When the work is perilous but the sex is stupendous, what would you choose? Confused is the night for Bhumika, the pleasure-seeking heroine of the Netflix series She.
Created and written by Imtiaz Ali, She draws a tricky equivalence between Bhumika’s sexual reawakening and her reclaiming of her self-esteem. She follows police constable Bhumika (Aaditi Pohankar), who goes undercover as a sex worker to ensnare the elusive druglord Nayak (Kishore Kumar G). The show proposes that Bhumika uses her body to gain the power that has been denied to her by her abusive husband and her patronising bosses.
In the first season from 2020, Bhumika is catalysed by a close encounter with Nayak’s flirty employee Sasya (Vijay Verma). The death of Sasya at the end of season one leaves Bhumika at Nayak’s mercy, but she’s hardly complaining. We last see her straddling Nayak (Kishore Kumar G) with undisguised triumph.
In season two, Bhumika remains at the top but also goes sideways in her struggle to balance desire and duty. If Bhumika has to let her police bosses down in exchange for a satisfying roll in the hay, so be it.
The second season, directed by Arif Ali, heavily tops up the show’s soft-core premise. It’s more explicit than before, with several close-ups devoted to Bhumika’s ecstatic visage as she writhes with Nayak as well as other men.
The handsomely produced season, which has been shot by Amit Roy, is glossier too, with a visible upgrade to Bhumika’s overall comportment (blow-dried hair, subtle make-up, more fashionable threads). The packaging partially helps conceal the clumsy holes in the plot, which spins off into new directions and then spins out of control.
Glimpses are given of Nayak’s past to explain his ruthless ways. The only relevant detail is that Nayak, apart from being an expert throat-slitter and a genius-level drug-runner, is a voyeur. I have seen everything, he tells Bhumika. Everything, he repeats for emphasis, to her delight.
A deep bond develops between Nayak and Bhumika, forged by their mutual disregard for convention, their shared lust for authority and their hunger for each other. The erotic frisson between Bhumika and Sasya in the first season and Bhumika and Nayak over the new set of seven episodes distracts the brain from the sloppy police work that continues to keep Bhumika in harm’s way.
I’m changing, the sensitive Bhumika says frequently. But her transformation is invisible to the man who compelled her to trade her khaki uniform for sequinned bodycons. Bhumika’s commanding officer Jason Fernandez (Vishwas Kini), the narrative’s dimmest character, is given a fresh set of opportunities to stumble in the dark.
As late as the penultimate episode, Fernandez says that he “simply doesn’t know whom to believe”. With an increasingly wily Bhumika seemingly the only police mole in Nayak’s gang, and without a single clue into his identity, Fernandez and his posse wait around anxiously as Bhumika merrily leads a double life.
A welcome addition to the new season is the hijra Durga (Resh Lamba). Aching to pull down Nayak, Durga somehow manages to get on to Bhumika’s trail. Durga is also the only one who understands Bhumika’s predicament. Durga hints to Fernandez that his protege might be double-crossing him, but she might well have been talking to herself.
The heavy reliance on Bhumika to deliver the goods is mirrored by the show’s dependence on its lead actor to steer a taboo-busting theme. As the “she” of She, Aaditi Pohankar has gone so deep under Bhumika’s prickly skin that the fictional character might well be a flesh-and-blood person.
Pohankar turns out a terrific, award-worthy performance of a woman buffeted by conflicting choices. Much more is demanded of Pohankar this time round – more skin show, more complex emotions – and she unerringly delivers.
Vijay Verma’s leery Sasya counter-balanced Bhumika in season one. It’s Kishore Kumar G’s turn to match Pohankar’s histrionics. Mercifully divested of the wig that followed him through the last season, Kumar puts on his manliest purr and plays the predatory sensei grooming his much younger pupil to the best of his abilities.
The cast includes Suhita Thatte as Bhumika’s hand-wringing mother, Shivani Rangole as her sassy sister Rupa and Ravish Desai as one of Bhumika’s marks. Rohit Kokate is the pimp Tipu, who leads a bunch of sex workers who come to regard Bhumika as their saviour.
The standout performer apart from Pohankar is Resh Lamba, as the hijra Durga. Lamba aces a bunch of sharply written scenes that provide a welcome sideshow to the frequent Bhumika-Nayak assignations.