that wants it all, but without losing a large audience. It ventures boldly into the dark taboo world of BDSM on the internet where strangers often do things in the garb of anonymity that they wouldn’t otherwise. But once there, Maaya gets reluctant — almost coy — about what happens in the undisclosed world of BDSM.
However, the series is in its infancy right now. And it could get sufficiently steamy as the plot (deftly written with characters opening up their unhealed wounds) grows, provided the director lets the characters be their naturally uninhibited self without the fear of appearing way too unconventional for comfort.
The one thing that can be safely said about “Maaya” at the moment is that it does not encourage tackiness just to get by as a web series. It is put together with the same professionalism as Vikram Bhatt’s films, and with a lot less emphasis on shock value than one would expect in a series devoted to forbidden areas of urban sexual behaviour.
What I found interesting was the conversations that are about strange occurrences in the privacy of the bedroom and sometimes even in the shower (where Shama Sikandar simply falls unconscious in her screen husband’s arms). But the tone and the words are casual to the point of eluding their import if not heeded carefully.
Everyone, including the hero’s mother, speaks Hinglish. The dialogues are set at a pitch which keeps the melodramatic content of the plot in check. At one point, a famale psychiatrist tells an exceedingly stressed man to go ahead and insult her if it helps him forget his problems. Such interludes of psychological illumination where deflective behaviour is pithily evaluated in one sentence, are rare in Indian cinema. Hopefully the internet will eventually open up new avenues of expression. “Maaya” seems a step in the right direction.
The performances are pitched at a place where they grab attention without getting hysterical. Shama, for years on television and in some films, makes a comeback in a tough role as a woman battling her secret demons. She portrays her dual life as a simmering spectrum of discontent. Veer Aryan as her empathetic husband is controlled and willing to surrender to the demands of the plot.
There is a parallel story of Rahul Singh (played by Vipul Gupta) who is smothered on the two ends by his over-demanding father-in-law and frigid wife.
To escape the drudgery of his juiceless life, he writes erotic stories. Hopefully, Vikram Bhatt’s series will shape into something better plotted than what Rahul writes to escape his bleak life. Right now, “Maaya” impresses more for what it promises than what it delivers.
Two stars for it.
By Subhash K. Jha