Three angry women

Updated: 02 August, 2020 07:05 IST | Paromita Vohra | Mumbai

A quick study, as Kangana once mastered the language of liberal critique, so she is now fluent in right-wing troll-speak: insinuating half-phrases, twisted meanings, wild suppositions, limitless resentment, and egging troll armies on

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraWhat should we do with our anger and pain when we are wronged? I thought this often, as Kangana Ranaut rode the issue of nepotism, via the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. So much nastiness emanates from Team Kangana Ranaut, that it is hard to remember the Ranaut put down by male co-stars in early episodes of Koffee with Karan, or the Ranaut who wowed us with articulate dissections of industry power dynamics, and architected a vibrant new path for herself, or made us gasp with her comments on nepotism, in the face of petulance and accusations of menstrual black magic. But, as Arnab Goswami, a man with something of a Lutyens-sized wound himself, said the unprecedented words "As I listen to you Kangana" (yaniki, has Arnab ever listened to anyone?) I couldn't help think, that Ranaut has, ironically found her own cronyistic TV show, mirroring those she hates.

A quick study, as Kangana once mastered the language of liberal critique, so she is now fluent in right-wing troll-speak: insinuating half-phrases, twisted meanings, wild suppositions, limitless resentment, and egging troll armies on. This may be ugly, but much she speaks of—the petty vengefulness, the thuggish cliques, the snobbery and feudal hierarchy in the media industry—is rooted in equally ugly truths. How does one hold these things accountable in a more inspiring way?

Actor Richa Chadha, also a friend of Rajput's, suggested a direction in an essay published online and crafted from controlled rage. She countered Ranaut's binary truths with deeper, more complex truths, writing: "You hate your bully for not being ethical with you, while bullying someone working under you as though it is a rite of passage for them. This is an acceptable MO in this dog-eat-dog world." Confirming the degrading hierarchies of the film industry, she stressed the need for an intersectional, integrated, imaginative shift in the work culture—fair wages, respect for all workers, professional ethics. Saying it was "outsiders" who gave her chances, she underlined that those who benefit from the status quo, seldom want to change it. Change and new talent frequently come from the margins in India, and that is why these fertile, independent spaces should be nurtured, celebrated and emulated. Her anger was less about retribution, more about accountability and solidarity.

On the other side of the world, in the US, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, political star and Democratic representative, responded with incandescent oratory to Ted Yoho, older, white Republican Congressman, who first called her "disgusting" and a "f***g b***h", then non-apologised with "I'm a family man". She said: "This issue is not about one incident…It is a culture of lack of impunity, of accepting of violence and violent language against women, and an entire structure of power that supports that…what Mr Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters". Marshalling a transformative anger, she made the personal political by holding Yoho accountable to a principle, striking a pose of solidarity with all women, without forgoing the intertwined dynamics of race, age which institutionalise abuse.
The three women remind us that anger is mythic, potent, but also precious. It is our fire to guard and harness, so we may burn new paths for ourselves. Handed indiscriminately to others, it burns indiscriminately too, consuming us, more than freeing us.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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First Published: 02 August, 2020 07:00 IST

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