Thursday, July 02, 2009

Fashion Revisited: The fate of Bad Girls in Bollywood

There used to be a time in Bollywood when bad girls were depicted doing some scandalous things. These scandalous things were used not just to help us identify the bad girl but also give us an indication of the extent of her badness.

Secretly I used to dig them - the real reason I hated villains was that they had access to these girls and never quite appreciated them fully. I loved Komila Wirk. I worshipped Helen. I wanted to be Bindu's neighbor.

What did these bad girls do in movies that condemned them to a horrible fate - like say a bullet in their heaving bosoms or the leering attention of people like Madan Puri? Several things including but not limited to:

Wearing a short skirt
Showing some cleavage
Smoking a cigarette
Sipping sharaab
Doing a caberet
Possessing hazel eyes
Seductively draping self over a couch, floor or other horizontal surface
And the doozy: Cozying up to Ranjeet

These days no one would bat an eyelid if the grand behenji of Bollywood heroines - Gracy Singh herself - did all of the above. In the first half of a movie! Ok, well maybe not all of them - but you get my point.

Still as were the demands of society and cinema (or both), bad girls needed to be taught a lesson and most used to perish faster than the token black guy in Star Trek.

Sometimes they had a change of heart, but it came too late and they still had to kick the bucket - usually after taking a knife in the spleen intended for someone else.

A lot of guys who did bad things (or guys who had 'strayed' during the course of a movie) got to make a comeback and end the story with a happily ever after. This cinematic journey, sadly, wasn't available to bad girls in mass market movies. More than the gender inequality of it - I've always felt that this made for rather predictable and hence boring cinema.

Which is why, despite its unevenness, I enjoyed watching Fashion - Madhur Bhandarkar's barbed wire bouquet to the Indian Fashion industry.

Fashion has a very ghisa pita, but well tested nevertheless, story - a grounded, middle-class girl (Meghna Mathur) played by Priyanka Chopra arrives in Mumbai with dreams of becoming a super model. She struggles. She tries really hard with mixed results (this comment would also apply to Priyanka's acting).

Through a series of fortunate events (and one smoking bod) she makes it big. She compromises. She begins a downward spiral - first personally and then professionally. She unravels. Finally, down in the dumps, she takes time off to reflect. She makes a comeback.

But does she still have what it takes? Does she still have the talent to sashay about 30 steps, turn and matkofy back again? Bhais ki poonch! If only Priyanka had to land an F-16 on a skating rink or cure cancer instead. But I digress. Back to the point I was trying to make.

In Fashion, Priyanka becomes a bad girl for a while. She does innumerable bad things. Yet in the end, she is able to put it all behind her and becomes a star again. Everyone welcomes her back with open arms.

Sure there is another girl (Kangana Ranaut) who tries the same thing and meets a rather unforgiving end. And Priyanka does have to go back to being somewhat goody two shoes again before she is allowed into the cozy folds of happily ever after.

But all progress can't be measured by a yardstick. Sometimes an inch ruler has to suffice.

I realize this progress could only further reinforce the slutty girlfriend who is expected to become a virginal savitri after marriage stereotype. Which is why I'd like to make a binati to Fashion's filmmaker.

Madhur, I'd like you to make a movie called "Shaadi" - a ceremony that has reached such nutty proportions of made up riwaaz, commerce and dikhawa that its ripe for satire. I suggest at least one character who is a wild child wife who does all kinds of crazy things and totally gets away with it.

Be sure to cast Gracy Singh.


Priya said...

what a fantastic post Aspi.

to think actresses like priyanka are actually considered "talented".

i would love to see gracy singh or even vidya balan do any/all of these things. at least it would be amusing.

I also noticed the smoking/drinking/dancing with black man series of no-nos as an escalation of the woman's downward spiral.

i think your point is well made - there have been superficial and some real improvements, but when it comes down to the wire - the rules are still written large. dil chahta hai - amir has to come and save preity from her marriage; jaane tu - the couple has to get married at a really young age and she abandons her america dreams; etc. etc.

no pakka bad girls yet i think. liberty of hemlines. :)

Pitu said...


*~mad munky~* said...

great post...the captions crack me up!!! *still laughing*

i quite enjoyed the film - kangana's just born to do those roles...she doesn't even have to try to act unhinged.

your 'bhais' comment reminded me of oe of my favourite movie lines - 'gayi bhais paani mein' from Mr India. Love it!!! :oD

Unknown said...

I suppose it shouldn't be lost on anyone that Priyanka's character propels Fashion - and it was the biggest sleeper hit of recent times.

Hmmm...wonder what the audience demographic was like?

Anonymous said...

I hated Fashion - melodramatic cliched storyline and bad acting. I won't even rant about the racist scene with the black guy. arghh

I can't believe Priyanka won awards for this lifeless performance. She has dead eyes - no emotions show through to reflect what she is feeling. Kanga has played the same type of role in all her movies thus far.

BTW it was not a sleeper hit. The movie did average business from the multplexes.

Unknown said...

Hilarious Aspi.. I agree with Mad Munky.. The captions totally had me ROFL :D:D

I see no hope for Hindi movie heroines.. They still have to have a man in their lives to be happy, to be successful etc etc.. In films of course.. I guess our desi society will not accept anything less..

Talking about Priyanka's acting abilities, did you hear about Ashutosh Gowarikar railing against Priyanka Chopra usurping Aishwarya Rai at all award functions for best actor - female.. Created a huge ruckus in the industry I hear.. And I also read that it was Jaya Bacchan who incited him to bring this point up at the awards function.. Good to see MIL fighting for her DIL.. No saas bahu kissa here.. :-))

ps: Going back a few posts on how much singers charge for a song, here's a link I read this morning. Pritam charges Rs 15 lakhs for a song :-O

Joules said...

Speaking of Bad Girls, anyone watching Rakhi ka Swayamvar? Hillarious.

Unknown said...

Deepa, brilliant link! Thanks - where would I be without everyone to educate me.

Joules, haven't it yet, thanks for the heads up - will be looking for it.