Ms. Representation: How women have been represented
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week we take a look at a list of ‘representation moments’ of women from recent times
Newton, the Rajkummar Rao-starrer and India’s Oscar hope, is a great place to begin this week’s conversation about representation. The film lays bare the farce of democracy when the execution of rules and the rulebook take precedence over the spirit of the thing itself. The film itself has only one female character of some depth, apart from Anjali Patil who plays a local election resource in Dandakaranya, named Malko. Newton, the Presiding Officer arrives with his team to conduct an election for a small group of Adivasis in the forest. The larger idea that comes from the film appealed more to me than the film itself – the idea of who’s representing us.
In the spirit of this idea, this week I decided to put together my list of ‘representation moments’, from recent times – the good and the not-so-great.
With Dora, Nayantara pretty much announced to Tamil cinema that she was taking over the driver’s seat, literally and figuratively. Whether it crashes or not, she would be the one in charge. And what a moment it was. The whistles and the welcomes for her on the screen and the expectations that came along with it. That the box office was riding on the shoulders of this solo female artiste, or as they call her now, Lady Superstar, cemented her stardom further. We’re staring at the making of a new narrative, here. And if we pay enough attention, a new sort of film with its own grammar and rules might emerge.
Ramya Krishna and Anushka Shetty in Baahubali 2 commanded considerable screen space. I am not going into how ‘progressive’ the worlds they were in and what they played is at all here, of course. The mere space in the screenplay, in that film of so much testosterone, and the fact that these women stood out in the midst of all that and authorial let-downs often, is something to be proud about, no?
Kaatru Veliyidai’s Leela played by Aditi Rao Hydari was a difficult woman to watch. A woman in a bad relationship, being humiliated by the man she loves, in the upper echelons of the society is a rarely seen subject in our mainstream cinema. Reconciling the bellowing ajrakh print curtains, pretty clothes, well made-up people and the picture perfect backdrop with the anguish and pain of being treated like a queen one instance and then trampled upon the other (her words in the film), was tough indeed.
Sonakshi Sinha in Noor, based on the bestselling novel, Karachi, You’re Killing Me, definitely deserved more attention than it got earlier this year. Sonakshi Sinha, with her self-effacing humour, relatable persona and Noor as the desi version of Bridget Jones was pretty fun to watch.
Anushka Sharma’s Phillauri proved that she was no flash-in-the-pan producer. She was not only the biggest star Phillauri was riding on, she was also one of its producers. Playing a ghost, who wanted to be a writer back when it wasn’t ok for women to be one, Anushka carried the heartening and hilarious film – well, floated through it, wonderfully – and one cannot wait to see what she brings to us next.
With Simran, Badrinath ki Dulhaniya, Begum Jaan, Rangoon and Meri Pyaari Bindu the year has been a pretty great one for women in B’wood. Here’s hoping Tamil cinema plays catch up soon.