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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

On the loose: Vaguely Cool

Why a video titled My Choice has divided opinion?

Written by Leher Kala |
Updated: April 6, 2015 12:01:01 am

talk, express talk, on the loose, Murli manohar joshi, My Choice, My choice video, deepika padukone, Indian identitySenior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi has joined a long list of people who are outraged and critical of My Choice, the video on women’s rights, starring Deepika Padukone. Joshi lamented our collective loss of consciousness and Indian identity: “When God wanted to be everywhere, he created mother. But now that has become an old concept. Now you see, we have a choice.”

It is, undoubtedly, still a staggering revelation to many, that not all women want to embrace marriage or motherhood. Indian popular culture doesn’t reiterate that enough and if a two-minute video has started a dialogue on unconventional lifestyles, more power to it. This meticulously constructed film of dramatic, black-and-white split-second frames suggests, rather naively, that everything can be rewritten — especially (maybe, only) if you belong to this rarefied strata of Bombay babes. So they spout some cringe-worthy lines like Your mind is caged let it be but also slip in some provocative ones — To love temporarily or lust forever. The director is focussed, specifically, on the well-heeled city woman and in a meandering, randomly strung together way has pondered out aloud. It’s clearly meant for a fashionable audience. Is that really so bad?

The criticism of My Choice is that it’s superficial and banal, featuring women who have absolutely everything. It is indeed hyper-stylised, using forgivable titillation techniques to shock, but it’s diverting enough, which is precisely why it has garnered 4.5 million hits. Another way to see it is that this new wave of pop feminism sweeping India has enveloped everybody. Even a fashion magazine devoted to glamorous perfection that has as a rule, unapologetically, shunned anything serious. But they can no longer afford to ignore the mood of the nation that pounces and critically scrutinises the utterly bizarre sound bytes that clutter our discourse: “A dark-skinned woman could never be Congress leader” or “Tobacco doesn’t cause cancer”.

India doesn’t have any performance artist icons like Lady Gaga or Madonna who are constantly pushing boundaries with outrageous imagery or freaky self expression. Gimmicky they might be since their outer shells completely dwarf their music but their aesthetic reinventions make statements that can’t be ignored. In a somewhat similar, 11-minute, retrospective film Yours and Mine, Beyonce ruminates on fame, her life, and her reluctance to identify as a feminist. She somberly acknowledges how “incredibly lucky” she’s been, crediting music and just, plain luck to being where she is. A slight, self-deprecatory note in My Choice would have made it less entitled and more endearing. Like Beyonce, who confesses her choices haven’t always been as perfect as they seem — “just like everyone else”.

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