Post Veere-di-Wedding thoughts

This could almost be a follow-up to a piece I’d written earlier, on the evolution of the quintessential Bollywood heroine. If you haven’t read it already, find it here.

When a film starring four female actors, hashtagged #NotaChickFlick revolves around a plot of reunion of friends on the occasion of the wedding of one, you know you want to watch it. Irrespective of what reviews and critics say. Out of enthusiasm, and curiosity.

So, for a 27-year-old, single woman, one who has made several bold decisions in life, yet is far from claiming that she’s figured it all out, a movie like this sends several thoughts down her spine.

She relates with many of the tensions that the protagonists in the film experience. The conflict of an emotional heart with a rational mind. The challenges that arise from being in the no-man’s land between following your heart, yet wanting to match up to the social pressures of a society that occasionally wants to take charge of your life narrative. Dealing with plenty of first world issues, especially when you’re a millennial Indian woman balancing on yourself on the tight rope hanging between tradition and modernity.

She realizes that in many ways, she shares a note with all four of them. Kalindi’s free spirit that struggles with emotional baggage she’s trying hard to not bring in way of her life decisions, yet get in the way anyhow. Avni’s go-getter attitude that wants to be successful from every angle –  professional, personal and social . Sakshi’s impulsive, rebellious heart that takes her places, both wrong and right. And finally, Meera’s insecurities about life and love especially when the people unintentionally causing you grief are your own.

But her takeaway, is that like her, the protagonists in the film aren’t perfect either. And that everyone’s concept of a Happily Ever After varies. And that every girl needs her own little wolf pack , one she can count on, to make life a little lesser tougher when chips are down.

The film has its flaws, though. It restricts itself to a wafer-thin crust of Indian society that lives in posh bungalows with manicured lawns, and is able to whimsically take, off to Thailand when it wants to escape life’s harsh realities for a while. Multiple forced product placements that feel anything but natural (especially Air India. I wonder if the in-trouble airline is expecting a revival simply by featuring in the film). Few moments excessively over-the-top, right from the costumes to the dialogue.

However, what VDW essentially does, is bring to light, the multiple shades and undertones of the realistic urban Indian women. One who is confident enough to make her own choices when it comes to career and marriage, yet occasionally question her own sensibilities in making those choices. One who is paradoxical, ferociously guarding her sense of independence and identity, yet craving companionship. One who hides her insecurities and fears that arise as a result of her own life experiences, or others, to make sure her life is Instagram and Snapchat ready.

If you’re seeking a film that highlights women’s issues or brings forward women empowerment as a cause, you’re much better off watching a Chak De India. This film is feminine, not feminist. Watch it with your girlfriends on a casual Sunday, and make sure you play the game of who-is-which-character. And leave the theatre without over-analyzing what you saw. Though in my own sense of optimism, I do hope the film somewhere paves the way for mainstream Bollywood films featuring women. Ones where female protagonists don’t necessarily have to  inspire women to change the world,  scream girl power, or tell stories of women changed the world. Yet canstrike a chord by propagating the message that sometimes before you save the world, you have to save yourself. That’s not called being selfish, its called being sensible.

 

 

 

A Letter to Robin Scherbatsky,

Hi Robin,

The moment I set my eyes on you, I knew it was love at first sight. Without me even realising it, you became my role model. For me. And an entire population of women, who carry stars in their eyes, and live on a diet of dreams, hopes and aspirations. For you symbolised everything what any single, ambitious woman could possibly dream of. A job I’d probably chop my right arm for. A fiery, adventurous spirit that revealed a warm and loyal heart within. A smile that made everyone from Ted to Barney (yes, even him!) go weak in their knees. And of course, five dogs for flatmates.

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From you, I learned that a life lived with passion is one that’s well lived. One where you let your heart and soul be your guiding star. One where you stumble a few times, only to rise back stronger. You taught me the importance of self-love. Of never ever feeling guilty to do what nourishes your soul, and eradicate what doesn’t. Of making mistakes, and owning up to them. You are living proof, that  behind every confident, independent, strong hearted woman, lies a vulnerable soul. One that’s afraid of being hurt and of being let down. Yet, one that will never compromise on relationships, only because it is scared to be alone. If there’s only one page that we can all take out of your book, it is to learn to revel in the pleasure on our own company. To reminding ourselves again, and again, and again, that we indeed are complete on our own. Men, jobs and apartments come and go. They’re the icing on the cake, in the end, it is your own self that needs to take the cake, every single time.

