It is never easy, in cinema, to pass off what the audience perceives as pornography, as an emotional love story. The two genres just do not meet, although it is possible to create a balance. Since Poonam Pandey has already shown so much skin, and loves to tweet about her "bold" ways, she has already been judged, but that has not deterred her from promoting her first feature film with supreme confidence as an effort at the latter.
The story of Nasha goes thus. Sahil (Shivam Patil) is a self-assured teenager, who loves his life and his friends. He looks good, has a girlfriend, and is pretty popular.
The unraveling of his well-set world starts when he sees Anita (Poonam Pandey), a raunchy 25-year-old woman who is well aware of the effect she has on the opposite sex and makes no attempt to remedy it. Sahil is fascinated with her joie de vivre to begin with, and he establishes a friendship of sorts with her. As the two of them begin to lean more emotionally on each other, Sahil expectedly falls in love, and the complications begin.
What does not help the young boy in his pursuit is the fact that Anita is already committed to somebody else. However (and, of course) she is anything but coy with her body language, and that leads Sahil to believing that there is a chance that the two may work out a more meaningful bond. So imagine his surprise when she rejects him.
Being a teenager who is determined to get what he wants, Sahil becomes dangerously obsessed with Anita, and things go from bad to worse. So can Anita put aside conventions to take him seriously enough? Is all Sahil needs to get over his fixation, a piece of action? Is there any action? To get answers, you need to sit through Nasha, the anticipated and controversial movie hitting theatres this weekend.
Actually, the story is not that difficult to sit through. There are no jarring, revolutionary relationships or unconventional yearnings, and the basic premise itself is not scandalous - we have seen enough movies like Ek Choti Si Love Story where a young boy becomes a voyeur when he has a crush on an older woman. And lovemaking scenes in movies are no longer a big deal.
So what is all the hype about Nasha, then? Well, it is to a good degree the fact that the audacious Poonam Pandey, an Indian girl who has turned synonymous with brazen stripping in a still-conservative country, is actually the lead in a commercially-released full-length feature film. She's a celebrity who is starring in her first movie, and that always does its bit for the anticipation.
Does it work? As a movie, Nasha is just about average fare. The first half concentrates too much on the setting up of the story. To establish that the woman is a temptress and that the boy is not worldly-wise, the director places them in what seem like highly contrived sequences. Some of the interaction appears forced upon the characters.
The second half rushes towards a conclusion that you may or may not expect, but the change in pace can make you queasy. Then, Anita turns out to be quite the philosopher on love and relationships, and her views become annoying after a point. And the dialogues are peppered with what most filmmakers consider contemporary language - abuses and Hinglish, delivered with attitude. Plus, for the umpteenth time in our films, teenagers are portrayed as being extreme in their reactions.
So the big question: can Poonam Pandey act? Well, not for now - she will have to work harder on her voice modulation and expressions if she wants to be taken seriously as an actor. All she does is pout and show more skin. In her lovemaking scenes, for example, her expression is blank, and it is not because she was forced to get in bed with the guy. She is a disappointment - one would have expected her to be fierier.
Shivam Patil is the surprise package. He portrays the nuances of a teenager's emotional upheavals with the right amount of innocence and angst. He does not go OTT at any point, as most young actors do these days, to look cool and relevant. It is an unconventional launch for a young actor, but watch out for him in the future (he definitely has one).
The film is shot aesthetically, and the production and costume designs are above average. Since the general perception is that this movie is basically about sleaze, the cinematography is a pleasant surprise. Even the bedroom scenes will not make you cringe. The editing could however have been sharper. The music stays pleasant.
Nasha is not a movie that you will take your parents or kids to, of course, but neither is it one that you would want to avoid. Given most of the other fare now playing in town, it's pretty much a toss up. And if you follow Poonam Pandey on Twitter, of course, perhaps the decision has already been made.