On International Women’s Day, meet women who went against stereotypes to carve a name for themselves.
A woman doesn’t need a day to celebrate herself. True but until equality comes into existence in the actual terms, it is of utmost importance to dedicate at least one day in a year to talk about them, the issues they faced and their achievements. And, it is equally important to bring forth their stories of beating down the stereotypes and taboos as they climbed up in the ladder. Meet four women who broke conventions.
Masaba Gupta is a leading fashion designer in India who was bullied for her body type and complexion.
“When I was a kid (I was bullied) because I wasn’t considered conventionally good looking and it’s not something that I have made up, it’s a reality. I was going to a school where there were girls who looked a certain way, their hair and body were a certain way but I was very athletic. I used to play tennis and would roll around in sun. So, boys used to call me a man because I was broad shouldered. I was not considered attractive.
I think that it’s because of a major British hangover that we just can’t seem to shake off and this is my viewpoint on it. We have an obsession with fair skin. It’s got to do with the fact that Britishers ruled us for so long that we got accustomed to believing that white skin is somehow superior and that passed on to us from our ancestors’ and here we are today.
People do feel that one tends to forget whatever happens to you in school but that’s not true. You never forget. It stays with you in your mind but for how long can you can keep this with you? So, I have decided to strike it out of mind.
Being a woman in today’s time is about being compassionate, hard-working and having an individual life of your own apart from having a family life and creating your own identity. For me, feminism doesn’t mean to pull down men. We all are equal and we all deserve equal rights. It’s important to not shame men in order to look good and that’s very important.”
Reshma Pathan is Bollywood’s first stunt woman. Recently, her biopic titled ‘The Sholay Girl’ was made by Sai Deodhar
“I was a very active kid. I used to jump from one end to the other. Someone noticed it and recommended my father that I should get into the film industry as a stunt artist and that it would also be beneficial for the family financially. That’s how I entered the industry. But, it’s never easy to make a mark in the men’s world, especially when it comes to being a stunt artist because in this society, unfortunately, men dominate. When I entered into the industry, I was pulled down by many men. They told me things like ‘don’t do this, you will get hurt, nobody will marry you or this is not meant for you’.
At that time, there were no female stunt artists and the male artists used to be the body doubles for women as well. So, when I entered, it was disturbing for them. I was the first woman to get the membership at the Movie Stunt Artists Association. When I did Sholay, I was paid `175 per day. I earned `50,000 with this film, which was spent on my sister’s wedding. Thankful, I was paid so much that I didn’t have to borrow money from anyone.
During the shooting, I also met with an accident and the injury was so bad that they had to put stitches and I was asked to rest. But, I told the director to please let me continue to work because I was in need of money. The last film that I did was Golmaal Again with Rohit Shetty but not as stunt artist but as a small character artist.
I got a call from Sai Deodhar saying she wants to make a film on me. I was shocked to hear that and wondered why would anyone want to make a film on me. Nobody has ever approached me before. So, I met them. They wanted to hear my story and then we went ahead with ‘The Sholay Girl’. I hope to start a stunt academy for the girls but it will need a lot of investment. However, I am in talks with someone who is keen to work on it. So, let’s see.”
Alankrita Shrivastava is an independent filmmaker who made critically acclaimed film Lipstick Under My Burkha.
“I think the parts for women on screen are getting a little bit better and many female actors are refusing to be just trophies in a male-hero lead film. I find it very heartening. When Alia Bhatt does a Raazi and Deepika Padukone does a Piku or Chhapaak, then you know something is shifting. It’s great to see female-lead films be it in terms of female cast, female directors and female producers. These are exciting times for women in cinema and storytelling, perhaps the best we’ve ever seen in India. I hope in the years to come, across formats, more and more space is created for women to tell their stories, the way they want. In terms of cinema, definitely, a better representation of women behind the camera is needed. Having more female directors, cinematographers, writers and producers will result in the quality of films changing. We will start seeing a new narrative and newer points of view. Also, the environment for women will become safer and more secure. More women on a set will enable a far healthier work
environment. I also hope that the #MeToo movement continues in the spirit in terms of making people think twice before assaulting or exploiting somebody. And, women who called out offenders are safe, secure and continue to get work. The sexual offenders should be ostracized and not the ones who have suffered the assault.”
Gauri Sawant is a mother and a transgender activist based in Mumbai.
“To love someone is motherhood for me and I believe anyone can become a mother. Just having a uterus and a vagina doesn’t make anyone a woman. So, what are the boxes that need to be ticked to be a perfect woman in our society? It still needs to be answered.
I have faced so much to be a woman, to just wear one sari. I have lost so many people. Being in a patriarchal society, it’s not easy to come out and say I am a transgender. We don’t let our women speak in our society. So, what’s the whole point of Women’s Day? There is no empowerment.
I was born a boy but my soul was always of a woman so call it an unfortunate incident or a blessing but this is who I am. We have gone through so much transformation mentally that we kind of lost our identity. So, for me, being a woman means a lot because I have dealt with so many things to be even called a woman.”