I have a confession. I’m one of the apparently few people who didn’t particularly enjoy Tanu Weds Manu Returns (barring Kangana Ranaut‘s brilliant performance). But if there was one thing about TWMR that I really did appreciate, it was the fact that the imperfect, borderline alcoholic and frankly annoying Tanu gets the man in the end. It was a refreshing change to see the girl who otherwise gets on everyone’s nerves and indulges in every “bad habit” a virtuous heroine would never dream of, still getting her happy ending. I was also happy that the wonderful, heartwarming and totally kick-ass character of Kusum ends up with something even better: an opportunity to make a career AND a chance to find a deserving partner. Another good example is Piku, a character who ranked right up in the irritable, constantly annoyed and ‘difficult to decipher’ woman department. The best part about Deepika Padukone‘s portrayal was that most women could relate to her, with or without having to take a constipated father on a road-trip to Kolkata.
Bollywood is maybe, finally, opening up to the concept of making the ‘anti-heroine’ a protagonist, a lady who doesn’t fall into the wholesome, vanilla and traditional concept our movies have established as the “ideal” woman. It’s not that we haven’t seen badass female leads before: consider Geeta (Seeta Aur Geeta), Anarkali (Mughal-E-Azam), Basanti and Radha (Sholay), Manju (Chaalbaaz) or Vandana (Aradhana). These ladies made mistakes, didn’t take shit from anyone, and eventually did what they felt was best. However, these films are in the clear minority. Much more common are movies like Dil or Laadla and most recently Cocktail, where the ‘shrew’ either lost the man or had to be ‘tamed’ into becoming the perfect desi girl to win his affections. Despite the brilliant Haider (which, in my opinion, features one of the most complex female characters in the form of the brilliant Tabu), we also have Bang Bang (which released on the same day and featured Katrina Kaif behaving like a woman with a negative IQ).
According to box office returns, we may never be able to escape the curse of the dainty girl who simply needs rescuing by a Greek God like Hrithik Roshan. But Bollywood must make an effort to balance this out with women who can, you know, take care of themselves. While our filmmakers appear to finally be nudging in that direction, I’m still a little sad that we’re still miles away from showing an Amy Dunne (Gone Girl) come alive on screen. That character, played by Rosamund Pike and written by Gillian Flynn, is so deliciously twisted, wicked and manipulative that after a while you stop feeling bad for her husband and start rooting for her instead. It feels so good being bad, right?
Currently, the Indian media is trying to turn Indrani Mukerjea into their version of Amazing Amy, and it breaks my heart. Maybe, just maybe, in the next five years we’ll see heroines who don’t apologize for pounding vodka shots and dealing with hangovers at work the next day. Maybe we won’t have to see a smart, quirky, independent woman learn how to make mutton biryani to win over her man, a man who is preoccupied chasing beautiful yet dull girls with zero personality (I really hate Cocktail). Hopefully, we’ll see a woman play a complete bitch on screen and still manage to win audience approval. As two of the greatest women in the world, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have rightly said, “Bitches get stuff done” – and right now, Bollywood really needs one!