“Big is beautiful… but with such fast changing roles of women in the Indian cinema, will the audience be able to cope up with the changes?”
We live in a country where people are confused whether to judge a woman by the way she looks or the way she thinks.
Who’s to be blamed for this confusion?
All of us have grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan from Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejayenge to Varun Dhawan in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya, and we have pictured our prince charming just the same way, Shah Rukh’s way of talking and Varun’s sense of humour and maybe a little bit of Salman Khan’s body but, really? Is it possible?
The influence of both small screen, as well as 70mm has been so massive on all of us that we forgot to even think what it’s been doing to us.
Just the way we picture our prince charming, the boys picture their little miss perfect. However, what the brain has in store doesn’t concern them because all of us have been taught since childhood that beauty matters the most, chuck the brain.
Indian cinema, started portraying large women as a subject of laughter way back in the 60’s with the famous playback singer and actress/comedian Tun Tun be it in the 1968 movie Aabroo where she played Whiskey Rani or the very famous actress, Guddi Maruti in the 1992 movie, Umar Pachpan ki Dil bachpan ka or even Manorama in the movie, Seeta aur Geeta where though she played a devil aunt, but her character still made people laugh. That’s when it all started, portrayal of the large woman as a laughing stock.
But with time, things changed. Be it Chuttki from Hum Paanch on the small screen to Bhumi from Dum lagake haayesha on 70mm, we have come a long way. From portraying a large woman as a dumb, and with explicit desires and with a nobody-loves-me attitude to an intelligent, successful and with I think am-just-so-perfect attitude we have definitely seen the shift of how we perceive the large women in the Indian cinema. I don’t know if we should be thankful for the monotonous things that the Indian cinema is responsible for or should we be offended because the impact these movies had on the audience, it’s been there ever since.
It’s funny how we as audience are so easily influenced by the cinema that in reality we start believing things that we see on television, be it on small screen or big. The tricky part is now that the Indian cinema has changed its tracks and is doing a slight role reversal of portraying the same large woman as a much intelligent woman and showcasing the rise of the cerebral woman how is the audience going to take it ?
We have had actresses like Vidya Balan and Parineeti Chopra who have played several roles and were loved by the audience and there is Bhumi Pednekar, who played this large girl in the recently released movie, Dum lagake hayesha staring opposite the lean Ayushman Khurana. In an interview with DNA India she says,“I have been an over-weight girl all my life and I have been very comfortable with it. I wore what I wanted, did what I wanted. It was never a hindrance for me.”
While Bhumi made some crazy fans on the big screen, Pushtiie Shiv Shakti aka our very own Mahi from the famous Yashraj produced show, Mahi Way got candid with us for an interview. It’s been a long time that the show got over but there is still serious fan following for Pushtiie.
“The show made me fall in love with myself”, says Shally a 22-year-old student when asked which show she would want a sequel to be made of. She further adds, “I used to feel so depressed because I was so overweight and I have been this way since forever but I was really good in studies and yes just like others I wanted a boyfriend too and just like others I made efforts too but the only difference was that I was large and others were not and I was called a girl with explicit desires while others were called sweet. It was really sad. But then Mahi Way started and it became my life it was as if I was watching myself. I really want the show to come up with a season 2”
She lived in Goa for 5 years and still is as sober as a new born, no alcohol, no smoking, no non-vegetarian food and no random sex, which is Pushtiee, our very own Mahi.
On asking about her role in Mahi Way she says, “I took up the role because I thought it would reach out to a lot of people.” She further adds, “See, my entire life has always been about healing. Whatever I do, has been about healing, not about acting and never will be and it’s definitely not about earning money. Just the fact that I wanted to heal people because that is what I know and that is what my life has always been about”.
Did you yourself go through something similar? “I actually did, most of the things I portrayed in it. I had worked myself in Goa, that’s exactly what I was doing for 5 years. I was actually trying to get out of the fact that people called me fat, that people thought I was useless and I could be nothing else but be fat in my work and it got me agitated and I decided to leave and I left.”
So how did Mahi Way happen? “When I came back, I went for the auditions and got selected and at that time I kept telling myself that it won’t be a good idea to do this because I was like I have just gotten out of it and it’s going to be really easy to dip into that zone again, it’s like an addiction like something that’s been hammered into your subconscious mind through all these years.” Then what made you change your mind? “I told myself, no fine, I will do it. It was like a challenge for me to see if I’ve gotten over what I wanted to get over or not and apparently, I did and it did help a lot of people. I still get people calling me and saying, why don’t you do season 2? And am always like, I can’t do it, I am not Yashraj”, she laughs.
