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
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.