Fierce and fiery: Is Bollywood ready for the storm that Kangana Ranaut is?
Looking like the Queen straight from the hellish oars of dreamland, and carrying her aura on her sleeve, Kangana Ranaut has been taking us by the storm for the past week. The woman has been the phoenix who again and again rises from the ashes, to blow our minds away, every single time. Be it her cinematic outings, or even her interactions with the media, she is that outspoken blow of fire that even waters cannot quench.
But the million dollar question is, is Bollywood ready for her?
Renowned writer Shobhaa De, who is now infamous for her motormouth tweets that trigger outrage every time she types within those 140 characters, wrote in her column recently, “I think Bollywood is uncomfortable with women like her. But it is women like her who are the real game changers. If she refuses to play the glamorous prop in hero-dominated films, it is because she puts a high value on herself. In the bargain, she probably loses out on lakhs. But if that was her main concern, she would have made significantly different choices and been a much wealthier star.” [sic]
We know that the writer seldom says relevant stuff nowadays, but somewhere, deep in our subconscious, we can’t help but agree with her.
Here is a woman who is a brilliant artist, yet misconstrued and misunderstood at every step she takes forward. Here is a woman who is brash and is proud of it. Here is a woman who is conquering the world of Bollywood, challenging the norms and traditions, challenging her own existence of being an ‘outsider’. This is imperative to an industry that has been surviving on lineages rather than talent, where name comes before the screen test, and nepotism exists in all its glory.
Kangana has challenged all the aforesaid notions and with sheer hard work she has shined brighter than a diamond. But, the shine is not what Bollywood is ready for, especially if it does not come off a male star. We have a Vidya Balan who has managed the feat, but where she has been subtle, Kangana has marked a territory and is guarding that with a fierceness audience and industry alike don’t understand, much like her character Julia from her latest movie ‘Rangoon’. Just like there were layers to Julia that even the audience could not fathom, Kangana is made of even tougher and complex layers.
She does not wear her heart on her sleeves, and boldly states what’s on her mind. We are accustomed to leading ladies who smile with all the poise and are seldom snarky enough to comment on matters that are uncomfortable. They speak how they are ‘supposed’ to and answer what we want to hear rather than what they want to say. Public image matters and that is what they strive to maintain, at times, keeping their originality at stake. With her appearance on ‘Koffee With Karan 5’, Kangana effortlessly sashayed over all those norms and recreated the word snarky without batting an eyelid.
The question is, are we ready for a leading lady so confident who is not ready to take a backseat for the ‘stars’? Are we ready for the actress who is so comfortable in her own skin? It is a long way to go from here, as changes are certainly reflecting in Bollywood. We may not yet be ready for the storm that Kangana is, but she is the queen who is here to say. You may love her or hate her, but you surely cannot ignore her.
Are we ready to confront the uncomfortable truths of Bollywood that we adore with starry-eyes? The day we will be, that would be the one we would completely embrace the idea and storm that a lady and actor like Kangana Ranaut is. As for now, we can just try and take a step forward towards that, for we have a long way to go.
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.