I’ve always wanted to be an actor, but it was something that took a lot of courage to admit, even to myself. You see, I was a middle-class girl from a Muslim family, mildly conservative, academic head-girl type etc. Not exactly conventional “Bollywood heroine” material.
Being born a woman comes with a set of disadvantages, no matter where you are born or raised. Indra Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg and a million other women can attest to that. Of course, as a girl, more often than not, your first toy is a Barbie — yes, globalisation has brought about a certain ironic standardisation in the toys we play with. That plastic toy acquired at, say, age five(and here, I’m talking as a South Delhi girl), sets the benchmark for physical appearance for girls for life. In short, perfection. Or rather, some ill-formed, non-existent, air-brushed yardstick of what is popularly known as perfection.
That was what the world told me to aspire to. But what I figured out eventually was that Barbie can be dusky and she can be black, she can have curly hair, she can wear a T-shirt with holes, she can bake, and if you send her out to bat she can hit a six. Barbie can be whoever you want her to be. I figured out that you could be your own Barbie and perhaps even I could be Barbie.
I am pretty by most conventional standards. But even I feel the “weight” of that. Weirdly, though, that’s not what I love about my body, my curves or my image. I love that I have a crooked tooth, and scars from being adventurous. I love that I have Hobbit feet. And yes, this is a first-time admission to exceptionally large feet.
I love movies — I love watching them, being a part of them. But as an actor, the fact that my face and my body are subject to such constant scrutiny is irksome. At least as an actor I signed up for this. Yet isn’t this something all women have learned to do as well?
We live in a culture that bombards us constantly with messages from movies, TV shows, advertisements, magazine covers, telling us there’s only one definition of a perfect body — and guess what, you don’t fit it and probably never will.
Women are constantly taught not to love themselves. You already know who the world wants you to be — “six feet two”, “size zero” or “size minus one”, or whatever eating disorder we’re encouraging this week. It wants you to speak when you’re spoken to, be seen, not heard. The world wants your complicit silence.
Despite that, there have been women who didn’t sit …continued »