(From L to R) Dibakar Banerjee, Jacqueline Fernandez and Arjun Kapoor
Young women in the Hindi film industry don’t have it easy. But that is true of virtually all industries, even where there is no open discrimination. The corporate world has what is popularly known as the boys’ club where women have to battle such pervasive sexism that negotiating it becomes second nature. Sandeep Kaur aka Sandy Walia in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Dibakar Banerjee’s gem of a movie which is finally on Amazon Prime after the second wave curtailed its theatrical release, is one such woman who runs a Rs 1,500 crore bank, has been a gold medallist, and thinks nothing of spending Rs 2 lakh on a handbag. What happens when those crutches of big city life are stripped away and she is left with just her wits, with a Haryana police constable for company? A deeply feminist film, it doesn’t have the usual payoff of the wronged woman picking up the gun and killing 100 men. Instead, it has a woman who faces everyday patriarchy with a quiet dignity.
“I’m not some chamiya [just a pretty face],” she says to Pinky. A film that is so much about how work is defined in an economy that is all about the pursuit of money—if Sandy defrauding pensioners is work, so is Pinky undertaking a contract killing. There is a saying in the film industry, “yeh film Monday ko bolegi”, which in effect means the film will become popular by word-of-mouth. Since there are no theatres, one hopes the film, which can only be described as a scathing critique disguised as a caper, will now get to be widely viewed
One of the surprise elements of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is Arjun Kapoor, whose acting skills have never been highly thought of. Add to that his tabloid status as Malaika Arora Khan’s much younger boyfriend and you have an actor who has learnt to be stoic in the face of pinpricks. He told Open: “Dibakar Banerjee told me to believe in myself and transformed me into the actor that people are liking. I was experimenting with the genre, deviating from the kind of characters that I have played on screen but it was definitely worth it. When you work with a visionary director like Dibakar, you only get better at your craft and that’s exactly what has happened to me. I am proud of the film and grateful that my performance has been liked by audiences and critics, especially the climax. This kind of appreciation for me is quite humbling.” Taking risks does pay off—who knows it better than a producer’s son?
Left to Themselves
who knows it better than a producer’s son“When I came into the film industry 12 years ago, I was so naïve and wide-eyed,” says Jacqueline Fernandez. “I feel I have only now come into my own,” she adds. The actress who has a multicultural background with a mix of Sri Lankan and Malaysian heritage, and has lived across Bahrain, Australia and the US, recalls how she was new to both India and the film industry 12 years ago. “I just didn’t know how to say no, or create boundaries. I had such a people-pleasing attitude. It’s only now that I realise I lived in fear. I wish I had had more confidence earlier.” The former Miss Sri Lanka 2006 considers India her home now and has launched the YOLO (You Only Live Once) Foundation with three major goals: fight malnutrition in children; women empowerment through financial literacy; and taking care of animals. Since the second wave of Covid has hit, though, she has redirected the work of the YOLO Foundation towards relief and aid. She has also started She Rox, to help girls in their phases of transition, from adolescence to adulthood, from college to the workforce, from the 20s to the 30s. “Honestly, as an outsider, there was no female perspective I could rely on when I came in. All the girls I worked with were also going through what I was. There was no older voice who’d been through it all who could counsel us.” With She Rox, she hopes to change that.
Did You Know?
If all goes well, Applause Entertainment will soon be syndicating the adaptation rights of their popular MX show, Madhuri Talkies, a Hindi/Bhojpuri “violent love/crime/revenge drama”, to be remade in Latin America. Now, that’s a switch.