#PadManChallenge: The strategy that’s making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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The year gone-by witnessed a galore of protests and hullabaloos over the movie ‘Padmaavat’, its supposed distortion of history and the insult of a Queen who to date rested in the words of a noted poet. The protestors were of the opinion that given the cinema in this land influences the mind of the moviegoers more than any book or any intellectual spreading thoughts could ever, this movie which poses a threat to the valour and spirit of their ancestors, should be banned. Yes, the same great land which once boasted of individuals who could ward of the biggest of diseases and universities that imparted knowledge of the highest order, is now filled with such people who cannot differentiate between reel and real, apparently. Quite a sad scenario.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

You must be wondering why am I starting off like this. I will tell you why.

Because when we say that what’s on our screens has the power to influence our minds and divert our senses from the real story to believe this to be true, then we should probably say the same for all. Then why, are there some who are questioning the movements and challenges that the stars put forward on social media, as mere gimmicks, conveniently putting aside the noble intentions?

Just a couple of days ago, a challenge started on social media. Named the #PadManChallenge, this was initiated by the makers and the actors of the upcoming movie ‘PadMan’ so as to create awareness around sanitary pads, and to normalise something which is actually something normal! We were glad to see male stars like Akshay Kumar (the lead in the movie), Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and many others leading the movement and happily posing with the pads without the slightest shame in their eyes. It is really a big move given these are the stars who have a tremendous mass following, even in areas where even the basics of feminism as a movement have failed to reach. It was a relief to see these biggies doing something which can scratch the surface of the taboo that has been created around the term menstruation.

But as it is said, if big names tread on a path of doing something good, feathers are ruffled and there will always be someone to question their intent. And in this case too, there were many. A few came up with their own versions of how this could be just a gimmick and another business strategy to promote the movie. Though their inquisitiveness was a gentle one, but it just poked a hole in a movement which obviously is a very good one.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

SO WHAT, if it is a promotional strategy?

Of course it is a strategy, of course it has been done to promote the movie. And no, they may not continue it post the release of the movie. But that is when their responsibility of spreading the message ends, and that of us as a society starts, of picking it up, encompassing it, and spreading it. These are people in power who are actually doing something by way of their resources and craft, to bring about something good. We may not have seen the movie to judge it as a critic, but as humans, we have all the liberty to appreciate the fact that while they may have gone the ‘Judwaa’ or ‘Dabangg’ way to rake in crores and crores of money while tantalising the audience with painful cliches, they chose a story even the promotions of which are making patriarchy uncomfortable. (Note: Not questioning the genre of masala Entertainment, just a comparison)

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it
Image Source - YouTube

Yes, they are stars and as the ones who are a part of the movie in some way or the other, they would want it to be successful and they would want to promote it in the best way, but let’s not belittle their intentions by calling it all a gimmick, because had their intentions not been to spread awareness about this taboo in the first place, they would have never even thought of picking up this topic, which indeed needs to be talked about by way of a full-fledged commercial movie. After all, the fringe groups think that for the whole population of the country, movies are too real an experience. So let’s appreciate the stars if they are bringing in actually real topics to screen to bridge the gap between real and reel.

And while I leave you to ponder, take a look at the stars of Bollywoodbubble who took up the PadMan challenge way before it started, and took their first step towards breaking the menstruation taboo.

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Image Source - YouTube

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?

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
Image Source - Pinterest

“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”.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it
Image Source - India Forums

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it
Image Source - Pinterest

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.

#PadManChallenge: The strategy that's making patriarchy uncomfortable, let’s not belittle it
Image Source - giphy.com

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.