The problem with Indian husbands is that they become brotherly soon after marriage, a wise woman notes in Dr Arora. In the SonyLIV web series, the path that leads inexorably from “saiyaan” to “bhaiya” runs through Vishesh Arora’s consulting rooms.
Arora (Kumud Mishra) helps his patients overcome a range of bedroom problems. This fictional version of Mahinder Watsa deals with a swathe of complaints with unfailing empathy – nightfall and nightly disasters; the failure to launch and the tendency to reach fourth gear before even starting the engine. Arora’s winning bedside manner has a sad back story revolving around his ex-wife Vaishali (Vidya Malavade).
Events unfold in 1999, in towns that don’t appear to have heard of gynaecology. Arora is much in demand, causing him to practise across several clinics. His patients include the overwrought godman Firangi Baba (Raj Arjun), whose unidentifiable accent and gnomic sermons have led to a long queue of female devotees aching for a darshan.
The brawny Devendra (Gaurav Parajuli) loses his brio in the bedroom. Superintendent of Police Tomar (Ajitesh Gupta) is the dread of dacoits in the Chambal region but an over-eager gun for his wife Mithu (Sandeepa Dhar). The pompous editor Dinkar (Vivek Mushran) has a hormonally charged son. Payal (Anushka Luhar) is in a profession that makes her vulnerable to disease.
Where there are sex therapists, there must be raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. Khandaani Shafakhana, the 2019 film about a woman who who inherits a sex consultancy, similarly explored the perils of trying to help people overcome their embarrassment.
Dr Arora has been created and co-written by Imtiaz Ali and directed by Sajid Ali and Archit Kumar. The show careens between sniggers about Arora’s profession and a somewhat more serious exploration of the psychological damage caused by inadequacies too shameful to be openly discussed. The Ali brothers also collaborated on the Netflix series She, which explores a repressed police constable’s sexual awakening during a covert operation.
The power of sexual desire to influence an individual’s psyche is most evident in Arora himself. The reason behind Kumud Mishra’s casting as the generously proportioned sex consultant becomes clear as the show stumbles along. A nuanced actor with a silken voice sheathed in steel, Mishra can play both twinkly-eyed uncle and avuncular pervert in the same breath, as he did in Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots.
Mishra sometimes gives the impression of unresolved anger simmering beneath a calm exterior. Arora acquires a dark edge when he runs into Vaishali. She has since remarried and has two children who were presumably the result of more than heavy petting.
A spitfire as a younger woman, Vaishali is now a barely vocal housewife, lying in wait of Arora’s judgement. The show is filled with allegedly emancipated women who have the ability to reject men because they aren’t delivering the goods.
For all its talk of the joys of sexual union, the focus is mostly on men and their notions of masculinity. Women who have found ways to deal with unsatisfactory sex lives and seek pleasure on their own terms can’t be found in Arora’s waiting room.
Why would they be there? The show’s grand idea of making Arora interesting is to have him pine for Vaishali, looking every inch the unwanted stalker.
The good doctor as a bad loser who believes that the woman who has rejected him must be shown her place – perhaps the second season will better address this paradox about Arora when it isn’t making him dart from one clinic to the next and one contrivance to another.
Kumud Mishra’s commanding presence and the antics of the patients steady the choppy narrative from time to time. Among the complainants, Devendra Parajuli stands out as the strapping Devendra, who falls for his bosom-heaving married neighbour. Vivek Kumar and Pitobash and play, respectively, Arora’s compounder and a tea seller who doubles up as a bouncer. Himani Shivpuri plays Arora’s ridiculously youthful-looking mother.