Do you consider yourself as an unconventional person? “See, I am 35, unmarried and in my caste it’s a big thing. I am still not settled in life. I make dream catchers and soaps in my kitchen to which everybody’s reaction is like, ‘listen woman, are you going to be like this forever?’ but the point is I don’t need all that to be living my life. I heal people and that is what makes me happy. My barometer comes from my internal happiness. Living the life the way I want is what I am happy doing”. She further adds, “I am an internationally trained yoga teacher and half the people don’t know that. People are surprised by my flexibility but unfortunately, the only thing they say is, ‘she’s fat’. Nobody’s refusing, I am fat but the fact is that there’s much more to me which people never realise and I don’t think they even want to realise. I have said no to a lot of characters, a lot of roles because of the same reason and for being and thinking like that is pretty unconventional.”
As an actress yourself, you know that most of them aim for that perfect figure. When you started off acting weren’t you apprehensive about it? “Not really, I had confidence in my ability to perform and I never felt as if what if I can’t do that, what’s going to happen then. I feel that I can try to do anything that I am told to do and acting in itself is funny. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, any sort of judgement never crosses my mind.”
It’s really hard to reach that zone. “I don’t know that, maybe I was born like this” she says and laughs.
“I feel everybody’s got their space in the world and they’re all doing what they need to and what they are supposed to do who is anybody to judge anyone”.
But, don’t you think the fact is that the world works on judgement? “It does and when it hits me I go in a very weird zone and I feel lost. It gets complicated for me because am a person who speaks first and then thinks. That’s my process. So, am pretty much prone to various kinds of judgments which I try ignoring by not paying attention.
What is your take on the shift of small screen and big screen that it has undergone in terms of endorsing full-bodied and intelligent women? “I am glad it’s happening because people are getting to see the other side of them instead of just looking at the body; it goes beyond it. I keep telling people, even today that characters I get are either angry, hungry or horny, it’s just not fair, you see. There’s a lot more to us be it in professional life or personal. People get very surprised when I tell them that I had four men and they’re very good-looking, on-top-of-their career, kind, wanted to date me and marry me. Maybe I’ve been lucky. So, not everyone is like that but most of them are. They didn’t care if I was short, fat and they seemed to have more understanding of me.”
That’s commendable. “Yes, and I would really love to play a character where someone is brutally honest about how they find a fat plump woman attractive in front of a group of men because that’s who she really is. I really want someone to create a series or a film that is about one simple person, where it does not have to be just about one man in her life; there can be multiple number of men and it is not about them falling in love with her, but finding her physically attractive. The fat shouldn’t matter, he should find her sexy. I would love to play that kind of role.”
How important do you think it is to free oneself from social taboos?
“I think currently that is the only thing people need to work at. Social taboo is what is actually pulling people down. You can’t do this because of xyz, you can’t do that because of xyz.” It is a very strong stigma indeed. “Yes, like how people say about women not going to the temple when she’s got her periods, but in the past it was completely different. Women were treated like queens and worshiped and today they are treated like untouchables but I don’t blame men for that. I blame the society and the situations for this and why is it only now that we are looking at women-centric films, earlier also this used to happen, like ‘Mother India’ but why now with ‘Queen’ or ‘Dirty picture’ even something like ‘Margarita with a Straw’, it’s nice to see that women are a very strong part of the society so, am sure it will come together”.
“If you see on one hand we are constantly cribbing about society and the taboos, but what are we feeding them? Look at TV today, it’s so regressing. Are we stopping that? No, we just want money and TRP. But we don’t realise that we’re affecting people’s mind track, then we have no right to say that society is suffering with such taboos. We need to take responsibility for what we’re doing. Someone can say I just want to make money, which is great, no judgments. But do you think you can make that money in a better way? Why can’t we think more openly, more beautifully? Does conflict only have to come with this, the kind of stuff we see on TV?
“There are so many different types of conflicts in the world. Why can’t we pick on that and work on that? I feel that should be our main aim and this is what I feel really strong about, people should respect the zone of truth”, she says and signs off.
Guess it’s high time we all open our eyes and see what lies behind the camera-the reality. We all need to stop considering woman as an object, and start respecting her – looking beyond her body and beauty – trying to understand her soul. We need to understand that size does not matter – what matters is the beauty and purity of the soul. When people start realizing this, we all will breathe in a new society.