The promise of Ask the Sexpert’s premise far outweighs its filmmaking acumen, yet it’s always an enjoyable watch. 91 year-old former gynaecologist, newspaper columnist and all-round sex positive activist Dr Watsa is a gentle joy to behold. Remarkably spry for his age, Watsa has absolute conviction in the opinions which motivate him to continue working, yet is always respectful towards those who disagree.
Thanks to some ill thought-out creative decisions, the figure of a moral objectionist – surely included to bring balance to the film – is shallow and borderline offensive. Stereotypically villainous theme music heralds her appearances on screen, and the interview segments never fully allow her objections to be articulated. Though it favours the liberal viewpoints of Watsa and his colleagues, Ask the Sexpert does achieve balance in terms of gender representation – a frank comedienne is a welcome counter to both the fumbled presentation and righteous moralising of Watsa’s rival.
Throughout, recognisable techniques of documentary filmmaking are used pretty randomly, with intertitles jarringly interrupting candid footage of Watsa at work, proffering information that could have been provided more seamlessly. The cinematography, however, carefully maintains the anonymity of those Watsa advises, but does so without ruining the film’s aesthetic.
Yet Ask the Sexpert does shine an eye-opening and very worthwhile light on modern India. It demonstrates both how reticent and shamed attitudes towards sex are, particularly discussing it in the public domain, as well as how this is oddly juxtaposed with the titillation at work on ever-present Bollywood film advertisements. Like Watsa’s Q&A column in the Mumbai Mirror, Ask the Sexpert both entertains and educates.
Ask the Sexpert intelligently reveals the coyness and taboo around discussing sex in today’s India while offering a portrait of Watsa, the country’s unofficial godfather of sex ed reform, that falls just short of adoring.
DIRECTOR: Vaishali Sinha
SYNOPSIS: A longtime sex advice columnist gains popularity against the backdrop of a ban on comprehensive sex-education in schools in several Indian states.