Dr Arora- Gupt Rog Visheshagya review: Imtiaz Ali's show with Kumud Mishra as a sexologist needs a lesson in sensitivity

Published on Jul 22, 2022 11:44 AM IST

Dr Arora- Gupt Rog Visheshagya review: Kumud Mishra attempts to bring sensitivity in this Imtiaz Ali show about a small-town sexologist but is undone by insensitive writing.

Dr Arora stars Kumud Mishra as the titular sexologist.
Dr Arora stars Kumud Mishra as the titular sexologist.

Dr Arora, the latest web series from the mind of filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, is a lot like many of its characters--fails to perform at crucial junctures. The series, based on a small-town sexologist from the late-1990s, is a bold attempt at humour on a sensitive subject. But as our high-school math teachers would say--there are no marks for attempts alone, execution matters. And that is where Dr Arora falls flat on his face. The show meanders through eight episodes in trying to figure out what exactly it wants to say, only to be somewhat salvaged by the acting chops of Kumud Mishra and a competent support cast. Also read: She season 2 review: Imtiaz Ali’s wannabe Breaking Bad is undone by male gaze

Dr Arora is set in 1999 and flips between three cities--Jhansi, Morena, and Sawai Madhopur--situated at the juncture of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. It shows how a self-proclaimed well-intentioned sexologist Dr Arora (an effortlessly charming Kumud Mishra) tries to solve people’s ‘sex problems’ in a world that refuses to even talk about it. And as he attempts to solve the problems of his patients--a young man with erectile dysfunction, a high-profle escort with STDs, and a dabangg top cop with premature ejaculation--he must also deal with the demons of his own failed marriage and a smear campaign against his profession.

On paper, it is a winner, if made well. Indian cinema has dealt with sensitive subjects around sex and reproduction and made some gems. Badhaai Ho and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan immediately come to mind. Dr Arora, sadly, will not join that list. The show lacks the subtlety and sensitivity needed to tackle this myriad of touchy issues. It makes the odd choices of infusing needless humour, titilation, and innuendos in places, making it reminscent of a 90s Govinda comedy in parts. Being set in the 90s does not mean it had to ape that tone as well.

The acting goes over-the-top, the jokes don’t land well, and the show’s attempt to be slapstick in some scenes is downright cringeworthy. The background music in some ‘comedy’ scenes would be a better fit in The Benny Hill show probably, and the track about a spiritual guru with that god-awful accent is a big turn-off (pun intended).

A still from Imtiaz Ali's new series Dr Arora.
A still from Imtiaz Ali's new series Dr Arora.

There are sensitive parts too. But all of them are largely reserved for Kumud Mishra’s character. The way his Dr Arora deals with the stigma and taboo around sex and with his patients is refreshing and can actually be a lesson for many in this country. He makes mistakes too, judges his patients at times. But then he learns from them and makes amends. It’s a good character arc, but just. All his growth is spoiled with his parallel track where he stalks his ex-wife who left him 17 years ago. It’s high time our filmmakers and writers understand the difference between love and obsession, and probably google consent some time too. We want heroes who don’t manipulate and gaslight, and if they do, probably not be glorified for it.

Kumud Mishra’s acting is top notch. It’s so good to see an actor usually classified as a ‘character actor’ being entrusted to lead the show. And he shows why it’s the right choice too. If it wasn’t for him, the show would probably have been unbearable. The support cast, sadly has little to do, but a few manage to stand out. The two obvious names that grab your attention are Vidya Malavade, who plays Dr Arora’s ex wife, and Sandeepa Dhar, who plays the troubled wife of a police superintendent. The two actors bring out the turmoil and vulnerability these characters face quite well. Having said that, it becomes apparent that Imtiaz Ali hasn’t written a decent female character in years. His women lack agency, with their lives almost always being governed by the choices the men around them make.

All eight episodes of Dr Arora began streaming on SonyLiv from July 22, and it will find viewers. Because such series create intrigue. But it could have been so much better, had the writers and creators not fallen prey to serving entertainment instead of just trying to tell a good, solid story. Apart from the acting and occasional good dialogue, the one redeeming aspect of the show is its soundtrack. Like any Imtiaz Ali creation, the music slaps. But should you really watch eight episodes of 40 minutes each for half-a-dozen songs? Only if you are in need of some 90s nostalgia, and not even of the good kind.

Series: Dr Arora

Creator: Imtiaz Ali

Cast: Kumud Mishra, Vidya Malavade, Sandeepa Dhar, Vivek Mushran, Shekhar Suman, Gaurav Parajuli

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    Abhimanyu Mathur is an entertainment journalist with Hindustan Times. He writes about cinema, TV, and OTT, churning out interviews, reviews, and good old news stories.

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