Banana alert. This preview contains suggestive allusions — carrots and mascara tubes also appear in ways that may offend. If honest, frank and grown-up discussions about sexual activity shock you, if the actual names of genitalia embarrass, then the movie ASK THE SEXPERT—and this preview—may not be for you. But hey, maybe it’s time you changed?
Vaishali Sinha’s documentary, filmed in Mumbai, tracks the work of one of that Indian city’s most talked about people. The columnist of the Mumbai Mirror newspaper known as ‘Dr Watsa the Sexpert’ has been giving advice on sexual matters for years. Not known by sight to most citizens, vox pops reveal that young Mumbai folk think of the wise sexologist as a rather handsome chap in his thirties—forty, tops. In fact, Dr Mahindra Watsa, for it is he, was 90 years old when this film was made.
Age certainly has not withered Dr Watsa but for his readers, withering is definitely an issue. Sinha’s loving camera follows the endearing old chap around his large villa and we watch as he uses a magnifying glass to read the day’s emailed questions. Most are from men, we are told: most seem to be about fear of inadequacy in the erection department, worries about penis girth, premature ejaculation is a regular, dismay at not satisfying partners or factual queries about contraception methods. Men want to know if wearing two condoms at a time doubles the safety level; one wants to discover if pouring lemon juice on his wife’s vagina will prevent a pregnancy after sex. The laconic Dr Watsa asks the questioner if he’s some kind of lemonade vendor looking for a new business opportunity. Sex can be funny and the film is suffused with such humour.
He is so camera-friendly that it can’t take its beady lens off him…
But of course in India, as in all countries, sex can also be no laughing matter, especially where it is associated with violent and non-consensual acts or rubs up against codes of religious morality. Not everyone in 21st-century India is in favour of Watsa’s open, matter-of-fact, non-judgemental attitude to sexual matters. We follow the progress of a case brought against Watsa for moral corruption. The protagonist rails against the immorality of the column citing the good (or bad) doctor’s opinion that using a mascara tube instead of a dildo is fine as long as it is clean… Cut to images of a veg market in which, yes, carrots are glimpsed.
What emerges from this utterly captivating movie is a country at a turning point—old and new colliding; attitudes shifting, yes, but for many in a glacially slow way. Issues are raised which affect all of us, in any country: the importance of good sex education, the subject of consent and rape, the clash of religion and free will. Yet these issues are dealt with in the lightest and most sensitive way. The sparky nonagenarian is such a charmer—the epitome of the wisdom of age. He is so camera-friendly that it can’t take its beady lens off him. And no wonder. This is a movie that will educate, entertain and make you smile, think and laugh out loud. If you don’t love it you must be—well, bananas.