Vidya Balan faked an orgasm onscreen in The Dirty Picture. Ratna Pathak Shah did so in Lipstick Under My Burkha. Swara Bhasker does so in Veere Di Wedding, with a little help from a little friend. So why are Twitter grandmums getting hot and bothered?
We need movies to show that women are not binaries – bahar se sati, andar se slutty.
Some reasons for this have been put forward by Twitter itself, among them that Swara is a Leftist and therefore this is a Left-Liberal conspiracy to destroy the fundamentals of the family in India. Then is the argument that feminism does not end at sexual liberation. Also thrown in is the idea that Swara is not convincing as a rich young woman, having played more small-town women so far, in the process forgetting that it’s called acting – that ability to transport oneself and the audience to another place and time.
What is common to all is the attempt to gaslight women, as always.
Here is a movie produced primarily by women, starring women in lead roles, and powered by women during the frenetic promos – with one of the actors’ actual wedding even coincidentally timed just before the film release. It has been certified for adult viewing by the Central Board for Film Certification. So anyone who watches this movie is making a conscious, well-considered choice, with or without the grandma.
And yet, the backlash from the right wing.
They clearly have not watched any bromance movie ever. How about Housefull 1,2, or 3, starring their current hot favourite Akshay Kumar? Or Masti, Grand Masti, and Great Grand Masti? Of course, they all star sanskari men, so a little naughty fun is allowed, right?
In the age of #MeToo, the problem is not that Veere Di Wedding is unabashed about female sexuality. It is that it doesn’t go far enough. Yes, it is all right to show women smoking, drinking too much, barfing the next day, discussing the gory details of childbirth, even masturbating with a vibrator, but we can’t do it just once a year. We cannot be what we cannot see, so we need many more Veeres.
We need them to show that women can be professionals and also obsess about clothes; that they can love a man and still not want to marry him; that they can love their child and still want some time for themselves; that they can love their parents and still not want to do as they demand; and that they can want sex just as much as a man can.
We need them to show that women are not binaries – bahar se sati, andar se slutty. And they are not all Padmavatis rushing towards jauhar – some of them can even choose war over mass suicide.
Women can be professionals and also obsess about clothes; they can love a man and still not want to marry him; they can love their child and still want time for themselves.
What I have against Veere Di Wedding has nothing to do with the way the girls have been portrayed – it is the calm acceptance of the environment they are in that worries me. The prospective father-in-law’s bank fraud that lands him in jail, the extravagant spending at weddings (complete with Russian dancing girls and Italian pasta) that is so totally wasteful, and the obsession with property – but I suppose it only makes it more authentic, since in Delhi, all of the above are considered a badge of honour.
There is joy to be had in female friendships, there are stories that go beyond fairytales, yes sometimes women do smoke pot and talk dirty, and yes at other times the expectations can be a bit too much (graduation, post-graduation, marriage, one child, two).
What Veere Di Wedding does is put women at the front and centre of the story, even if there is the token attempt at playing the diversity card (gay uncle, check; Bengali second wife, check; Sikh father, check). It allows them to have fun, to be themselves as much as possible, and as much as MAC eyeshadow and L'Oreal hair colour will allow them.
And the men shouldn’t pine too much. Even the Bhandaris (a particularly persistent suitor who decides Sonam’s character is the girl for him) of the world can have a chance with the posh girls if they are smart enough and patient enough.