Beyond saas-bahu sagas, how Ekta Kapoor champions intersectional feminism in her movies as producer – The News Everyday

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The notion of Ekta Kapoor because the soap-opera queen is a unidimensional thought, given the thrilling envelope-pushing movies she has been backing as a producer

Ten years in the past, Ekta Kapoor backed Dibakar Banerjee’s anthology Love, Sex Aur Dhokha within the capability of a producer. Her affiliation with the movie was probed extensively just as a result of she carried the bags of displaying the technique for ‘saas-bahu’ soap-operas on tv for over 15 years. But right here she was, supporting Banerjee’s imaginative and prescient of an India far faraway from the conniving, regressive politics of an higher middle-class family.

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Once the ardent followers managed to transcend the three-letter phrase within the movie’s title, they have been much more stunned by how Kapoor didn’t pull her punches on patriarchy in it. The narrative defiantly exhibits how a lady named Rashmi (Neha Chauhan), who’s a grocery store worker, is led on by her supervisor Adarsh (Rajkummar Rao), who movies their intercourse with a purpose to promote the tape to the media in alternate for a big sum of cash. Rashmi is consequently fired from her job and shunned by family.

Many of the movies Ekta put her may behind within the subsequent years revolved round a lady’s relationship together with her sexuality; ladies are seen discovering, utilizing, celebrating or getting penalised for acknowledging their sexuality. While a number of prevail over their circumstances, some are pressured to operate inside their socio-cultural confines. Also, the wrestle with expressing sexuality shouldn’t be the one demon the lady has to combat. It extends to different trappings of her being, ranging throughout class, caste, and gender, after all.

‘Intersectional feminism’ is a time period usually thrown round in prevailing public discourse, however Kapoor appears to have championed it, maybe with out even realising. Her notion as a soap-opera queen usually precedes her efforts in direction of portray a additional feminist world.

After a picture transformation with Love, Sex Aur Dhokha in 2010, she diversified into movie genres via Balaji Motion Pictures. Yes, there have been the Kya Kool Hain Hum and Ragini MMS franchises, intercourse comedies and horrex films respectively, that failed to transcend the restrictions of their genres, however there have been additionally tales of girls, narrated by conscientious filmmakers with an advanced female gaze, starting with Milan Luthria’s biographical drama The Dirty Picture (2011).

Vidya Balan in a still from The Dirty Picture

A biopic of late South Indian actress Silk Smitha, the National Award-winning movie had Vidya Balan play a lower-class lady who makes use of her sexuality on display screen to tug males into theatres. After she discovers that it’s her ‘merchandise songs’ that introduced in additional people than anything in her movies, Smitha smugly declares that she is a front-row darling. Disowned by her personal mom, she leverages her sexuality to get into the nice books of ace male star, Suryakanth (Naseeruddin Shah). Once he provides her the chilly shoulder, she returns the favour by kissing and wooing his youthful brother Ramakanth (Tusshar Kapoor).

Sexuality turns into her weapon of option, her identification, her declare to fame. But she thrives just until she doesn’t pay a lot heed to the defamatory media protection. A minor dip in confidence results in a downward spiral, and Smitha finally ends up killing herself. The Dirty Picture chronicled how the celebration of 1’s sexuality, significantly that of a lady who’s an outsider in a field, usually will get derailed and slandered by fixed scrutiny; how the embracing of 1’s sexuality is inextricably linked with the ‘what’s going to people say’ syndrome. However, a dialogue by Rajat Arora within the movie additionally ensures that a mirror is held to the prying eyes of society: “Jab sharafat ke kapde utarte hain, tab sabse zyada mazza shareefon ko hello aata hai.”

Ekta Kapoor has usually invoked these phrases whereas having to usually defend her option to ‘exhibit’ intercourse scenes and admire ‘flawed’ ladies. With The Dirty Picture, Kapoor additionally paid tribute to voluptuous ladies, a body sort usually undermined in Indian cinema. She explored body shaming via one other lens in Saket Chaudhary’s 2014 romantic drama Shaadi Ke Side Effects, additionally starring Vidya Balan.

Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan in a still from Shaadi Ke Side Effects

Sid (Farhan Akhtar), a younger father hesitant on giving up his bachelor’s life, within the spur of the second, complains that his spouse Trisha (Balan) can’t match into her outdated garments anymore as a result of she has placed on weight submit supply. Trisha takes the blame for Sid’s lack of funding within the marriage, like an odd weak Indian lady. She blames her weight for failing to sexually excite a husband decided on shirking his parental obligations. Trisha, nonetheless, provides it back to him later, as the movie progresses. She channels her sexuality to ask Sid to bed. But the motive is to not atone for guilt, however to tempt her husband into turning into dad and mom once more.

