“Be more caring and learn the art of foreplay. She may then prefer you to the banana every time”. This is the kind of advice that Dr. Mahinder Watsa has for his patients, that is, answers that combine common sense, sarcasm, open-mindedness and freedom of speech. In a country like India, and a society and culture where arranged marriage is the norm, censorship is an accepted part of everyday communication, and the female body is to be kept concealed at all times, Watsa is not just a witty sex columnist, but a proper rebel. His age – he’s pushing 94 this year – adds to the comedy of who he is, as well as the eccentricity and freedom of his persona. He’s in glaring contrast with his environment, standing quietly tall among the shortest men, and speaking a tender truth not only to those who are ready for it, but also to those who dread it.
At a time when sexual education is still banned at most schools and answering that kind of questions might even be a cause for lawsuit and a disgrace to every institution of India, this man sits back in his chair, goes through his never-ending list of emails and replies to most of them with a smirk and disarming honesty. Filmmaker Vaishali Sinha follows him around the house, as he sits down to answer questions, welcomes visiting patients into his house, takes a moment to people-spot in the park, meets up with friends, reminisces, attends book signings for his freshly-published book and makes inappropriate jokes every chance he’s given. What is taboo or shocking to everyone around him, seems to be the most common and mundane topic of conversation for him, who has heard it all by now. “We like to eat each other’s feces” or “we like to piss in our guests’ tea” his readers confide in him – “they are lunatics”, he says, shaking his head.
This is just a bit of cult action on the side; it’s definitely not what describes his day job. The Mumbai Mirror columnist is a sexual health expert who doesn’t judge, even though quite often dismisses enquiries as pure madness and responds to them with crashing sarcasm. Most of his patients, however, he welcomes into his house, listens to humbly and encourages them to love their partner, enjoy sex and make each other feel good. What really stroke me was how good he makes his visitors feel and the fact that he stresses how normal the problems they are facing are and urges them to cut themselves some slack. He is kind and easy-going, extremely flexible and progressive. Not just progressive enough for India – that would be easy; progressive for any nation, anywhere in the world.
Dr. Watsa has no time for moralistic advice and that is what I found so wonderfully fascinating about him. There seems to be nothing that you can say to him that will make him criticize you or tell you that is wrong. He has this air of “you can tell me anything”, and this freedom to laugh at your face when you go extra crazy on him, which is so refreshing and uplifting. And his column, “Ask the Sexpert”, is famous in India for its wild questions just as much as it is for its witty comebacks. This, of course, has attracted its fair share of lawsuits and criticism, but Dr. Watsa just laughs at that, answering “they’d better get to me fast, because I’m already in my 90s”. So if you want to put him in jail, you should move fast, is his response to obscenity accusations – which is hilarious, as it adds yet another layer of rebelliousness to him.
Another thing I loved about Dr. Mahinder Watsa was his way of talking about, and to, women. He is such a feminist, which would be quite an advanced quality in any country, let alone in his. He praises women, agrees with everything they say, treats them not only as equals, but as superior, wiser beings, and respects them to a degree that truly moved me. It all comes down to his greater intelligence, of course, but also to the woman that he, himself, had by his side for most of his adult life. His wife was an inspiring, independent, strong figure that would sit at the back of his lectures and afterwards correct him on what he did wrong or point out things that he had left out. A woman that was his best friend and his mentor, before she was anything else. Admittedly, only a man of his intelligence could ever get with a woman like that in a place like that, and at a time like that.
Watch a trailer of the film.