ARE YOU FEMINIST?

Are you feminist?
I have never been asked if I am a feminist.
Curious as our species is, add to that being Indians, add to it another layer of me being Kutchi, believe me I have been asked many questions. But none about being a feminist or whether I was left wing or right wing.
In my first full time job at indiainfo.com, I came across these ideas that till now I had reserved for my arty members. I liked to hear what the thinkers thought but that was about it. Me thinking about it was going to cause an imbalance to my balanced life. Now that’s not easy, the balance. We, as a family, are experts in living a balanced life. Now as a veteran of that life, I offer guidance. Whatever the situation be, my parents just about managed to get the balance back. I became an active member after my younger sister arrived. You see that caused an imbalance in our budget so now I had to be a contributor and less of a beneficiary. Now that’s a language I understood. What’s to gain and what’s to lose, how to maximise profits while minimising loss.

I was then a part of the new middle class in a new suburb that was officially in Bombay but physically a swamp. My suburb was just a leap ahead of my growth. It taught me what is ‘achieving’, it showed me there was always a 2Bhk to shift to and if I wanted to leap ahead of my suburb that would be to Walkeshwar.
My job at indiainfo.com was in the communication department but there was no space for an extra table, so I had to shift. And I shifted into one of the website’s section – evesindiainfo.com. “What is that?” I asked the HR lady. Well, she said it’s all about Eve. (Hopefully there was no pun intended)

Oh like Femina I thought. Remember compassion. That’s one word I learnt in my efforts to keep awake to watch live transmission of Miss World and Miss Universe.

But the problems on Eve’s website were way more different. In my first week itself a crisis came in. I could see the marketing team rushing up to the content team looking scared. Very scared. Apparently from the whispers I heard the company may lose a very good advertisement account due to an article put up on the website.

I think they were trying to balance but I could see the editor refusing to balance. I caught up with her in lunch break and I asked what the article was about. She said “When your Vagina talks Back”
I went, “ohhhh!”

“Who wrote that?” I asked

“Me,” she said.

And it took me a whole day to absorb that an editor who controls content knowingly has written an article on vagina and has willingly put it on the website. She herself knowingly has rattled the balance.
“Really, how stupid is that?” I told my dad.

“What’s her name?” my father asked.

“Supriya.”
“Madrasi?”
I nodded.

“They are very intelligent,” he said

I agreed.

“Then why did she do this?”

“Maybe too intelligent,” I offered.

“That’s not good for business.”
That’s was my first known introduction to feminism. Till that time I had just heard about bra burning feminists. And I could never understand that why would someone burn a bra I mean what point could be proven and I thought bra was too personal.

Make no mistake I was a woman who had seen a lot till then, I had travelled overseas and had been to a college that ranked in the city’s top 5. But like I said I was busy balancing and suspension was something I was to learn.

Now that I know, I can recall that I have been feminist from the very beginning. My mother moved out when her in-laws didn’t treat her first daughter well, so she sowed the seeds. That I had to fight for my right was something I understood when my younger sister and third daughter for my father arrived. My mom was at the hospital in labor, an elderly woman who was with us till my mother delivered, came home to tell us the news. She was sad and her words were, “it’s a girl again” and she went on to tell us how sad it was.

My father came home jubilant with sweet box. He was so happy. I was still not sure whether it was right to be happy for third girl. That week, boxes of sweets were delivered to my house. My father called for me and asked to give one box in each flat.

“Are you sure?” I asked him

“Of what?”

“Are you happy?” I asked

“Of course!” he said hugging me.

From then on I knew life as a girl would be difficult but I had my parents by my side. What I didn’t know was how fortunate I was. I gave a box to each flat in my society. The 52 families in my society knew that, yes, we had a third daughter and we are happy.

Now when I see so many forums talking about it, so many groups working on it, so many more girls aware of their rights, so many people knowing what a feminist is, I am happy. I know there is lot to be done but I know new people are joining every day.

I know it’s important and one can’t escape it as the VOGUE also thinks it’s in ‘IN VOGUE’.

I would reserve my comments on the Vogue Empowerment video.

