Bollywood rewind 2017: The year when the Everywoman dominated

Updated: Dec 30, 2017, 20:40 IST | Mayank Shekhar

Tanuja Chandra's Qarib Qarib Singlle, if you recall, was about Irrfan's rather 'rangeela' character taking his online date to meet his past three lovers, just so he can prove to her how women continue to adore him

Balan in Tumhari SuluVidya Balan in Tumhari Sulu

Tanuja Chandra's Qarib Qarib Singlle, if you recall, was about Irrfan's rather 'rangeela' character taking his online date to meet his past three lovers, just so he can prove to her how women, even when they're not with him, continue to adore him still. The first stop on their road-trip is in Rajasthan. You sort of have an idea what kinda 'Girlfriend No 1' will show up. The girl who emerges instead is a podgy, giggly Rajasthani middle-class woman, brimming with life and realism, and yet so much fun, that that scene/moment/ cameo/character remains for me the absolute highlight of 2017.

As is the heroine of Qarib --Parvathy -- who got introduced to Bollywood with the film (she has over 20 acting credits back in Kerala). And thanks to my interest in her, I got to see another gem (in Malayalam) this year, Mahesh Narayan's Take Off, which is based on the same incident as Tiger Zinda Hai (abduction of Indian nurses by the IS in Tikrit, Iraq). Parvathy plays the savior, protagonist. She's a nurse (as against Salman's Rambo). So you know Take Off is absolutely nothing like Tiger. But more importantly Parvathy's Sameera in Take Off looks/behaves nothing like Qarib's Jaya.

Sridevi in Mom
Sridevi in Mom

Further, I decided to catch Anjali Menon's Bangalore Days (2014), which has three important female characters. It was impossible for me to figure out which of the three was Parvathy, the reason I'd clicked on the film in the first place (she plays a physically challenged RJ in this strikingly mature romantic film).

Pednekar in Toilet: Ek Pre Katha
Pednekar in Toilet: Ek Pre Katha

Clearly Parvathy exhibits a chameleon like quality to transform herself from one photograph to another, let alone roles -- something we often associate with actor Kangana Ranaut in Mumbai. Another feature you could tag her along with Ranaut for is an ability to call out hypocrisy, take on detractors, rather than call a spade a donkey. As the brave Parvathy did late this year, taking on trolls who had problems with the fact that she had a problem with misogyny in one of super-star Mamoothy's films.
Is this a good way to challenge centuries of insensitivity towards women in general (and therefore in cinema)? Yes. But along with playing parts in pictures that change the scenery just as well. As did Vidya Balan walking on to the screen as an over-weight aunty from Virar, and cracking it as Sulu in Tumhari Sulu. Or Sridevi did as a clever mom in Mom, planning to avenge her daughter's rape. Or in fact Bhumi Pednekar, perhaps more than others did, stepping out in the open, defecating in the wilds, to shine a torch on the problem of toilets (or lack of them) in India, for a film called Toilet, which earned over Rs 100 crore.

In the comparatively off-stream space, how can one forget the lovely ladies from Lipstick Under My Burkha, or the wonderful Anarkali (Swara Bhaskar) from Anarkali Of Arrah, reiterating, so what if the person is supposedly a sex-worker, consent is king.

Parvathy in Qarib Qarib Singlle
Parvathy in Qarib Qarib Singlle

Gauging global/box-office appeal of Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma and Deepika Paukone, we had dubbed 2016 the 'year of the woman' for Bollywood. It takes generations for society (and hence cinema) to go from appreciating the 'Hot Woman' to the Everywoman. Sometimes it can happen in a year. It did.

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