Once upon a time in 1983, swamped in gold jewelry, draped in a bright orange ghagra choli and surrounded by piles of multi-colored clay pots, on our tiny TV screen, there stood Bollywood’s future dynamic diva — Sridevi.
As this South Indian beauty gyrated her curvy hips alongside then superstar Jeetendra, to “Naino Me Sapna” from super hit “Himmatwala,” little did the world know, that this multi-talented artist was about to change the face of women in Indian cinema like no woman before. But sadly, there isn’t a happy ever after — as I woke up to the news of the loss of one of my childhood icons.
Sridevi’s claim to fame began at the tender age of four and she continued as a child artist across South Indian cinema. After appearing in over forty films by the age of ten, she was already moulded for the big screen. Her childhood was no longer really hers and it was often believed that her mother was the driving force for her continuation in the field of acting. Thrust into the limelight, the film sets became her playground and the camera lens her best friend.
As a child of the 80’s, I quickly became accustomed to believe that all good Indian films centered around the male protagonist — for it was HE that would kill the bad guy, and HE would get the ‘good Indian girl’, even if it meant desperately chasing her in pursuit and harassing her, no matter how many times she said no! (I failed to understand the so-called ‘charm’ in that!) But Sridevi’s arrival was a game changer with her larger than life screen persona.
Whether it was showcasing her raw emotions in “Sadma” with Kamal Hassan or grooving to “Tacky so Tacky!” — oops! I mean “Taki O Taki” with Jumping Jack Jeetu, Sridevi’s presence was groundbreaking. Not only did the success of 1986’s “Nagina”, a snake fantasy film, lay solely on Sridevi’s shoulders, but even today, when the 1987 Anil Kapoor-Sridevi superhit “Mr India” is mentioned, it is Sridevi’s portrayal as the witty crime reporter that outshines Kapoor as the desi invisible man.
My sisters and I would proudly bellow the lyrics to its anthem “Hawa Hawai” as we attempted to imitate Sridevi’s fabulous moves — minus the bright outfits of course — but we simply couldn’t match her playful expressions or recreate that sparkle in her eyes.
No other actress of that era could entice an invisible man in a drenched blue sari with such sultry moves and ooze sex appeal without looking vulgar, a la “Kaata Nahin”. It was a rarity that a female actor could upstage onscreen two major male superstars such as Sunny Deol and Rajnikant — yet Sridevi walked away with the all the accolades for her double role in “Chaalbaaz” leaving her male peers far behind. What do you say to that Beyonce?
When Yash Chopra presented Sridevi in a new avatar in “Chandni”, she had developed a sense of maturity in her role as a woman who is determined to create her own independence despite being left by her lover. She mesmerised with her incredible dance skills, proving herself as the epiphany of grace and elegance — I wanted to be like her I kept telling myself!
But it was the 1993 release of “Lamhe” with Anil Kapoor, that really tugged at my heartstrings. As a teenager, I witnessed Sridevi’s character Pooja’s love for an older man — it was a love that whilst unrequited, was simply innocent, and love that I had not understood was even possible. The look of despair and hurt without dialogue that Sridevi often created in many parts of the film, triggered a flood of tears asserting in my 15-year old mind that yes, this is what heartbreak must feel like.
Her continuous successes had created a new phenomenon as her roles carved a new definition for female leads. She was paired with actors of different generations right from Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Dharmendra to Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, yet still had the ability to have the greater screen presence. Creating new trends in both Western and Indian attire, she was the fashionista every actress and young girl wanted to follow. I even allowed my sister to cut my fringe to recreate the “Pooja” look in “Lamhe”. (Not the best idea!).
Dance was second nature to Sridevi — it was almost as if it was her escapism from the real world. As an awkward teenager, wanting to detach myself from the feeling of being uncomfortable in my skin, I found my love for dance watching her perform with such passion and sheer joy in “Chandni” and “Lamhe.” Dazzling the world with both her dance moves and dress sense, Sridevi was the woman every young girl like me had been in awe of.
The parallels between her upward journey to stardom and physical appearance, however, was not unmissable. Chopra’s movies certainly recreated Sridevi’s screen image, but it was her alleged cosmetic surgery on her nose before the release of “Chandni” that had created headlines. The aesthetic definition process may well be a fashion fad today, but in the 1990’s, void from social media or the internet, this was often unheard of. As her personal life continued to be hounded with controversy, rumours on her changing appearance followed suit.
Whilst there was never any formal admittance on Sridevi’s part, it was difficult for the female teenagers who looked up to her to comprehend why such a successful and talented woman would to change how they look. From where I stood, everyone and anyone wanted to be where Sridevi was — actresses right from Madhuri to Juhi wanted to dance like her, look like her and recreate her magic, but they just couldn’t. Young girls like me only believed what we saw of her on-screen — confidence and empowerment.
The reality is, of course, I didn’t know anything about my idol outside of the three hours of entertainment neatly packaged for me. I didn’t know what is like to not have a normal childhood at school with friends, I didn’t know what it was like to be constantly told what to wear, how I should look, what to say. I wasn’t publicly judged on every decision I made. Even after battling with own insecurities in my 30’s, just as I had loved privately, I could also grieve privately.
What I do know is that Sridevi (and women in Bollywood like her) not only changed the portrayal of Indian actresses, she also allowed young girls like me to use art to detach from negative emotions. She inspired us to dance like no one is watching, laugh so hard that it becomes infectious, and love with passion and soul. If her love affair with the camera was indeed the escape from the harsh realities of the outside world, then it was certainly was a beautiful affair to remember.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.