I know millions have seen it and even if half of them were women then they know equally about empowerment as they know about ‘My choice’.

Even if it’s tokenism, I welcome it.

And like my father I will try to minimise the damage by exposing the positive part.

Jigna Kothari

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The Bombay I Love…the Mumbai I endure

of booksandfilms


Mother Maiden Mistress

This month my book Mother Maiden Mistress completes two years.  I got a copy out and touched the cover lovingly. I double-check, yes it’s real. The book is still one of the nicest living dream, I have.

Every time someone asks me about the book, I tell them the nicest things; when interested people ask me about what’s in the book, I tell them step wise about the structure of the book. I tell them everything yet nothing.

What I actually want to tell him or her is about the day I thought it is not going to happen, about the journey which began with no publisher in sight and about the times I doubted myself. But who wants to listen to that? Probably the people who want to get their book published?

Yeah, I have become that idea that comes to my friends friend’s mind, my relative’s relative mind (pun…

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The Bombay I Love…the Mumbai I endure

 


Mother Maiden Mistress

This month my book Mother Maiden Mistress completes two years.  I got a copy out and touched the cover lovingly. I double-check, yes it’s real. The book is still one of the nicest living dream, I have.

Every time someone asks me about the book, I tell them the nicest things; when interested people ask me about what’s in the book, I tell them step wise about the structure of the book. I tell them everything yet nothing.

What I actually want to tell him or her is about the day I thought it is not going to happen, about the journey which began with no publisher in sight and about the times I doubted myself. But who wants to listen to that? Probably the people who want to get their book published?

Yeah, I have become that idea that comes to my friends friend’s mind, my relative’s relative mind (pun intended), that random guy/girl who took my number at an event. They call to ask, how did you get the book published? But what they actually want to ask is – Can you get me in touch with your publisher so I don’t waste the time in finding one? At times I ask them if they have completed the manuscript. And they say that will happen but I doubt whether their idea has even touched paper.

They live in the bubble I call Bombay.

For a very long time, nearly 17 years, I didn’t realise or rather recognize the privilege of living in Bombay.

It could be that I had not yet travelled or stayed in any other place – I had no relatives to visit in my native place and traveling for pleasure was a luxury. I remember the first time I went to Bangalore and everyone I met distinctly identify me as Bombay-ite.
You are from North? Bombay…right?

For the South, everything above is North.

No, I say, I am from west of India.

No, no, Bombay is north.

A random rickshaw person asks me, have I met Amitabh Bachchan? Sachin Tendulkar? Sunil Gavaskar?

I would say no and he would say I want to come to Bombay just for that.

At that moment I realised that Bombay has more iconic things than Gateway of India and my house.

I loved the houses in Bangalore they were huge! I actually had to walk from one room to another. In Bombay just a hop and you are in another room. But still visitors from out of Bombay seemed to like my house and usually stayed longer than I had in their house.

I would come back home exhausted every day with day’s travel and work and they would be exuberant about how good Bombay is. I would wonder, we stay at the same place, but they seemed to be living in a different Bombay than mine.

Bombay was the key word.

They believed in the potential of Bombay. Of things happening here.

In Delhi, if your relative visits you, you can take them to say the Delhi Gate, Lal Killa, Nizamuddin, and Lodhi Gardens. In Bombay, I took them to Juhu Chowpatty, Amitabh’s House, Linking Road, Fashion Street, Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, and walk up to the now non-existing Sea Rock Hotel, show them the revolving hotel. That’s Bombay. Over time we have added to this list Shah Rukh’s house, Salman Khan’s house, a bunch of new eateries, the free way, the Bandra-Worli sea link.

I didn’t know what they saw in Bombay but soon I was to realise that.

I was young then had just about started college when I was robbed of my distinct identity. Bombay.

One fine day Bombay became Mumbai.

And Victoria Terminus station became CST.

