The New Woman has arrived!
Our world has changed. The woman has changed. She was once a closet smoker. She would look stealthily around and light up, take quick drags, and throw the butt away.
But now, she is relaxed whenever she places a cigarette between her lips and strikes a match. The smoke comes out of her nostrils, and she takes another puff.
She doesn’t care if people are watching. It is her life, her choice.
It is the same with alcohol or when she is snorting heroin or smoking hash.
She is equally guilt-free with a one night stand or sleeping with the husband of an office colleague she likes.
It is her life, her choice.
If she is an editor, she ensures that sexism and misogynist words and phrases are out. As a reviewer, her priority is to check whether the characters or the story is regressive; and if yes, to lambast the filmmaker.
If she is directing an ad film, she ensures that the man in her film is a wimp, his wife may order him around, or rather slaps him a couple of times. She is changing the way men are portrayed; she is changing the mindset. She is quietly working to transform the patriarchal setup to a society where the woman has the last word.
She is the new age woman. She has arrived.
She is a feminist who doesn’t need to explain herself for being what she is.
We have Vidya Balan (Ishqiya, Kahaani, Bobby Jasoos), Deepika Padukone (Piku), Anushaka Sharma (NH 10), Kangana Ranaut (Queen and Manu Weds Tanu and its sequel), Radhika Apte (in her bold scenes), and finally the three girls in Pink (Tapasee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang).
Vidya is aggressive and a dominating partner in Bobby Jasoos where Ali Fazal plays second fiddles to her. Not only is this a title role, but she breaks the ceiling by working in a male dominated profession, as a rare female detective, despite belonging to an orthodox Muslim family.
The kind of roles Kangana Ranaut has done have got her to become an icon for the feminists.
However, the three girls in ‘Pink’ have emerged as the ultimate in the portrayal of the feminists. They defy all the social norms, including living alone, going out at night, and drinking with almost strangers; even being sex workers. At least one of them even admits to having asked for money in exchange for sex (though only because she got tired of the hostile and offensive treatment by the Public Prosecutor); but the film doesn’t even have a hint of judgment against them, about their choices. Their lawyer, played by Amitabh Bachchan ensures that the message of the film “No means No” reaches everyone irrespective of what or who the woman is. This is a total acceptance of feminist values.
The real climax and message reaches the audience when Amitabh, despite being their lawyer, asks Taapsee Pannu in open court whether she was a virgin. He questions her till she opens up. Again, she’s guilt free. She admits that she wasn’t a virgin, but she lost it neither under compulsion nor for money. It was her choice!
It conveys the message Deepika Padukone sent some time back in a short message film. What a girl does with her life or with her body is her choice.
If she makes love to a guy she likes and loses her virginity, it is her choice. Her family, her friends, and the society had no say in the matter.
The New Woman is free from all crutches and every restraint, as well as every manacle.
Kangana Ranaut seemed to play a modern and independent woman who didn’t care for the conventions in “Tanu Weds Manu;” but she and her free and independent woman really emerged successfully in Queen. This coming-of-age story is about Rani. Her fiancé (Rajkumar Rao) calls off the wedding because he finds her traditional. She, a North Indian girl from a conservative family, goes on her honeymoon alone. Later, when her fiancé sees another picture of her where she appears modern, he repents and follows her on the honeymoon. He tries to win her back, but she rejects him.
The girl walking alone and laughing carefree has almost become the symbol for the carefree Independent woman.
Even in “Tanu Weds Manu,” Kangana’s tryst with the independent woman who rejects the social constraints, continued.
Deepika Padukone shifted from her traditional glamorous roles to play Piku, the unmarried daughter of an always constipated Amitabh Bachchan. Everything from her lines, her irritation and her concern for her father projected her as an independent woman. She would have ended up being just another sacrificing spinster Raakhi specialized in, but for the nuanced performance and the treatment.
In an interesting party scene, Amitabh reveals to her suitor that she wasn’t a virgin. This is a complicated situation in the story where an utterly selfish father creates obstacles in the marriage of his own daughter.
However, the point is made. Virginity is passé.
Not going further into the story, I can say that with Deepika’s Piku, the depiction of a modern woman became real.
(…Contd Part 2)