Once upon a time, pornography was read in the loo, not seen on the internet. The imagination soared. Just think of how much money a man could make in the 1970 or 1980s by penning porn for a drooling generation.
Unzip those inhibitions, will ya?
If in Mastram, you expect a Boogie Nights kind of all-encompassing panoramic peek-a-boob, sorry boo, at the porn industry, then you are in for an anti-climax. Mastram chronicling the life-story of a man who would be kink (y), is a sad, glum, wistful look at the life of litterateur who was persuaded to give porn a chance, just to make ends meet.
Director Akhilesh Jaiswal lets the porn writer Rajaram, aka Mastram, played by Rahul Bagga, grow within a space where sex is a synonym for survival. He must write dirty books to make a living. In Guru Dutt's Pyaasa, the poet Vijay faced the same dilemma. Write pulp, or perish, he was told. Vijay preferred to perish.
Rajaram is a product of consumerist culture. With creditors knocking down his door, he chooses a life after debt.
For those expecting to see the rise and fall (and I don't mean that in any other but the most physical sense) of a generation fed on porn, Mastram is not your cup of tea.
It never goes into the author's libidinous craft. It stays in his mind, probes and punctuates the protagonist's perverse practice dispassionately.
There is a pronounced absence of frenzied excitement in the narrative. If seen as a mating game, then Mastram is a lazy evening of half-hearted copulation. We get to meet the man behind the orgasms. We feel the pain beneath the porn. Director Akhilesh Jaiswal tears at the layers of titillation and touches the pain and loneliness of an artiste compelled to sell sex when all he wants is to write literary works.
Rahul Bagga plays Mastram with an air of boyish curiosity and impassive mystery. We never know what he is thinking maybe because he isn't thinking hard. Could this man be faking his enthusiasm for erotica? We never touch the man's soul but feel its presence in his life and especially in his bond with his wife, played with understated grace by Tara Alisha.
Underscored by a sense of tragedy, Mastram brings a meditative melancholy to the porn writer's life.