Women have always been viewed a certain way in most Bollywood films, so much so, that for the longest time it was difficult to tell different female characters apart. They’ve been docile, damsels in distress who were not supposed to think about themselves. Of course, this image doesn’t help women in real life, and in turn glorifies stereotypes that are already too difficult to get rid of. Slowly, but surely things are changing, and while a lot of this credit goes to directors and writers who are coming up with better roles for women, the actresses too deserve acknowledgment for taking a stand, doing the unconventional, to get what they deserve. And well, for playing such roles with all conviction.
Now that we’re talking about actresses (finally), and their conviction, one cannot help but think of the work that Konkona Sen Sharma has picked over the years. Her choice in cinema is one of the many things where she’s done a commendable job with. The actress has defined a niche for herself, ironically, in experimenting with new roles. While at it, she not only does a good job, but also manages to create a difference that is much needed, for Indian cinema. When we look at her characters, we relate, and even if they’re flawed, we do not feel bad about knowing that as women, we’ve done that or been there – and THIS speaks a lot about the impact of art and cinema on society.
The entire point is, that even if a female character isn’t the definition of ‘perfect’ whatever that is, she also shouldn’t end up becoming a villain or a “bad influence” of sorts.
With Wake Up Sid, Aisha made us want to take risks that usually seem too scary. She defied all odds of the comfort zone that as women, a lot of us find ourselves in, solely because society doesn’t let us explore enough. A guy moving to a new city to find himself is something Bollywood has given us, time and again. But for an Aisha to move to a place that’s in fact too intimidating, and leaving us with all the reasons that something as risky as that could work, feels important. If nothing else, the film and the character still makes a lot of people understand the liberation that comes with making one’s own choices – good or bad.
Whereas through Shireen, we saw a character that was a mirror to this society – of the repressive ways and physical or emotional control that too many women are exposed to. Konkona Sen Sharma’s character in Lipstick Under My Burkha was honest and a less fictional portrayal at that. In many ways, the character was quite the opposite of Aisha, who was so full of hope. While Shireen was treated like a commodity by the man in her life, she took control and left a lot of people with hope.
Other characters like Seema from Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi or Bharti from Ajeeb Daastaans might look like something we must have seen or come across before, but when we take a closer look, they’re different from anything that she’s played or we’ve watched. Seema was an atypical daughter-in-law, who wasn’t treated like a part of the family, just because she wasn’t how we’re used to seeing daughter-in-laws in films and shows. The film addressed this difference and didn’t hold any one person as the culprit, including Seema who wanted to feel like a part, without losing her identity – which again felt like a relatable watch.
In Ajeeb Dastans’ Geeli Puchi, we saw a woman who fought multiple battles on a daily basis, given her gender, sexual orientation and caste. While Bharti was someone who wanted a regular life, she struggled to find one, solely because society didn’t view her as a person who fit in. The most intriguing part about the film was it’s final scene, where Konkona’s character does something that was a conundrum between love and wanting what she deserved. And her choice made a difference, given how we expect women to be selfless (not talking about the right or wrong here), but for her, the decision was a reaction to how she had been treated by the same people she can now control.
The entire point is, that her characters make us feel things because they are honest and flawed. They do not try to be perfect versions, because women are people too and no one can be perfect all the time. Adding to that is the way she portrays these women, we see her in a role and we know that she believes in it – it’s more than a preachy character saying things to make a difference. She’s there, doing that because she knows that it’s important. Apart from that, it opens avenues for more actresses who might want to do things differently.