#DoTheNew: This Women’s Day, let’s vow to never ask these questions to our actresses
With a sleazy smile, you quiz her if she savoured kissing her male co-star. With an invisible wink, you catechise her if doing intimate scenes is an onerous, difficult task. You throw a surprised glare at her, for everything atypical she does. You scrutinise her for being herself. You question the pedestal of her identity. The story goes on, forever.
Into 2017… a few decades after globalisation, multiple films on women empowerment, the unforeseen growth in journalism… After all this, we still keep failing the women in Indian film industry who are headed for a voyage to break the norms. And it doesn’t even take much efforts on our part. Patriarchy has taken possession of so much of our senses that it makes us retrogress without us even realising how we are surrendering to the regressive notions that are in need of change.
Let us admit. When we claim to be a part of the mass media, we are responsible for not just feeding the mass what it wants, but also for shaping popular taste. The progress and advancement in cinema and popular culture demand us to retrospect the trends we have been encouraging. It makes us question our questions. This Women’s Day, instead of bubbling up our apparently progressive outlook with bombastic words, let us vouch to never ask these questions to our actresses ever again.
How was the experience of doing steamy scenes with XYZ?
How was it signing 53 files at office yesterday? How was it breaking your head over a presentation for a crucial meeting tomorrow? How was it discussing modern usage of archaic English with your students for three long hours? Would you not answer back with a blank stare, had we asked you these? But when it comes to an actress who is doing whatever it takes her to get into the skin of her character, those ‘steamy scenes’ lead the discussions. Behind every such question, there’s an invisible grin, a sense of undermining her efforts and murmuring to self, ‘she must have had fun’. An actress, for doing her job well, deserves either applause or nothing at all; but certainly doesn’t deserve cheap scorns.
You romanced an actor who is younger to you…
Each time we read about far young (and sometimes minor) women being married off to old men, we are comfortable in accepting it. Forget reality. Every time an actor in his fifties pairs up with an actress in her twenties, we enjoy the chemistry with wide, open eyes. What’s the deal with actresses choosing to pair with younger actors? We’ll tell you. The deal is, women were taught to be ashamed of growing age. They were taught to be ashamed of grey hair, flab in their belly and wrinkles under their eyes. They were taught that the condition to earn everyone’s attention is to look ‘young’ and pretty. And a bigger deal is to find a man who certifies your beauty and physical possession. A younger man makes you look older, and that’s not what the world means by an ‘ideal match’. Let us not typecast love at least?
You played a lesbian. Were you not hesitant?
Hesitant because…? There’s CBFC that does a great job of dismissing almost any progressive outlook? Hesitant because homosexuality is considered a crime? So is stalking a woman. Have we ever asked an actor, “Were you not hesitant to play a character who stalks a woman as efforts to impress her?” No, because we are used to expressions of desire by men, but not women. In fact, ‘lesbian’ is just a metaphor here. Anything and everything that does not fit the societal definition is met with huge resistance. But what is art if it does not break stereotypes, does not voice in favour of equality in all aspects, does not accommodate? Where will our cinema head if it keeps denying the existence of reality? A lesbian woman, a straight woman, a widow, a single mother, a divorcee. They are you, me. They’re us.
You must be dying to work with the Khans…
This one comes across as the most frequent. Of course, it is a privilege to work with anyone who is an expert in his own craft. It is a privilege because it enriches you, helps you grow. But what’s with this constant inglorious approach towards the female performers? After boasting of all the female-oriented films, why would a Khan still be the parameter of an actress’ achievements? How about actresses who wilfully carried films on their shoulders and carved their ways? How about actresses who keep picking roles as per their gravity and not on how heavyweight the fellow co-stars are?
You’ve a child now. What about your career?
Motherhood was, and is considered some kind of handicap. Despite the fact that numerous actresses have wonderfully managed their career and personal front, an actress who is soon to embrace motherhood, or has just had a newborn, will be subjected to a thousand questions pertaining to her career. Not just acting, but women in any and every profession have a CHOICE to continue doing what they love to do. And if someone is willingly bidding adieu to her career and wants to devote time to her child, can we gracefully accept (and respect) it?
However, free suggestions. You might as well choose to plug your headphones and ignore. Happy Women’s Day! 🙂
Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?
Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.
Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.
Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.
But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.
Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.
Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.
It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.
An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.
The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.
The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.
And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.
While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..
Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.