Women Screenwriters transforming narrative of Bollywood heroines
The Hindi film heroine is no more an embodiment of perfection. She is flawed, chaotic, messy, broken, wounded; open about her sexual choices, and is all out revealing the layers of her hidden real self. Thanks to the emergence of the finest women screenwriters ruling the roost in storytelling in Hindi cinema in recent times. The tribe of women screenplay writers conquering the throne are - Kanika Dhillon, Alankrita Shrivastava, Anvita Dutt Guptan, Zeenat Lakhani, Reema Kagti, Meghna Gulzar, Zoya Akhtar, Juhi Chaturvedi, and Gauri Shinde, among others. These women are bringing real women on screen rather than the womanhood imagined in the conventional Indian patriarchal setup. Be it Rani in "Haseen Dillruba", Ayesha in "Bombay Begums", Dolly and Kitty in "Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare", Rosy in "Lipstick Under My Burkha" and other intriguing women characters in "Manmarziyaan", "Made in Heaven", "Judgemental Hai Kya", "English Vinglish", "Piku" have left an imprint on the map of Hindi cinema for years to come. "Yes it's a proud fact to note that many women screenwriters are shining and coming under the spotlight for their strong and unique narratives," Kanika Dhillon told IANS. Kanika has films like "Manmarziyaan", "Judgemental Hai Kya" and the recent "Haseen Dillruba" to her credit. "Since the last five to seven years, there is more consciousness of objectification of women. The way the camera is used has changed and women are no longer looked only as trophies. I feel like alternate perspectives must get their place in cinema," Alankrita told IANS in an earlier interview. Alankrita has written screenplays for films and web series like "Lipstick Under My Burkha", "Made in Heaven", "Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare" and the recent "Bombay Begums". Kanika shares that Taapsee Pannu played the role of Rani in "Haseen Dillruba" who was trying to negotiate an arranged marriage set up and face the hiccups of a regular girl. She is a mess and in that chaos, she finds a way out. She is open about her sexuality which offends many people even today. "I wanted to deliberately create a woman that could bring a different definition of feminism to the fixated minds of working - career-oriented - asexual approach assigned to a progressive woman. I always knew Rani was going to rattle the self-proclaimed flag bearers of what pro-feminist-cinema should look like," said Kanika. The women writers bring forth their struggles and experiences weaved in their storylines making them realistic. Talking about the characters in "Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare", Alankrita previously told IANS, "Although the film is entirely fictional, for me it is very personal and there is a certain truth about the bond Dolly and Kitty share. It is real and relatable." Agreed, Anvita believes that relatability to a character is what makes it contemporary. "The things that make sense to me, that are relevant to me, that emotionally move me, will be in the story. They are talking about things that are relevant today, regardless of where they are set in," said Anvita Dutt in an earlier conversation with IANS. The presence of women writers has led to an increasing diversity of voices and points of view. These writers have given a fresh perspective to storylines. Kanika said: "Yes, women behind the camera do bring a gaze and perspective. Since the dominant narratives from the past decades have been a male narrative, female perspective stands out as new and distinct simply because there were hardly were any narratives coming from them." She added: "More women narratives and creators definitely means a more inclusive and diverse take on subjects, characters, and stories that we chose to tell! It also means well-rounded female characters leading the story telling which subverts the dominant male text which we have been used to so far!" There has been an under-representation of women writers in Hindi cinema in the past. Kanika strongly believes that women have been historically used and presented as an appendage to the man and subservient to his needs. Kanika said: "Well the figures and statistics very strongly indicate that representation of women in technical aspects of film making be it writing, directing, cinematography has been very low compared to the men. But thankfully things are changing. Women are leading the narratives and these stories are being appreciated by the audiences," she added. Having gone through a transition phase, women screenplay writers are presently in a unique space and basking in the glory of making history. The road ahead is a long one but women being women, know that the only way to take a fall is by waking up the next day and working harder with more passion. The tribe of women writers is co-existing and moving ahead setting new benchmarks each day and inspiring each other. Kanika said: "Looks like a long one with a little bump here and there, given the road will be having overtones of some sexism and conventional patriarchy along the way! But one that is definitely headed upwards and onwards because we women definitely know how to take a 'set-back without taking a 'step-back." "I see our voices growing louder and reaching a bigger audience. We not only exist but we thrive! That's where we as female screenwriters are headed," signed off Kanika.