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Thank you Robin, for breaking stereotypes. Because scotch and guns don’t only have to be man things. And women who live for their careers and sense of identities can also seek home and family. And women can indeed build other women up instead of being sworn enenmies. Thank you, for making a generation of independent, free-spirited women believe in the power of following their passions and dreams. And fairy tales coming true. Even if you have to wait a little, for Prince Charming to show up at your window. Blue horn in tow, of course.Thank you for assuring me, that each time I have to take a leap of faith if life, all I have to do, is look at myself in the mirror, and tell myself, that if Robin can do it, I can, too.

Lots of love,

Loyal Viewer Fan-Girl

p.s.: Lets go to the mall, today. Shall we?

 

 

Five times Bollywood made me a proud woman

As a millennial Indian woman, I grew up on a staple diet of Bollywood movies which essentially were cookie cutter versions of each other. Rich girl, poor boy. Constant dance around trees and in snow-covered mountains. Girl getting kidnapped by a bunch of baddies and then her knight-in shining armor lover rescuing her.

However, a pleasant trend came along. The actress stopped being the damsel in distress. Suddenly, Simran stopped needing a Raj to come to her rescue when she missed her train. Instead, our female protagonist now became in true essence, the heroine. The one the movie revolved around. The one who didn’t need a man to protect her, anymore.

There still lies a debate whether cinema is supposed to be a reflection or an influence to society. In either case, I couldn’t be happier. For as an independent go-getter female, I couldn’t relate to being the Cinderella-waiting-for-her-prince character anymore. I wanted stronger, more realistic ones. And fortunately, I have a list of movies that are my go to, whenever I need a dose of girl power.

 

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  1. Chak De India : In the last decade or so, the sports movie genre, especially in context of women, has been explored by several films (Dangal, Mary Kom). Yet, nothing screamed girl power more than Chak De India. Especially when Shah Rukh Khan plays the coach, of a team that has everything on its mind except the sport itself. One divided by geography, politics and internal conflict. There wasn’t a soul who could watch this movie without being convinced that once they have a common goal, there’s nothing a team of passionate young women can’t achieve. And if there’s oe dialogue in the movie that sums it all up, It’s when coach Khan says on the eve of a match where his team is taking on a team of male hockey players – You’re not just fighting 11 men, ladies. You’re fighting every man who’s forgotten that if a woman can produce a creature like him, she can do anything.

 

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2. Dil Dhadakne Do – This wasn’t a movie around feminism in particular, focusing on dysfunctional families, instead. Yet one scene in the movie specifically reeked of the internalized misogyny that exists in contemporary Indian society, even today. One where Rahul Bose, the stuffy husband, proudly announces that he ‘allows’ his wife to work, to which a witty Farhan Akhtar (who is also a former lover and admirer of Priyanka Chopra) interrupts, And why exactly does she need your permission? Further going on to explain that when you ‘allow’ someone to do something, technically, you’re reassuring yourself of your own superiority complex.

 

queen3. Queen – How can any discussion on Bollywood and feminism not involve Queen? A shy, reserved woman gets jilted by her fiance on the eve of her wedding , and instead of breaking down, Rani our heroine, takes off on her honeymoon, alone. Where she engages in a series of adventures, discovers her lost self-esteem, and finds her true self. One who doesn’t need a man who isn’t sure whether he wants her in his life or not.

 

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4. English Vinglish – The reason I loved this movie was because of the way it celebrated the average Indian mother. The one whose life revolves around her family, the multitasker who manages domestic responsibilities alongside an entrepreneurial gig with finesse , and then finally, one who overcomes what she considers her biggest barrier – her inability to speak English. Showing the world that there isn’t anything that can’t be accomplishedas long as have the grit and resilience to do so. This movie had me smiling throughout and thinking, Every mom, supermom.

 

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5. Kahaani – If this film had a tagline, it’d be, Hell Hath no fury where a woman concerned. An enraged woman, still mourning the death of her husband to a terrorist attack and her consequent miscarriage, takes on an entire bureaucracy, and a dreaded politician, in her quest for revenge. And succeeds. Because every woman is at heart, is a goddess. One that is worthy of respect. One that protects, nurtures and even slays, to bring back peace and justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are More than a Vagina

If there’s one thing I’d like to tell my tell my daughter (and even more, my son), and all the women out there, its this.  You are much more than a vagina. You are more than the damsel in distress. You are more than the color of your lipstick, or the size of your bra, or height of your heels.