I was slowly losing myself. I was no longer from Bombay. I was from Mumbai which until then for me was a place where my father went to work. You lived in Bombay, but you worked Mumbai – which was for me – Masjid Bunder, CP Tank, Crawford Market, Mohammed Ali road. My father worked in Mumbai but yearned for a life in Bombay. Mumbai is where you earn Bombay is where you spend.
The first time I realised my love for the city was in 92 blasts. I was at Fashion Street and intended to visit the Stock Exchange later. Harshad Mehta phenomenon was a big thing in Bombay then. And the fact that he was from my suburb made me curious of what is stock exchange. As a kid, I had accompanied father to a small place where commodities were being traded, where one man shouted and others shouted more than him. But I was curious to see how a modern Stock Exchange worked and Harshad Mehta phenomenon was a big draw then.  But I got late bargaining on a skirt and I dropped the plan and decided to go home, better get the trains before peak hours.
Had I not caught the train, I would have been caught in the mob.

The images I saw next day were horrific but Bombay moved on. In a day or two when I went out again I saw billboards proclaiming 92% attendance in offices the day after the blast – Bombay is strong, Bombay is resilient.

I believed in that false hope then. I believed in Bombay then. I fell in love with Bombay then. I didn’t realise that it was Mumbai they were talking about. That Mumbai went to work to because they could not afford to lose a day’s wage. It was not resilience, it was about survival.

Bombay is the city of dreams.

Mumbai is the reality I have been dealing with.

I hated it, when the announcer at my railway station would tell me that Platform No. Char var Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus la jannari jalad local  aiyat Aahe.

And Under my breath I would mumble, VT, VT!

Bombay was the dream where good things happened.

Where dreams came true.

Where there is a chance of Amitabh Bachchan standing next to you.
You see the crowd that stands outside Prateeksha and Mannat, they love Bombay; you see people make their way through the crowds and at times get angry about the time wasted, that’s Mumbai.

When I became a worker bee I realised there were more people who were here to stake a claim in the city I thought belonged to me. But Bombay is city of immigrants my colleague said.

But I grew up here.

And she laughed, Bombay doesn’t belong to anyone.

Yes it’s a dream that many were having alongside me.

Things happened in Bombay of my dreams, but I struggled in Mumbai. Mumbai made me work hard, Mumbai made me adjust with things, Mumbai made me wait the longest for things I thought I deserved.

In the Bombay I grew up in, I had a bankwala Aunty. In Mumbai I meet different bank personnel every time.

The Bombay I knew Sachin didn’t have to tell that he is an Indian first and Amitabh didn’t promote Gujarat.

The Bombay I grew up in didn’t have marked areas for communities and had fewer temples.

The Bombay I grew up in had more faith in themselves and the line was shorter at Siddhivinayak.

There are times when I have to mandatorily write Mumbai I prefer to write as Bombay alias Mumbai. A dream that is lost.

But Bombay springs up again and again. Like that time when Sachin was in my flight, the time when I was standing in a crowd with hundreds for a book launch and the author calls out to me for help and I realise that she actually meant me to help Amitabh Bachchan who was to launch the book. I wanted to call that Bangalore rickshaw wala and tell yes I met him, I spoke to Amitabh Bachchan.

People then were in love with Bombay, people now are critical of Mumbai. A city that is so old and trying so hard to be so new. Nobody is worrying about her soul but is stripping her layer after layer for new things.
I shifted from Mumbai to Bombay the day my necessities were met. I started living in Bombay as I left the trains for a car, the street food for hotel and bank Aunty for a relationship manager.

I thought of doing a book on cinema in 2000. I didn’t know anything about publishing but I had a partner who believed in it. We started a small content providing firm. Mumbai made me work on my deals, made us take up assignments that we didn’t want to, met nice people, adjusted with bad people suffered the stepping over us, stepping on us…but the dream was alive.

And then the book happened in 2007. The idea was put on paper and a structure was created. The journey started without knowing that it would ever reach its end.

Sweat, papers, movies, DVD’s, articles, books, people, negativity, despair, hope, loss, emotions just about everything was happening with us. But we hung on to our work like the person hanging out on a fast Ambarnath local hoping to get in sometime. We did.

18th April 2012, the book was officially released.

Just a day prior there was a scare about the launch not happening.

