Deepa Gahlot’s book offers an interesting insight into Bollywood’s growing acceptance of women as the central characters of a film.
Since time immemorial, the movie-making business has essentially been a male-dominated domain. In fact such was the level discrimination that the first ever film to come out of the Indian subcontinent, Alam Ara, featured men in female characters. However, over the years, Bollywood has come a long way as far as gender representation goes. Of course, things are far from perfect with women still considerably underpaid compared to their male counterparts, but the industry has surely witnessed a significant influx of women, shedding stereotypes and delving into all aspects of filmmaking. Deepa Gahlot’s Sheroes is about these women who’ve carved their own identity in a man’s world.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover but a first look at the cover and a quick glance at the introduction and one instantly gets an idea of the kind of journey one has signed up for – one that is endearing and celebrates the power of women. Adding to the experience is the fact that the book has been penned by a ‘shero’ herself. Had it been written by someone else, it wouldn’t have had such a gripping effect.
The book filters out 25 prominent female characters from the countless that have made Bollywood proud over the course of 56 years – from 1960 till now. Each chapter follows a set structural format; the author first narrates the story of the film, then highlights the contribution of the ‘shero’ and finally comments on how it helped shape up Indian cinema.
In shedding light on these female contributors, Gahlot also points out at the kind of films that were being made in India at the time. This is particularly disappointing in that how women have been sidelined in films; box offices successes, over the years, either had no promising performance from the women that were part of it or they did not feature a woman at all.
The book is an eye-opener, telling one that there is a lot more to know about women-centric Bollywood films. Covering films over a significant period of time, from ’60s classics to the best of the ’90s, the book offers enough material to a reader who wants to broaden his/her horizon. It puts the spotlight on how soon after the release of Mehboob Khan’s Mother India in the late ’50s, actresses strived for roles that were as strong as men’s and how actresses Vyjayanthimala and Waheeda Rehman stepped up their game by doing the unthinkable in Dr Vidya and Guide, respectively. Later in Gulzar’s Aandhi, Suchitra Sen moulded her character around the personality and demeanor of India’s sitting Prime Minister of the time, Indira Gandhi, while Hema Malini played a scheming character in Lal Patthar opposite Raj Kumar and Rakhee. In the ’80s, when Indian cinema took a shift towards tackling bolder subjects, Rati Agnihotri played the role of a 17-year-old rape victim in Mujhe Insaaf Chahye and was supported by Rekha in an equally hard-hitting role.
Meenakshi Seshadri’s fight against the system and her family in Damini, Rani Mukherjee’s attempt to play a Sikh batsman in Dil Bole Hadippa and Konkona Sen Sharma’s performance in Wake Up Sid make for some of the best performances over the past 25 years. But with Queen, Kangana Ranaut has taken things to the next level, carving her name in history for playing one of the most memorable characters of all time. Surprisingly, there is also a mention of a male actor – Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420 – who played the role of a female governess just to be close to ‘his’ daughter. Get it?
Did you know that the Shabana Azmi-Smita Patel-Kulbhushan Kharbanda triangle in Arth was inspired from Parveen Babi’s real-life love affair with director Mahesh Bhatt, who was married to Kiran Bhatt at the time? And that Vidya Balan is now known as one of the ‘Khans’ for her ability to carry a film on her shoulders? Or that Urmila Matondkar’s performance in Ek Hasina Thi left her die-hard fans, who wouldn’t have advised her to shed her diva avatar ever, shocked. Films post millennium are only getting better and helping actresses become part of the ‘I Am Different’ category. Case in point: Anushka Sharma in Band Baaja Baraat and NH10 and Deepika Padukone in Piku.
What really hooks you to the book is its quick narrative and to-the-point discussion. No explaination or reasoning is unnecessarily dragged and no discussion is extended to the point of being irrelevant. A point or character is only talked about if it demands attention. How’s that for a book on Bollywood’s under-celebrated Sheroes?
Courtesy : TheNews