Paoli Dam’s take on the recent trend of Feminism in Indian Cinema

Interview of Paoli Dam

{Let me begin by telling my dear readers that I was a tad bit nervous this being my 1st celebrity interview. Excited, scared, focused (because this was a part of my research project) all at a time. Paoli mam is indeed a sweet heart and I owe her a big thank you for making this so easy for me.}

Me: Hello, mam. How are you?

Paoli: I am fine and you?

Me: Splendid.

Paoli: Good,so shall we begin?

Me: Kichu mind korbe na kintu jodi bhul hoe jae, I am a novice.

Paoli: (smiles) Na na tui bol, bhoe pawar kicchu nei, aree bhul korei toh manush sekhe. Go ahead.

Me: You being a person from the industry itself, do you feel that the role played by women in Indian cinema has changed over the years?

Paoli: Yes of course, the kind of films which are happening these days, especially me being a part of a lot of women oriented films which are extremely strong characters and women of substance. I am fortunate enough to bag those roles. But even if you take female actors from yester years like Rekha, Sridevi, Madhuri though mainstream but still all played very strong women characters. Even in recent days actors like Kangna, Vidya Balan, I think they all are doing very prominent roles where the story content is not at all male dominated. A lot of change has also been seen in the technicalities of the portrayal of female characters. I think the regressive mind-set is changing over the years.

Me: Have you observed any specific difference between the roles women play in Bollywood to that of Tollywood?

Paoli: I would say a lot of experiments are being done in regional films be it Bengali, Maharastrian, South, etc. Even now Bollywood is doing content oriented films but in regional cinema the trend had started long ago. Here I would like to mention Ritwik Ghatak’s Neeta in Meghe Dhaka Tara. It is one of my favourite films. So I would like to place it in this way that we have experimented more, since regional cinema does not have the lavish budget to work on as well as the infrastructure that Bollywood can afford. So keeping these factors in mind we have to make our content, the story, the characters strong enough to gain mass interest.

Me: What would you like to say on the recent trend of feminist films in the Indian cinema?

Paoli: I do not want to sound feminist, but about the recent films I would like to start with Pink, the one I recently watched and loved. Certain things are in grained in our minds as we grow up. Like the do’s and don’ts especially for a boy and a girl. Similarly this film also challenges and questions the society and I think somewhere down the line the time ha some for women to say ‘NO’ to a lot of things. I can draw example even from my film like Elar Char Adhyay where Ela is a very progressive character. Kehya in another film is much ahead of time. She is a theatre actress whose love and affection for theatre is so strong that she leaves her family life. Hence recent films are indeed placing women in progressive roles, which infact show a changing trend in Indian cinema.

Me: People have loved your various works where you played the strong woman. How much do you feel people actually accept common women taking hold of mainstream society?

Paoli: (Chuckles) Yes, you know when it comes to cinema people enjoy a lot, but in real life it is not so easily accepted. Women are supposed to be submissive, docile and polite. It is not so that all of these attributes are wrong, but a woman’s patience cannot be put to test for long, and to bring about change it is they themselves who have to stand up for their own rights. I am not saying that we need to go out and revolt for unnecessary things, but for those that a woman deserves. We can see a lot of changes in this field and more are gradually on its way. I want to be optimistic and hope that through cinema influence the mass to adopt the necessary changes. Both men and women should come forward in this effort. I believe it is very important that men and women stand for each other, only then will society move towards progress. It has to be accepted that over the last decade women have indeed come forward and a lot has been done for their upliftment in the society, but somewhere deep down when we return home we expect our mother to prepare food, because this concept has become a societal norm, and in order to break free of this both the genders need to come forward and help each other. What I loved in Pink was the character of Amitabh Bachan, the lawyer who being a man kept fighting for women’s right. I have been fortunate enough to have seen my father be my constant support system with an un-diminishing faith in me. Hence my role model is my father, because I have seen him do a lot of things which any other man would think twice. To him family meant a team. People in general are bound by social stigmas in such a way that they always expect a man should go out and works because it is his duty to earn for the family but I have personally seen in a couple a long time back in Jadavpur whom we can compare with the characters of the film Ki & Ka. I had observed even after being well established in their own fields the man decided to quit his job and look after their child while the wife was encouraged to continue with her job. We rarely find this kind of people in the society but it is not impossible at the same time. I think people should take a lesson from these films as well as real life examples and stand up for equal gender rights.

Me: Does on and off-screen gender bias still exist?

Paoli: Yes, definitely it does both in Bollywood and regional films. When it comes to remuneration the male actors obviously get paid more. Most of the times we see the script and narrative is prepared in such a way that the male actors get an upper hand get an over their female counterparts. Isn’t this the typical mind-set about cinema? Here girls are expected to be ‘goody goody’, glamorous, eye candy types but its glad to see that we are gradually coming out of this shell and through our works have been able to hammer out somewhere that we deserve better.

Me: Thank you so much for your time and cooperation.

Paoli: You are most welcome, in fact I am glad to help and sorry too; khub busy chilam film promotion e tai ektu deri hoe gelo.

Me: Not a problem mam.

Paoli: Bhalo thakis wish you all the best.

Me: Tomar next film er success er jonno best wishes and thank you once again.

                                [Picture courtesy @ Paoli Dam]



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