Here, ?W? stands for valour
The climax of the year 2003 and the commencement of 2004 has marked the entry of heroine-oriented themes in Hindi cinema. New releases portray women who fight back, like Durga, Rani Jhansi, Kannaki and Abbakka Rani.
By Preeti Sharma
Gone are the days when the Hindi cinema acting divas were merely signed for eye-candy-appeal and other roles of no consequence. The new trend recognises the women of tinsel town fortunate and strong enough to merit hard-hitting, socially relevant and author-backed roles. Today’sHindi movie story tellers know how to generate a story to which an ordinary cine-going Indian can identify. They have realised the feminine fire and power and are giving prominent exposure to their character, so that the rest world may also be acquainted with it.
From the recent movie releases, be it Puro, the sufferer of Pinjar, Sarika, the victim of Ek Hasina Thi, Chameli, the female protagonist of Chameli, Mahalaxmi, the terrorist of Khakee or Tehjeeb, the rebellious, thankless daughter in Tehjeeb, the women characters are portrayed so well that they are identifiable with Indian women. The story is not built out of air?it has a tint of your life and my life. We feel equally strong, defeated, sorry, jubilant, rebellious and excited for them. Backed with this substantial step of the director, the actresses now have proved that they can not bewitch the audience only with their beauty but with their acting skills too. They are capable for carrying off intense, touching roles and also turning on the oomph when required, all with the same ease.
The Reel Change
To begin the triumph tale with Pinjar, a film based on Amrita Pritam’snovel, it is an honest effort of Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi at recreating history. The female protagonist is Puro, a village belle for whom situations get adverse. She faces everything in her life, riots, mayhem, humiliation, and separation with an unsaid hope. Puro, the character played by Urmila Martondakar, is engaged to Ramchand and excited for her marriage. Till only she is abducted by a Muslim, Rashid to avenge an age-old feud between the families. But she does not loose hope. She escapes Rashid, reaches her parents only to be discarded by them. As she has spent a night outside home, she is considered dead. Puro cries loud in surprise and the background song (??the sons get money and property, the daughters have to leave their homes?) reveal the tragedy. Her heart burns for rebellion though gradually she adjusts to the situation. Partition happens, not only of the country but also of Puro’sself, whose life is changed completely in a dramatic upsurge. Puro’seyes see all and at last face the dilemma?where to go?whether to her parents or continue to live with Rashid. Her brother Trilok offers her to marry unmarried Ramchand. But her teachings and morals as an Indian woman dominate. After accepting Rashid as a husband (though unwillingly) she could never think of anyone else. Husband is God for her. And so Puro is back to Rashid.
Another real life drama, directed by Sriram Raghvan, Ek Hasina Thi, is the story of a single, independent and modern woman, Sarika (Urmila Martondakar) who works in Mumbai. One day she gets swept off by a mysterious charmer, Karan. A strange incident involving Karan lends her to jail, while Karan convinces Sarika that he’sgot nothing to do with it. Confused and misguided by Karan’slawyer, she confeses her crime and gets caught by the law. The movie outlines an innocent woman’sprison flick, humiliations and physical tortures that work in a unifying way to crack her morale. Soon, being intelligent enough, she realises that she is being cheated. She escapes jail and chases down Karan to Delhi and reveals secret facts about him. The virtuous, curly-haired, middle class, sweet- looking Sarika is transformed into short-haired, hard woman seeking revenge for her lost career and reputation. It is painful for her to realise that Karan is a gangster who just used her and when his purpose was solved, he simply did away of her. This turns her violent and as a real hurt tigress she does not want to settle her anger by eliminating her culprit so easily. Sarika takes Karan in a cave outside the town, chains him and gets the rats feast on his flesh. Relaxed, she comes back and surrenders to the law simply. In a journey shadowed by pain, betrayal and chagrin, a nightmare envelops Sarika from which she can not wake all her life.
Chameli (Kareena Kapoor) in Chameli, in a stark contrast, is not a poor sufferer of the society. She is gaudy, bindaas, with no-holds-barred. Well realised who she is and why she is on road on a dark and stormy night, Chameli is both ice and fire, delicate yet tomboyishly bold, loud yet serene, cautious but fearless. Sitting near the Flora Fountain, she makes advances to Aman Kapoor, whose car has broke down and has to take shelter there. While, he keeps mum they are forced to endure each other’scompany and thus get a peep hole in each other’slife. The concept of the film is interesting yet it could be more sensible if it would have given some social and inspirational storyline.
As a terrorist?a secret kept very smartly till the very end?Mahalaxmi (Aishwarya Rai) in Khakee marks a distinctive presence with her negative role. Even in such hard-lined and tough presentation of Raj Kumar Santoshi where male actors, dressed as cops, bring their best in action, Mahalaxmi still gets the audience shocked when they discover that she was secretly spying for Aakde, the villian, corrupt cop-turned-terrorist. Mahalaxmi wins easy sympathy by concocting an excuse and joins the cops who are assigned a mission by the government of shifting an ISI terrorist, Iqbal Ansari from Chandangarh to Mumbai.
Facing boldly the fear of death her mission is clear: one to obtain a secret file which can get a strong politician of State in trouble and second to come high in the eyes of her lover-cum-boss- Aakde. For her every thing is fair in love and war. She befools everyone, especially Senior Inspector Shekhar, who shares the mission with her, gradually falls in love and even handles her the secret file, which she simply passes on straight to Aakde. But love could not ring bells for her. She remains truthful (though to evil) but was not paid right for it. Aakde defends himself from a bullet by dragging Mahalaxmi in front of her. Betrayal marks her sad end.
Tehjeeb is an emotional drama about a mother-daughter relationship, chiefly comprising of three women, Rukhsana Jamal (Shabana Azmi), Tehjeeb (Urmila Martondakar and Najneen (Diya Mirja). Rukhsana is career oriented, playback singer, separated from her husband. Her daughter, Tehjeeb has serious complaints from her that being always busy in her professional life, she never cared for her and her mentally-challenged sister and is responsible for the death of her father, Anwar. Tehjeeb is more character driven than story driven. Both mother and daughter, getting reconciliated after many years, try to be civil but can not hide the deep emotional gulf between them. Their rendezvous open the flood gates of long-suppressed resentments and recriminations.
Today’sscreen women are the real mirror image of the XXI century Indian women. They no longer shed tears and face tortures as misfortune. They do not complain to their life but fight back, like Durga, Rani Jhansi, Kannaki and Abbakka Rani. But this does not mean that they do not make adjustments or compromises, they do but not blindly yet logically. If Puro is exposed by the world and religious strife, she listens to her conscious. Sarika emerges anew, revenges her culprit and lives tranquil so on. Chameli has no regrets out of life, Mahalaxmi is loyal to evil and Tehjeeb to her conceptions. These are the all-emotive credentials, which mark the Indian woman, complete.