(Very) Basic Instinct
There are works that owe their popularity to the scent of scandal surrounding their output: She is part of. If the series made such good audiences in India during its first season, it is above all for its way of representing sexuality. A scandal to put into perspective bearing in mind that on-screen nudity is almost non-existent in India. A modesty necessarily contradictory with the erotic thriller that was promised to us.
Despite its big imperfections and its falsely sulphurous provocations, She however, had real qualities. If it were necessary to retain only two of them, we would cite first of all an ultra-charismatic villain camped by a magnetic Vijay Raaz. But the story also offered an interesting evolution to its heroine. An emancipation through sex that contrasted radically with the good conservative morals of his country.
Breaking taboos by keeping your head held high
On this last point, season 2 transforms the essay. Bhumika, our undercover investigator, overcomes his complexes and his traumas. She appropriates her sexuality more than ever, while leading a complex investigation. If such a commonplace is not shocking for the Western public, let us remember that it is a real revolution in India.
On the other hand, the first strong point is unfortunately lost along the way. The departure of Vijay Raaz created a shocking twist to conclude the previous season. But the terrifying Nayak who was promised to replace him does not come close to his ankle. Never intimidating, not particularly well writtenKishore does what he can to give it some consistency, but nothing works.
An irreplaceable villain
Guilty of Romance
Of the her nervous and bloody opening sequence, this season 2 promises us more generosity and ambition. We are told more sex, more crime and more pleasure. This is where the problem lies. The investigation is gripping, it is easy to get caught up in the game of this obscure criminal network. But between eroticism and thriller, the two genres seem to suffer a forced roommate that quickly becomes unpleasant.
The main problem comes largely from the way directors Avinash Das and Arif Ali film the sex scenes. Never more sulphurous than a novel We Two – Collection Charme, the series falls into all the traps of the genre. The ASMR moans to electro music, the sheet that always magically covers what cannot be shown, it’s all there.
Girls just want to have fun
This is all the more disappointing that the series has the potential to excite us when she plunges us into the world of prostitution. We dwell on the fate of these women, their despair, the desire for a better future for their children. Bhumika even becomes the spokesperson for the sex workers during one episode, a liberator who pushes them to get rid of a violent pimp.
But in parallel, She absolutely wants us to believe in a poisonous romance between Bhumika and the antagonist Nayak. We can clearly see that the scenario dreams of an evil link Clarice Sterling and Hannibal Lecter way. But in fact, impossible to believe for a single second. Maybe because Nayak doesn’t have an ounce of Hopkins’ evil charm. Maybe just because this gratuitous sensuality had already reached its limits in the first season.
A hot couple (no)
The name of showrunner Imtiaz Ali may not mean much to Western audiences. He was, however, one of the main arguments of the series in India. genius filmmakerhe revolutionized the romantic comedy (Jab We Met, Tamasha) while exploring a fascinating auteur cinema (Rockstar, Highway). Unfortunately, his last films are far from having unanimous support. A lot hoped to see him reinvent himself with this new challenge.
One thing is certain, Imtiaz Ali has infused all his cinema into She. For better or for worse. His love of demonstrative dialogues works wonderfully within its more authoritative cinema. But for a thriller, it all feels far too forced. For example, we are entitled to the cliché: “I spare you because I want to keep the rage of knowing you are alive”. For a deliberately literary cinema, the sentence would have been rather beautiful. Here, it’s just too written and caricatural.
When you deserved a better streak
Imtiaz Ali is famous for his films which change register during the story. It applies the same formula to She with a mid-season twist that could change everything. A strong idea bringing a much more ambiguous moral… But an idea that he does not fully assume with a too predictable semi-redemption during the last episode.
Imtiaz Ali’s passion for ambiguity and broken psychology collides with the acting of its lead actress. Aaditi Pohankar bursts the screen when she portrays this cold and powerful (anti-)heroine. On the other hand, it completely misses the sequences of emotion. The confrontations with her ex-husband perfectly reflect her discomfort with the dramatic register. His performance is like the series: irregular and torn by too many narrative issues.
Season 2 of She is available on Netflix since June 17, 2022