Just a month prior the book was to be rescheduled.

Just a year back the book was put on hold.
But 18th April, 2012 the book came out.

And someone asked me, when did you start working on the book?
In 2000, I said.
Jigna Kothari

The Finale

 

Mother Maiden Mistress completes a year!

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It’s been a year to the day that our book Mother Maiden Mistress was released and nearly two years since we wrapped up our study on women characters in Hindi cinema by detailing a few films that held for us a promise for better times for women in cinema. Even if our optimism was tempered by the fact – and as we wrote – that one swallow does not a summer make.

The year 2012 gave us a glimpse of the contemporary Indian woman – from the locales of the NRI to the semi-urban small towns – she is shown as a person caught in the conflict of identity – tradition versus ‘modern’. Be it Veronica in Cocktail or Zoya in Ishqzaade or Shashi in English Vinglish, the characters attempt to make a space for themselves, trying not to get entrapped within the stereotypical straitjackets of their predecessors. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.

For Veronica, tradition is the pull of nostalgia, of being a part of a family, of acceptance despite the fact that it comes from a tradition-bound society and has hidebound strings of compromise and compliance. For Zoya, tradition is the patriarchal society that makes her a pawn in the political game, an object to be acquired from the enemy and ‘dishonoured’, a vulnerability to be rid of by her own family. For Shashi, tradition is the dismissal of her identity as a person, being submerged into the family while the other members, including her ‘modern’ generation daughter judge her for the lack of apparent ‘modernity’

Then there are the women who stand apart from the conflict – Riana Briganza in Ek Main Aur EkK Tu – she is squarely in the modern – an independent single woman, whose rules are her own. (The fact that two women characters, who hint, wink, have pre-marital sex, are named Riana and Veronica is dealt with in film reviews). Akira from Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a daredevil, go-getter, who hangs out (literally) as the hero defuses a bomb, is a ‘modern’ girl too. (Her name interestingly too gives us no idea of her religion which could be either refreshing or a cop-out. We give it the benefit of the doubt and dub it refreshing). Meenaskhi in Aiyyaa is today’s woman who wants to get married but to the man she chooses. She wants the fairy tale romance of Bollywood and does not spare a thought about her family when she turns up late for her own engagement after being proposed to by the man she loves.

The fact remains that most of these women feature in love stories – except for Shashi whose English Vinglish is about finally finding the ‘self’, resolving the conflict within. One other film that surprised was Kahaani – whose character merged the Mother and the Maiden ending with that of the warrior.

Of course there were other women characters; the ones talked about here are just the ones in the leading roles. There were good supporting roles in Vicky DonorShanghaiTalaash, Barfi! and Gangs of Wasseypur. The rest were the predictable one-dimensional love interests in the 80’s inspired muscle-bound dramas – Rowdy RathoreDabangg 2Son of SardaarAgneepath and so on.

As for 2013, nearly six months into the hundredth year of cinema and there isn’t a single woman character that we can talk about. Gayatri (Rani Mukherjee) in Karan Johar’s Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh segment of Bombay Talkies – the middle-aged professional woman who finally revels in her sexuality is but a flash in the pan.

When we began the book, we searched for characters from the 1950s, and for every year we sifted through the dirt and sand to find minute nuggets of gold – and every year the search got more and more frustrating. It’s been a hundred years and cinema has changed dramatically in both form and content – what about the women? In 1913, the first women on the screen were men in sarees because society didn’t grant respectability to women actors. Audiences didn’t mind men in sarees cavorting in a pond though. A hundred years later, audiences definitely want women actors –  they look much better in sarees. And despite some aberrations here and there, this seems to be pretty much their purpose even now.

The Films (contd)…

Cocktail

Ishqzaade

English Vinglish

Ek Main Aur EkK Tu

Aiyyaa

Kahaani

Ishqzaade

 

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Writer director Habib Faisal tells the story of foes turned lovers – Parma (Arjun Kapoor) and Zoya (Parneeti Chopra).

