Filmmaker Homi Adajania, whose Finding Fanny showcased new and independent roles for women, writes about the baby steps Bollywood is now taking towards becoming more women-centric in our story-telling.
The film seems to hang on the lines of the Lebanese movie, Caramel (2007), abruptly veering into an August: Osage County (2013) with a crackling ensemble of Alia (Bhatt), Deepika (Padukone), Kajol, Tabu, and Dimple (Kapadia)… subtle guests Kangana (Ranaut), Priyanka (Chopra), Anushka (Sharma), Neetu Singh, Kareena (Kapoor Khan), Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan), Rani (Mukerji)… the whole lot breeze in and out with sublime appearances.
Abruptly, my dream is ambushed by my two crazed kids who pummel me into waking.
At first, I’m pis**d about the rude awakening. Then, I’m pis**d that it was just a dream. And then comes the warm realisation that we finally seem to be waking up to the immense plethora of talent in our female leads; screenwriters are writing roles for them and male directors are stepping up to steer these taut estrogen-driven dramas out from the shadows of male-hero dominance. I think even the audience — male, female and transgender — is becoming more aware of the urgent need to see and hear women’s stories, and to get a more balanced perspective about our skewed, topsy-turvy patriarchal society. There’s been just too much violence, bigotry and misogyny in the recent past that is now coming to a head; people are fed up and hungry for change.
The strongest statement of choice and emancipation, two simple concepts that women struggle with every day all over the world (and certainly in India), came from the utterly bold and beautiful film, Queen. And who else but Kangana could be the poster-child of this change? Forget the countless married women who have sacrificed personal freedom, and the countless adolescent girls who geared up to sacrifice theirs, even the men applauded and cheered this simple story of a girl exercising her fundamental right of independence.
Everyone secretly loves a sporty chick; deep down everyone sees beyond the hoopla of the ‘weaker sex’, and knows it to be untrue and just wrong on every level. Sadly, and very often, it is the ‘weaker sex’ themselves that perpetuate this myth of the ‘weaker sex’, to the approval of their puffed-up, insecure male partners. And that is where Mary Kom comes blazing through, with fist and muscle, to shatter this stereotype. We are lucky that this is a true story; otherwise, certain men (a lot) would simply choose not to believe it. Just by training for the movie alone, I know that Priyanka could flatten some over-amorous idiot on the street or in a club. Cheers to that.
Even in Finding Fanny, where the characters were Goan and, hence, more laid-back than their pan-Indian counterparts, the lovely Deepika was no wallflower. Mired under layers and layers of complacency and ennui as little villages in Goa often are, her character, Angie, was that girl who parts the curtains of her cloistered life and yearns for a world outside, and with almost innocent, Machiavellian manoeuvres, gets others to do it as well. The movie may have been called Finding Fanny, but it was actually about Angie finding herself.
When Tabu blows you away with such effortless and powerful performances, generously sharing her talent in Haider, Rani seems to have more b**ls than most in Mardaani, and Alia bravely immerses into the deep end with Highway after her college-kid debut — the dream holds the promise of becoming a reality. The future, if not exactly bright, is definitely glowing with an increasing brilliance. Yet, we have a long way to go. Even if we aren’t hurtling into a woman-centric future, our baby steps do count for something. Then again, every reality was once just a dream.
Homi Adajania is a Bollywood film director who has helmed successful movies such as Being Cyrus (2005), Cocktail (2012) and Finding Fanny.