Two years later, Ekta’s lens moved from metropolises to the wild terrains of Punjab. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab took on the drug menace within the state, but in addition underlined that it’s not restricted to the ‘lions of Punjab.’ Alia Bhatt essays Bauria, a Bihari migrant employee who flees to Punjab after her dream of turning into a national-level hockey player is shattered. She finally ends up as a captive of merchants who drug her usually and use her as a bonded intercourse employee. She discovers her sexuality within the harshest approach potential, and even after she escapes captivity, stays hooked on medicine. The shadow of drug habit follows her as relentlessly because the trauma of a serial sexual assault sufferer.

Alia Bhatt in a still from Udta Punjab

2016 was a politically tumultuous yr within the producer’s career. Udta Punjab was denied certification as a result of it ‘defamed Punjab,’ after which one other manufacturing, Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, additionally met with the identical destiny as a result of it was “too lady-oriented.” The movie narrated the story of 4 decrease middle-class ladies in Bhopal — Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah), a lady nearing her 60s who reads erotic novels and is infatuated together with her a lot youthful swimming teacher; Leela (Aahana Kumra), a beautician indecisive concerning the man she loves; Shireen (Konkona Sensharma), a closeted sales-girl who’s sexually exploited by her husband (Sushant Singh), and Rehana (Plabita), an aspiring singer, who removes her burkha to dwell a free life in school.

A still from Lipstick Under My Burkha

Lipstick Under My Burkha broaches varied points that ladies battle with of their tiny corners, and that always overlap with their social or spiritual identities. From the imposition of an apparel that marks one’s spiritual identification, or the diktat of appearing like one’s age, to being denied financial independence and getting pressured into having sexual activity with out utilizing contraception, amongst different discriminatory practices, type the backbone of the narrative.

Two years later, Kapoor offered one other movie on 4 ladies, however ones who belong to a very totally different social class. Shashanka Ghosh’s Veere Di Wedding introduced forth the story of 4 rich upper-class Delhi ladies. The movie was criticised for its ‘posh people ache’, however in my view, it underlined how sure expectations from ladies don’t alter regardless of their social or financial standing.

A still from Veere Di Wedding

In the movie, Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor Khan), Avni (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar), and Meera (Shikha Talsania) wage a conflict towards marriage or the social stipulations that tag it — like commitment-phobia, lack of sexual compatibility, and inter-faith matrimony — points seen as prevalent even in city ‘high-societies’.

With Veere Di Wedding juxtaposed towards Lipstick Under My Burkha, Kapoor demonstrated how ladies throughout lessons are blamed for his or her actions, with out making an allowance for the extraordinarily socio-politically compromised locations they arrive from.

She dwelled additional on the identical in Prakash Kovelamudi’s Judgementall Hai Kya (2019). Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) is a wealthy younger lady in Mumbai battling an undisclosed psychological sickness. When she suspects her tenant Keshav (Rajkummar Rao) is attempting to kill his spouse, her declare is dismissed casually by the advantage of her psychological sickness (learn: Mental hai kya?). Here, a parallel will be drawn between how claims of a sexual assault sufferer are by no means handled with the sensitivity they demand. Bobby’s gender, like her psychological sickness, is just too heavy a burden for the world to look past and purchase into her grievance.

Kangana Ranaut in a still from Judgementall Hai Kya

The most up-to-date trailblazer from her steady is Shrivastava’s Dolly, Kitty Aur Wo Chamakte Sitare. The ‘chamakte sitare’ (twinkling stars) within the title signify the elusive but omnipresent stars that each Dolly (Sensharma) and her youthful cousin Kaajal aka Kitty (Bhumi Pednekar) aspire to seize and possess. Both ladies migrate to Greater Noida (we all know Kaajal is from Bihar) for a greater way of life, however one time the latter begins adapting to her new environment, Dolly objects to her ‘falling prey to big-city temptations.’

Konkona Sensharma and Bhumi Pednekar in a still from Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare

While Kaajal makes use of her sexuality to earn a residing at a name centre where male fantasies are entertained (a web page out of one other Ekta Kapoor manufacturing, Dream Girl), Dolly tries her greatest to carry on to her small-town ‘values’ by struggling via a sexually unsatisfactory marriage, and penalising her son who identifies himself as a non-binary particular person. She reveals, in direction of the top of the movie, that she bought hymenoplasty executed earlier than her marriage as a result of she wished to deceive potential suitors that she was a virgin. As a facet impact, she needed to endure years of ache and discomfort throughout intercourse.

Much just like the looming Noida skyscrapers being constructed within the backdrop, Dolly and Kitty additionally stay work-in-progress all through a lot of the movie. By the top of it, each Dolly and Kitty’s personalities rub off on one another. Dolly learns to let her hair down and be additional impartial, whereas Kitty realises how to not belief an entire new world blindly.

Similarly, if the ladies of the Ekta Kapoor universe have been to be confined in a room, like within the climax of Lipstick Under My Burkha, they certain will study a factor or two from one another. And if not that, then they are going to at the least share one another’s pains, bitch about one another’s husbands and exes, and indulge within the communal pleasure of feminine coping…whereas passing on a cigarette or two.


All photographs from Facebook.

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