They are young, hot blooded; they come from a family of politicians; the gun is the only toy they know and they are both equally aggressive. It is refreshing to see Zoya, a Muslim girl set in an unorthodox context. For her father, she is the star daughter. Instead of ebbing, the father pushes her aggressiveness and even proclaims that she is his true successor – this over her two brothers who are shown to be little better than dimwits.

Zoya plans her father political campaigns – the opposing candidate being Parma’s grandfather. Parma, whose father passed away when he was young, has to prove his mettle in his male-dominated family. He knows Zoya is better than him so he feels that has to tame her. That being difficult he plots the love angle. He cons her into believing in his love and finally she gives in. His idea is to marry her secretly and then bed her. She opposes to marriage initially but he talks her into it.

It is after bedding her, after making her what he calls a ‘prostitute’,  he threatens to blackmail her. She has to keep quiet and let his grandfather win the elections or else he will make her shame public. Her immediate reaction is to go and kill him. She reaches his house but gets caught by his mother who in an attempt to reform her son forces him to keep the marriage and his bride alive for his family would surely kill her.

What follows thereafter is a love story often told. They elope with their gun-wielding family behind them. Zoya convinces Parma that her father will accept them. But her father is dead against this and would prefer to kill them both. In the end both the families make a deal to kill them and close the matter. To gain their last victory over their families Zoya and Parma kill each other.

The girl is feisty and talks her mind. There is no taming her and the director-writer doesn’t even try to do that. Zoya flows with the certainty and uncertainty that a young woman deals with. Her confidence was in her father’s love who in the end betrays her. While Parma is told what to do Zoya knows what has to be done.

English Vinglish

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If there is one movie where one could bond with her mother, it would be this. Shashi Godbole (Sridevi), mother of two, is an upper middle class working-from-home woman. Her husband works in a high profile company and keeps his wife away from his professional life. He is very clear on why he married her – she looks good, cooks well and of course for procreation. Her teenage daughter is ashamed of her mother as she can’t speak English well enough for a conversation. Her younger son dotes on her, something her daughter must have done even if she rebels now. Shashi looks after her mother-in-law, the daily household chores, runs her small scale catering business from home and is the go-to-woman for anything that happens in the house.

You instantly recognize this woman. She is your mother. Even if your mother can speak in English, you still recognize the poignant silence of Shashi. Director-writer Gauri Shinde reflects on the often silently abused person of the house with sensitivity. For surely, not acknowledging a person’s worth is also an abuse.

A telling scene is when Shashi is in the US, helping with her niece’s wedding preparations, and her daughter calls up angry, to ask about the whereabouts of her scrap book and Shashi tells her where to find and assures her that she has not read anything in it as its personal. Her daughter responds snarkily by saying how can you read anything, it’s in English. It is here where she speaks her mind; it is here where you want to hold your mother’s hand and it here when you recognize the mother and the women.

It’s happenstance that Shashi arrives alone in the US,  to help her sister out for her neice’s wedding. Here, Shashi to regain her confidence and her  self-esteem decides to  take an English-speaking class.  And it is here that she is recognized for who she is and she begins to fall in love with herself.

One of her classmates, a French man falls for her but she is not interested. It’s when her niece says that it is okay to like a man outside her marriage does the Indian woman step in.  She says she wasn’t looking for love she was looking for respect. But isn’t love and respect somewhat the same thing?

The writer-director flutters over the possibility of another relation without disturbing the hornet’s nest.  In the end she drives home the point that it is trust and respect that matters and the family realize their mistakes. In the end scene when given the choice to read Hindi or English newspaper she picks up Hindi paper to read. English after all was just a tool to prove that she is indeed the super woman.

Kahaani

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There are Spoilers in this review

The moment the heavily pregnant Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) gets down from her taxi-cab, the audience reacts to her with empathy. They are scared for her, she looks like she is about to give birth any moment. The reaction is almost physical – you want to reach out and help her up the stairs or want to put her feet up and make her rest. The audience misses a heartbeat every time she stops wearily in her search for her missing husband. How can she bear this alone?

