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Monday, September 20, 2021

Vidya Balan on her short film Natkhat: ‘Anything that makes us uncomfortable is not okay’

Vidya Balan speaks about her film Natkhat and playing a woman in ghoonghat in the film.

Written by Komal RJ Panchal | Mumbai |
July 24, 2021 8:14:09 am
gender violence, short film, natkhat, vidya balan, Yellowstone International Film FestivalVidya Balan in a still from Natkhat. (Photo: RSVP movies)

Vidya Balan has made strong, and sometimes silent, women her forte. After the recent Sherni where her Vidya Vincent speaks through her silences, it is time to meet the actor again in Natkhat. The short film captures how women are shorn of all agency as toxic masculinity rules over their lives. It is apt then that Vidya’s character is just called ‘maa’ or ‘bahu’ in this film. She may be suppressed but refuses to bow down when her 7-year-old son is encouraged to walk the same path of male entitlement.

In a chat with, Vidya Balan, who once called herself a “work in progress feminist,” holds forth on the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse and woman power.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Natkhat is not an easy watch. How was your experience working on it?

We are probably in a different situation than Surekha, my character in Natkhat. Yet, we’re trapped in this patriarchal mindset, sometimes unconsciously. When I first heard the story, my first question to the director Shaan Vyas was ‘how are you going to tell the story in 30 minutes?’ But once I watched the film, I said, ‘thank god it is a short film,’ because it is a kind of film that makes you uncomfortable.

One of my favourite shots in the film is a close-up of all the men sitting at the dining table. The focus is on their faces and mouth as a veiled woman serves them food. I thought it was a very powerful scene, for even before a word is spoken, that scene sets the stage. And yes, it would anger me. I remember when I was in that ghoongat, I was really irritable, because I am not used to having anything on my face. That made me realise the plight of women for whom it is a reality. It really angered me immensely.

You’ve always been a face of power and empowerment, but here your character is a victim of domestic abuse. Was it disturbing?

Empowerment is such a wide term, what is empowerment for you and me, may not be empowerment for someone like Surekha, and vice versa. She is facing domestic abuse and thinks she can’t do anything about it. Yet, she has the courage and the strength to make sure that her son doesn’t repeat this behaviour with another woman. That is empowerment.

Strength can have very different manifestations depending on the situation.

‘Boys will be boys’ is kind of deep rooted conditioning in our culture, it is normalised and accepted in our community.

I think if we become aware that it is wrong, that itself will be a huge step forward. Most of the times we don’t even realise that it is wrong. Someone pulls your dupatta and run away in ‘masti’ , we says ‘boys will be boys’, but that’s not okay, and we will have to realise that. And, as long as we realise that this kind of behavior is not okay, we are in a good place.

Natkhat will stream on Voot Select from July 24.

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