MX Player’s latest web series Pati, Patni aur Panga tries to subvert the tried and tested concept of pati, patni aur woh by turning the patni into a woh. In the hands of a capable director who would’ve opted to use humour smartly and adroitly, it would’ve made for an interesting and enlightening subject. Unfortunately, what we have is a Hindi show that lives up to the adage the road to hell is paved with good intention. Ever since MX Player dropped the trailer, Twitterati labelled the show as transphobic, offensive and demeaning, with many questioning why a cisgender actor was portraying a transgender character.
It’s a throwback to the regressive ’80s
It’s hard to believe that an urbane, cosmopolitan family that has its roots firmly entrenched in Mumbai can be so homophobic that the letters LGBTQI would make them break out in hives. To an extent, it’s easy to understand if the elders in the family would adopt such a mindset but to see their young son Romanchak Arora (Naveen Kasturia), an apartment broker, walk the regressive talk is a tad difficult to digest. After all, we live in 2020 and it’s been two years since the archaic section 377 has been decriminalized by the Supreme Court. We’re treated to distasteful shots of Romanchak’s mother (Alka Amin) imagining him romancing a man in a sari as she feels his lack of interest in women naturally means he’s gay, a fate she cannot possibly accept for him. These scenes were funny when Kirron Kher did a ‘Ma Da Ladla’ in Dostana because they were treated with humour and irreverence. In this show, the scenes come across as homophobic and repugnant. So desperate is she to ensure that her son ends up with a woman that she all but pushes him to rent a room in their home to Shivani Bhatnagar (Adah Sharma) in the hopes that he’ll be attracted to her, have sex with her and end up marrying her.
Romanchak lives up to his mother’s (low) expectations and does just that. Their marital bliss is short-lived as an incident regarding safe sex leads Shivani to confess that she can’t conceive children as she’s a trans woman. And then, all hell breaks loose. There is a moment, when Romanchak is plying Shivani with drinks and praise, hoping this will get her into bed when she tells him she used to be a man, then got a sex change operation and became a woman. However, she says it so matter of factly that he naturally assumes she’s kidding and jokes right back about how her surgeon did a great job. When he asks her why she never brought up the topic with him, Shivani reminds him of that moment and tells him that she was being truthful. She goes on to add that in his lustful haze, Romanchak chose to see it as a convenient joke as all he wanted was to get in her pants.
Why be mature when we can joke about it?
Romanchak issues Shivani divorce papers that she refuses to sign and in a move that shocks him chooses to represent herself in court. His lawyer, Prem Prakash Tiwari (Hiten Tejwani) is a chauvinist who promises him that this an open and shut case and that he will definitely emerge victorious. However, by the time Shivani gets to make her earnest, feminist speech about how she’s a woman who deserves equal rights, we don’t really care. The homophobic and transphobic clichés of how gay or trans people are overtly feminine sexual predators really do your head in. The manner in which they try to redeem Romanchak and his mother (he takes a trans client to an apartment occupied by women sensing the client would be more comfortable there while the mother confesses her regret over not being able to apologise for her discriminative behaviour to a trans college classmate who died by suicide) is so ridiculous that it makes you want to throw something at your screen. If only the characters had been well fleshed out and given compelling backstories and comedy was not used simply to titillate. These elements only undermine the show’s noble intention of spreading the message that we should accept people as they are.
WATCH OR NOT
This one gets an absolute thumbs down from us. If you want to learn more about the depiction of transgender people in media, we’d recommend Netflix’s documentary Disclosure.
Director: Abir Sengupta
Cast: Adah Sharma, Naveen Kasturia, Hiten Tejwani, Alka Amin, Gurpreet Saini
Streaming on: MX Player