The character pulls at every heart string to make the audience believe in who she is… a helpless pregnant woman who is nevertheless so in love with her husband that she will fight for his existence. She has the other characters in the film also believe her story. It’s easy to empathize with a pregnant woman, easier to underestimate her.

Vidya Balan lives her role in the film and convinces us right up to the end taking us and the villain in surprise – he is predictable, he hits her where she is most vulnerable – in her stomach. The audience gasps when the prosthetic stomach is pulled out – when she turns into the cold-blooded warrior stalking her prey and killing him.

I would have like the story to end there, she is a soldier, and she does her duty.  But most of us want our warrior women to be in the image of the mother-goddesses  and here too the killing scenes are accompanied by images of blood red Durga in Calcutta. Vidya too was a mother. At the end moments of the film, it is shown that the villain was responsible not just for her husband’s death but the shock of which had resulted in miscarriage. At that moment, a early scene in the film where Vidya clutches her stomach and cries heartbroken makes poignant sense.

The nod to religious icons aside, it was a rare pleasure to watch a good actress essay a role and a carry an entire film.

Aiyyaa

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Meenakshi (Rani Mukherjee) in Aiyyaa has a penchant for melodrama and Hindi films. She dreams in Technicolor. She hams in front of her mirror, mocks her own performances during the ‘girl-seeing’ ceremonies of arranged marriages. She is nearly thirty years old but has no negative body images; she does not want to get married because of her biological clock or the fear of being an old maid. She quite simply wants romance – a full-fledged, multi-coloured, all stops out Hindi film romance.

And she falls into at work, a romance filled with mystique and mystery, when an over enhanced sense of smell leads her to an art student whose body seems to give out a fragrance that entrances her. She does not mind that he is dark-skinned, or of a different language. She sets out to find out more about him. She learns Tamil, disguises herself as a Tamilian and visits his home, she wants to know what kind of bahu, his mother would want.

At home, however, the parents have finally got a positive answer from the numerous boys who had come to ‘see’ her. Her engagement is announced and she is bewildered by the practical, middle of the road cinema hero who loves Farooque Shiekh films when she really yearns for a Masala man.

She does not turn up for her own engagment – she is busy in pursuit for her man –  she solves the mystery of his fragrance; he works nights at an agarbatti factory! He catches her spying on him – all is revealed, he too is in love with her, she is just the girl his mother wants as his bride, he says shyly.

Meenakshi is an intriguing character, she has declared herself the heroine of her life and despite her so-called flights into Bollywood fancy, is quite sure of what she wants and she goes about and makes it happen. One is hard-pressed to find such a character in Hindi cinema. Strike that, it is hard-pressed to find such a protagonist in a Hindi rom-com.

Ek Main Aur EKk Tu

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The film begins with the hero Rahul (Imran Khan), losing his job. He doesn’t want to tell his parents who at that time are visiting him so as to avoid upsetting them. He bumps into Riana Braganza (Kareena Kapoor), a hairstylist (note: a new profession for women characters in Dharma production after it made its debut in My Name Is Khan). Riana is in between jobs, has little or no money (little money to buy things, no money to pay rent), is just out of a relationship and is a free spirited soul who has few hair strands coloured red to signify the aforesaid free, bold spirit.

They meet again at a psychologist’s clinic where Riana gets into an altercation with Rahul and ends up walking out with his patient info card. She invites him out for a drink and they end up drunk enough to get married. What follows then is the wait to annul the marriage in which Riana moves in with Rahul as she is awaiting for a money transfer from home.

During this time Riana shows him the fun side of life – how not to be uptight. Rahul falls in love with Riana while she is just in love with life. The end is done unconventionally where they don’t live happily ever after – they just remain very good friends.

I wanted to like Rahul but something kept me away from him maybe because I didn’t want to mother one more person. Maybe that’s what kept Riana away from him too. And just when I was easily sailing to the end comes the scene after Riana apologises to him, she is sorry if she ever made him feel that she too was in love with him. Rahul says it’s okay and now he is ready for a new life as he has settled scores with his parents and he is ready to move on. In that moment of affection Riana puts his hand over his shoulder and then Rahul turns a typical male and says, “Ek toh itna kareeb baithathi ho aur phir bolti ho mein lead kab di”.

