How would you perceive a bunch of drunk rowdy men entering a ladies’ toilet if they found theirs crowded, and shooing all the ladies out with complete arrogance (of course, they are inebriated)?
Now, reverse the whole incident gender-wise and try to find it funny. It didn’t work with me, actually. It put me off.
However, this is not so important or significant a part of India’s first all-female buddy movie but it certainly raises a question.
Of course, the movie has a dramatic start – women mercilessly crunching balls of eve-teasers with throaty laughter and mocking eyes indicates good chick lit in these times of continuously reducing conviction rate in rape cases in the country – with cuts taking us into the lives of various characters in the movie (there are 6-7 of them, sometimes you lose count, sometimes you ask – ‘wait who is she? the bride or the domestic help?’) and how they have been at the raw end of the stick of sexism. Great, that. All of us have. In fact, sexual misconduct, assault, and stereotyping are the most significant thread that runs common in the lives of us women, Indian women, regardless of whether we are powerful or destitute, married or otherwise, aam aurat or GODDESSES.
So there are these goddesses congregating in the scenic but rainy Goa to attend the wedding of one upon whose invitation they find themselves there. The mystery is that when they land up, they don’t know they have been invited to a wedding. And then, the bride takes her time telling them who she would be exchanging vows with.
The movie, as has been the trend lately, focuses on upper middle class women. The contrast is offered by Lakshmi, the domestic help, who is leading a troubled existence. But, as the women discover, none of them are having it easy themselves. None. Not even the little girl.
The movie shines a light on all the hallmarks of the ‘woman problem’ in a patriarchal world that is trying hard to pretend its way into making us believe of a genuine transformation being underway towards a more equal world. But, the fact is, it only takes one act of violence to make this a ’10 steps forward, 20 steps back’ game. Listing these issues here – see if you can identify with one, or at least a few, but I’m sure you’ll find many:
Men staring at your assets while you go about doing perfectly mundane activities such as running on a treadmill
BOLLYWOOD (and I needn’t say any more)
Men catcalling as you pass by
Men trying to grab at you
Men looking and staring if you are ‘exhibiting’ your ‘wares’ by wearing something other than what their moms wear
Men wanting you to cut to the quick to talk dirty
People expecting you to take care of work and home
Men second-guessing you just because you are well, not a man
People judging you on the basis of your clothes, your look; even better – your profession
People expecting you to own up to provoking men into teasing you, assaulting you either by calling their disdain for rules (traffic rules, any kinda rules really) or for their attempts at eve-teasing.
People expecting you to behave in a way that justifies the saying ‘grace under fire’, in a situation that doesn’t remotely resemble flying fighter jets in enemy territory
People emotionally blackmailing you to fall in line with traditions that work out perfectly for them but suck for you.
People who think their needs (urges) are more important than yours (the urge to stay away, maybe).
People who willfully abuse you just because you happen to live in their home with their family.
NEED I say more?
SO, anyway, the movie does a great job of describing these problems and the characterisation is quite beautiful. The arty community is over-represented in the mix, however. But Delhi-ite Pammi is a great counter to that and rooted in the real world.
Finally, there’s about to be a wedding and it turns into something else. I can’t talk about it without spoiling it for the reader. What I will say, though, is that this movie is one where we could start – as women – having a dialogue with one another.
BUT, it’s a pity that this dialogue of ours cannot pass the Bechdel test. It has to be about the men in our lives, but perhaps even more about the men around us, at any time, in any situation. Immense is the power they have to hurt us, ruin us, destroy us.
This power is not theirs. This power belongs to the system that breeds such men. The film amply shows that. And that’s my takeaway.
One of the dialogues that stayed with me – To be born a woman in India is to be a fighter!!! I love this view. Yes, fighters we all are. And we must keep fighting. We must help one another in our fights.
Certainly worth a watch.