Missing the Real Ms

Band Baaja Baaraat’s Shruti is a bindaas exception in Bollywood,which only gives us the stereotype Modern Young Miss.

Written by ShubraGupta | New Delhi | Published:January 30, 2011 12:47 pm

Band Baaja Baaraat’s Shruti is a bindaas exception in Bollywood,which only gives us the stereotype Modern Young Miss.

I asked a disinterested movie-goer but an acute long-time observer of a wide swathe of the capital’s residents,what would come to his mind when he heard of a Shruti Kakkar from West Delhi. His response was on the money. It was not just that the name (and the place) instantly conjured up a kind of Kakkarness which would be madly different from,say,a Subramanianness or an Agarwalness. It was also that it would be a Janakpuri Kakkarness as opposed to,say,a West End Kakkarness: the two localities may be in the same town but do not inhabit the same planet.

The Kakkarness that Band Baaja Baaraat’s Shruti exhibits is exactly what makes her so endearing,and one of the most alive young women in recent Hindi cinema. Kakkar’s college kid uniform is kurta-jeans-jhola-scarf,assembled more for function and casual comfort rather than scoring fashion points. She may well be brand-aware but has neither the time nor inclination to acquire a fake ElVee bag or accent: what she really,really wants is to start something of her own,make something of herself. Marriage will follow,she knows. The groom will be someone her parents choose,and she is fine with that. Work and pleasure do not mix,she tells her youthful aashiq. Love,of course,follows,as does a film which gives us a fully-rounded young woman who proceeds from Point A to Point B with a winning mix of aplomb and vulnerability.

The real winner in Band Baaja Baaraat,one of last year’s best Hindi films,is the fact that Shruti could have just as easily been turned into Bollywood’s idea of an ai hai soniye Punjabi kudi from Delhi. The kind who would wear a clingy kurta with a sweetheart neck,multi-coloured glass bangles up to her elbow,surrounded by baujis and bijis,and cute little doggies. What’s so refreshing about scriptwriter Habib Faisal’s Shruti is that she isn’t a stereotype: every time she comes remotely close to being one,along comes Character Development (hear ye,hear ye,it can also happen in Bollywood),which propels her into unknown territory.

But a Shruti Kakkar is still the exception,and a rare enough occurrence that needs to be celebrated. The New Bollywood is busy giving us the Modern Young Miss,and more often than not,it’s more miss than hit.

Last week’s Dhobi Ghat gave us two sparkling young women. Shai Eduljee is an NRI investment banker on a sabbatical in Mumbai. She is looking for a way to see,through her camera,a world she knows very little about,but is intrigued by: two very different people that inhabit opposite ends of the spectrum — a painter and a dhobi — become the objects of her attention. Yasmin is a small-town girl from UP who comes to Mumbai as a glowing bride: her light dims as she realises that her life isn’t as rosy as she thought it would be.

Both girls have a freshness that’s instantly attractive,and instantly watchable. What I missed in both,though,is a little more depth,a little more character. For all their distinctive speech and apparel,both cling to the notion of a “type”: the former of an upper-class privileged type with a twang; the latter a chotey shehar ki ladki whose leheja is a delight,but is ultimately one tone. I was greedy; I wanted more.

These women I would still consider among the hits. Not so 29-year-old Mumbai Gal Naina,who tried regaling us with her eventful life in Turning 30. Naina is as much a cliché as Shruti a breath of fresh air. Naina is turning thirty soon,but she’s not getting much joy. The man she’s about to get married to dumps her. Her boss is giving her grief. Her biological clock is ticking. She hangs out with her girlfriends and mopes and sniffles: even the whining is of a piece. You don’t get a girl. You get a trope.

Hindi cinema’s inability to give us the real deal has always been a rate-limiting factor when it comes to creating flesh and blood. Stereotypes are so much easier. Aisha’s Aisha Kapoor will wear long garden gloves and dig up a little patch of pressed mud in her South Delhi mansion. Who is this girl?

The vapid Aisha could take a cue from the lambi si,kaali si ladki from Love Sex Aur Dhoka,who falls victim to the dubious charms of a co-worker at her convenience store. He likes her,but he likes the lure of lucre even better,and has no compunction in leading her into a videotaped deflowering. That lambi kaali ladki is a triumph. When she cuts,she bleeds. And we see it.

shubhra.gupta @expressindia.com

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