Reminded me of the age old and mother of all quotes from the father of all family plus social plus romance movie from the Barjatiya’s “Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhie dost nahi ho sakte” (Maine Pyaar Kiya) and I can confidently say that it only applies to men.

The movie has no significant moments but in its way it has moved a little ahead in characterisation without making a noise about it. The scene where they visit a psychologist just too offload their over worked mind is new for the Indian audience. It changes the conventional thought that psychologists only treat ‘mad’ people, hence the deliberate use of world psychologist instead of shrink in the movie.  Also when Riana in a slip of tongue says yes when asked by official who is taking care of the annulment of the marriage whether she has had sex. This does away with the conventional idea of a virginal lover.

Even the otherwise eye popping scenes are treated in a casual manner to remove the unwanted attention and bringing a fine subtlety like when Rahul and Riana are sharing the bed like friends, Rahul respecting Riana and giving her the space she wants. There are no moments where the camera lingers on her body or the male character’s gaze does.

What’s in a name?

By Jigna Kothari

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare never anticipated Hindi films where everything is in the name. And this solely applies to female characters. A source of constant disappointment, this, the last one being the naming of the very outspoken character, one who visits a shrink and confesses of having physical relations with her guy and of having more then one boyfriend and who in the movie makes a naive younger man fall in love with her – she is named Rian Breganza in ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’.

Vidya Balan’s character Vidya in Paa (2009) was somehow comforting, ‘somehow’ because the character was given a few concessions like she conceives when not in India and also the child’s disability shifts the focus to the child and moreover the whole story then revolves around getting Vidya back with her partner who is the father of her child.

So the name question still rankles in my mind. In Cocktail Veronica (Deepika Padukone) in so many ways defines what Meera (Diana) is not. In a medium where image creates an understanding and subtext, I ask why Veronica can’t be Meera and why Meera can’t be Veronica?

Veronica comes from a broken home, is rich, is well known in party circles and gives a damn about what is to be done or not too be done. She meets Meera, who is all-alone in the big new city and gives her a room in her house. Meera, an extreme opposite of Veronica and also an ideal comfort-sounding board for Veronica. In fact before Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) thinks of sharing a home cooked meal with Meera, it is Veronica who confesses to Meera that her house is now a home and she looks forward to come home.

In comes Gautam who is happy to have a no tension physical relationship with Veronica. Meera though accepting of Veronica refuses to accept Gautam’s philandering. But they do forge an enviable friendship.

The true human nature is seen in Veronica when Gautam confides that he and Meera are looking at a life together. She is happy at first for there was no commitment with Gautam and she decides to party for their good life. They go to a club where Veronica still reigns as party queen. It’s here it strikes Veronica how lonely she is. Everywhere around her are people in relationships but she is lonely in spite of being toast of the crowd. There are voices that can’t seem to feel the void inside her. She is an alien in her own life. Now she wants a home, and she wants fun and she wants it her way. Just how different is she from Gautam?

With Meera she had a life and with Gautam she had a fun companion and now both are moving ahead leaving her in a bottomless pit. And she does what any normal person would do. She makes sure Meera leaves her and Gautam.

In the penultimate scene it’s Veronica pouring her heart out to Gautam. There is a second where you see Gautam going for the kiss he thinks she is giving him. But Veronica steps back – she is the stronger of the two.

In Love Aaj Kal, Imtiaz had his lead female character named Meera- a name associated with the longing, the long wait for one’s love. When I met him, I asked him whether his character was named Meera so as to resonate with the audience. For it had with me and I had felt empowered when Meera just before her marriage gives her first love a second chance and when it fails she moves ahead. As a woman that broke all the long standing ‘forever’ love stories in me. Imtiaz said the character name was not based on Meerabai’s character but yes somewhere it does make a connect.

In a society much adamant to lay rules on women’s behavior there is always a Veronica killing the Meera in her just to be a rebel

And a Meera who is killing the Veronica in her to be accepted by society.

So Imtiaz, why is my Meera hiding in Veronica?