You are a life, waiting to be lived to the fullest. A story, that deserves to be told. A legacy, that must be passed down generations.

You are a dream. A passion. An individual who has a right to her own individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, because you are unique. Irreplaceable.

Yet, you will be objectified. More than once. In boardrooms. In films and magazines and music videos. Reminded that you are nothing but a vagina.  Which is when you must remember that you are so much more than that. And make sure others do too.

From someone who’s experimented, flown, fallen yet survived and thrived to tell the tale, if there’s a few nuggets of wisdom I could impart to my daughter, or any woman who’d be willing to listen, they would be:

1. Be the seeker, not the settler : Follow your passion, and follow it with all your heart. No one I know died from an overdose of passion. Even when they tell you that you’re being a tad bit too adventurous. In fact, even more, then. Because if there’s one message the world needs to get, it is that passions are not gender specific. Be a fire-fighter if that’s what you want to. Go scuba-diving. Climb mountains. Swim oceans. Do them all.

Following your passion is a gamble, yes, but not following it at all, an even bigger one. To passion, add purpose. And to purpose, perseverance. Because the journey isn’t going to be easy. But it’s going to be worth it, I promise. Never, ever, ever settle. You deserve to have everything you desired. Don’t let anyone guilt-trip you in believing that you should be compromising. When in reality, you should be climbing and striving fearlessly to make your way to the top of mountain.

2. Why even try to be a male ?  No, you don’t have to emulate a man. In an era where we want equality of the sexes,  you do not have to become the ‘man of the house’, or ‘wear the pants in the family’ in order to demand power or respect. Your title or position isn’t a function of your gender. You can do it all, even in high heels and lipstick, if you want. And if make-up and jewelry isn’t you, you shouldn’t have to stick to that either.

3. Damsel-in-distress is so passe – You are not entitled to an easy ride. And don’t demand it either. Because there is absolutely nothing that is outright a man’s task or a women’s job. If you want to be an independent, confident, power woman, you need to stop expecting knights-in-shining-armours to spring out of nowhere and come to your rescue. If we expect men to learn housework (which traditionally was believed to be a woman’s responsibility only), then we also should be ready to take on the so-called ‘tough’ tasks – change a flat tire, replace a fused bulb, carry those bags, and yes, even take the check at that fancy restaurant. This segregation of tasks by gender has to stop.

4. Break stereotypes. Everyday – Often times, society, sometimes even your own friends, colleagues and family will try to box you into roles that apparently you are supposed to fit into. You will often be given labels like ‘soft’, and ‘ladylike’, and ‘feminine’, that have no objective meaning, yet you will be expected to adhere to. ‘Soft’ need not mean submissive, it could also mean compassionate. ‘Feminine’ need not mean ‘shy’, it could also mean vivacious. Your labels, and definitions are your own. Create them, adopt them, even alter them, if you must.

5. Respect for other women is key – When one woman rises, another does. And a group of empowered women is all it takes to make other women rise. So if we have to rise collectively, respect for each other is key. We cannot rise if we judge, criticize and bring down each other.

In the end, what I’d also say, is that just like how charity starts at home, you can only expect respect from the world, if you choose to respect, honor, and protect yourself first. Because you  deserve it. So demand it. And don’t settle until you get it. Simply because, you are so much more than a vagina.

 

 

 

She Thought, and so she did.

She was a rebel, always had been,

A woman of her own mind, a free spirit,

For within the depths of her heart & soul,

Lay many dreams nurtured & kindled.

She believed she could bring change,

She knew she’d tread her own path

And within the realms of the physical world,

She believed that she’d find her own place.

The world laughed when she told them of her dreams,

Reminded her of her vices,

Discouraged, Exploited, even humiliated her.

But alas, they failed miserably

For within her softness, lay nerves of steel.

Every wall they created, she climbed over

Every glass ceiling they made, she broke away

To them she never spoke a word,

But with all she did, nor could they.

She stood above them all,

An example, an inspiration, a story of all her wins,

And when someone asked her where she found the strength,

She smiled and said ‘It comes from within’.

They’ll come and tell you’ll never do it

They’ll try to break you all apart

But the one thing that always must stay lit, ‘

Is the flame of hope, within the heart.”