Ship-dancer Farah, small town Devi, architect Piku, wheelchair-bound Laila– they are dusting off the cobwebs of age-old prejudice by choosing how to live and whom to love – something the ‘good girl’ never could risk getting away with! About time, says NICHOLA PAIS.
On the face of it, it’s objectification of women at its worst… As Lily and Laila, twin operators of a sex de-addiction centre, Sunny Leone is squeezed into the tiniest clothes and sweetly mouths the most risqué of dialogues. Playing with her pet cat ‘pusski’or dusting round objects with a cloth and being tagged a ‘balls-cleaner’, Sunny performs every cringe-worthy act onscreen with composure. Off-screen she holds on to that poise, maintaining, “I feel whatever we shot for MASTIZAADE is not wrong and I am not worried about people’s reaction towards me.” Despite the pathetic reviews – one reviewer called it loaded with ‘mastiso sasti, that you are left cringing rather than cracking up’ –audience reaction was warm.
The film roped in Rs.28.74 crore in its first week. Of course the real victory for Ms Leone had already come before the film hit the screens, when an interview in which she gracefully handled a flurry of misogynistic questions mainly about her adult film past, went viral. An outpouring of support flowed in from every quarter and even Aamir Khan tweeted back to say “Sunny, I will b happy 2 wrkwid u. I hav absolutely no problems wid ur “past”, as the interviewer puts it. Stay blessed. Love .a. (sic)” Don’t forget, even the innuendo-laded proceedings in the film see the two lust-crazed womanisers (Tusshar and Vir Das) actually fall in love with Laila and Lily and go through a number of hurdles to win their respective love!
So is it safe to say that despite the obvious objectification of the heroine and her physical charms, today’s Hindi film heroine is having the last laugh after all? Sure, she must look flawless but isn’t she allowed a great many shades that not long ago would have marked her out clearly as a vamp, a slut, a freak? She does not necessarily fake coyness, is an equal participant in life and love and is no emotional fool either. “Haan dil ki sunli maine, haan rahe chunli maine… pehli baar,” crooned the free-spirited ship dancer Farah Ali (Anushka Sharma) energetically in the dance studio, racing through the cruise-liner’s many corridors and kitchens, before she smuggles her new love interest Kabir Mehra (Ranveer Singh) into her room.
A ‘pehli baar’ love scene that’s got punch and energy and warmth…And refreshingly, none of the anguished passion and resultant guilt that a love scene in decades past would portray, with mandatory thunderous storm, wet clothing and an unwanted pregnancy as ‘punishment’. By the end of the film she also ends up teaching her bratty lover to take the plunge (literally!) and follow his dreams.
‘Punishment’ need not befall the wayward wife, either as Tanu (KanganaRanaut) shows us in TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS. As the foul-mouthed, bickering shrew, dissatisfied with her dull husband, she leaves, hooks up again with her ex-boyfriend, greets family friends in her hometown draped in just a towel, uses her wiles to win her husband back from the brink of his second marriage, is a far inferior creature to her doppelganger Kusum – and yet it’s this gorgeously flawed woman that we feel for her and laugh with and love; thank you Aanand L
Neither vamp, and definitely not virgin either, the Hindi film heroine is emerging as an entity with needs and quirks, a flesh and blood being who simply cannot be categorised as ‘Devi’ or ‘Slut’ so easily anymore. For instance, which pigeonhole could Vijaya Laxmi (Lisa Hayden) in QUEEN be slotted into? A bohemian single mother who lives life on her own terms, she inspires Rani Mehra (Kangana) to break free and live free. “I didn’t know such a character existed in Bollywood cinema,” Lisa says of the character that won almost as many hearts as Kangana did, in this Vikas Bahl entertainer. “She was a wild child, a single mother who drinks hard and swears hard. She is nothing like what audiences in our country expect our female characters to be.”
A sensuous divorcee who goes out on dates as opposed to moaning over her ruined marriage? Yes, that was an eye-opener alright for all the prejudiced folk out there, who are quick to judge and quicker to condemn. So imagine the further shock of having to deal with a ‘disabled’ girl dreaming orgasmic dreams!
…Precisely the case with Laila (KalkiKoechlin), whogoes ahead and smashes quite a few myths in MARGARITA WITH A STRAW… and this while being largely confined to a wheelchair. In the course of this Shonali Bose directorial, Laila discovers herself, explores a sex life with male and female lovers to arrive at the conclusion that she is bisexual and basically refuses to allow her cerebral palsy-related physical difficultiesto overwhelm her, as she wheels down the path to find herself. It was near impossible to judge; much easier to simply fall in love with this feisty, clumsy heroine who is neither to be pitied nor patronised.
Many millennials grappling with lust, love and the concept of marriage found an echo in the free-thinking Gayatri (Parineeti Sharma), Maneesh Sharma’s unconventional heroine in SHUDDH DESI ROMANCE. She is perfectly okay with living in with her lover but the concept of being bound to each in the virtual imprisonment that they see as marriage, is one that has both her and her Raghu (Susant Singh Rajput) bolting from the mandap… only to happily resume their live-in relationship in their li’l love nest. Traditionalists of course sniffed disapprovingly at this state of living-in-sin which the lead couple so happily opts for – in a romance that is neither shuddh nor desi by their orthodox standards.
Hearteningly, it’s not the silver-haired seniors who are necessarily blinkered bigots. Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), terribly hung-up on his bowel movements, is almost shockingly blasé in his description of his daughter Piku (DeepikaPadukone). When was the last time you met a father who almost impishly introduced his 30-year-old daughter to her suitors as a “financially, emotionally and sexually independent, non-virgin woman”?Piku, like many regular women, tries to keep many balls in the air, juggling the managing of her household and a cranky parent, and a demanding career… all this and a sex life that she tries not to neglect either. It’s a statement, a simple fact, neither to be loudly flaunted nor furtively concealed– and director Shoojit Sircar depicts it beautifully.