Stree in Stree and Rumi in Manmarziyan are not your everyday doormats. They have a temper, these are angry young women.
Two dames, two destinies. One alive, one dead. One pining, one haunting. Both standing up for themselves like most women only dream to do. After a long, long time Hindi cinema has given us two female protagonists to ooh and aah over in new releases Stree and Manmarziyan.
Stree in Stree and Rumi in Manmarziyan are not your everyday doormats. They have a temper, these are angry young women. And unlike their million counterparts in reel life, who simper and self-sacrifice their way to martyrdom, this pair takes on the world.
The way Rumi lives her life, loving and leaving as she pleases, is not just refreshing but also an acceptance of how things are. No family member, no ex-lover, no fiancé or in-laws, not even a gol gappa wallah can cramp her style, her spirit or her hairdo. She of Tinder swipes and hockey playing can use silence as well as words as weapon of choice. In fact, even when she is cringing in guilt, the camera zooms in on her peaches and cream complexion, giving us close-ups of a woman as she really is – and not as she exists in male imaginations and countless fables and myths. She is as she is and not how somebody says she should be.
Stree, of course, is a tad more vixen, veering towards screechy sound effects and sudden kidnaps, almost a criminal from hell. But her complaints are understandable and her hostages go with her without a whimper. She is a woman with a mission, on an anti-men mission. Sometimes so furious, her feet don't touch the ground.
Rooted in modern parlance – both refer to Aadhar card at some point – with conversational casual day to day dialogues flowing freely to and fro, these movies bubble over with comic timing and honest romantic impulses. Like most feminist women who routinely take on regressive chauvinists, these women too appreciate the supportive men who come along en route. A grandfather there, a tailor here... a male cast too good to be true, by the way.
In the current climate, it is only appropriate that the sex known as fairer sex (for some reason, for some condescending reason) gets its share of the spotlight. With a lot to fight in Bollywood itself – nepotism, casting couch – getting a raw deal on celluloid is the norm. Women are arm candy, pretty props, airy fairy. High time violence came from womanly arms on womanly terms. The heroine in Dhadak who lost her scowl only after a husbandly slap and the heroine in Genius who responded well to stalking were not easy to identify with. Where are the flesh and blood women of today, the audience groaned. Well, here they are.
Small-town but bristling with all injustices ever done against womankind, here are two lasses who let down their hair – one has red glistening curls, the other reattaches a plait extension in a way that will raise goosebumps.
Both the women are educated, have a mind of their own and treat men at par or inferior to themselves. Dead or alive, as long as they are on the screen our eyeballs stay on them. At long last Bollywood has gone and given us women we feel we know. Poster girls for post-#MeToo times.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
First Published: IST