Imagine you are a twelve year old girl living in India, who has just been given permission to attend a summer camp. This is a very big deal, as your parents don’t let you go anywhere on your own and you must be home before 7 pm every evening. You cannot wait to get away.
Life is difficult at the camp as you must wake up at 5 am everyday, but the day ahead is packed with fun activities: They teach you karate kicks, chops and other ways to scare off opponents. You learn camp songs. You make friends with the other girls at the camp, who aren’t very different from you. The adults give you talks on values and Indian culture.
Sounds harmless, until you realise that you are at a training camp run by Durga Vahini, the female wing of right-wing organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The songs are about marking “your forehead with blood” and welcoming “your enemy with bullets”. The opponents are both abroad (Pakistanis) and at home (Muslims and Christians). Your values and culture are to embrace your natural weakness as women, marry early and to avoid pursuing a career for the sake of your ego.
Supermarket staff in Britain could claim millions in equal pay cases: The claims have been made against the supermarket chain Asda and involve assessing whether supermarket store-front staff jobs, which are mainly held by female workers, are of equal value to higher-paid jobs in distribution warehouse jobs, which are held mainly by male workers. Distribution warehouse jobs may well be considered higher value due to “uncomfortable conditions, additional skills and unsocial working hours involved” but this is a significant development in the private sector where equal pay job evaluations aren’t as frequent.
Are Bollywood item songs anti-feminist? This burning question came to me after watching Sunny Leone gyrate to Baby Doll Main Sone Ki from Ragini MMS 2 for the millionth time, whose lyrics so obviously objectify and de-humanise women.
This had to be a slam dunk – Surely the answer is staring us in the face (“item” song) and don’t we have our answer already when we consider “Is this something men are worried about?”, also discussed in my previous post.
But the more “performance numbers” (I am using the term as a substitute for item song) I watched on YouTube, the more convinced I was that the answer wasn’t as simple.
Sometimes, I feel like we watch Bollywood films with bated breath, and fervently wait for them to put a foot wrong. There are movies that I’ve really wanted to enjoy but have almost always left me disappointed (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I am looking at you).
I was in a similar situation with Queen. The film is written and directed by Vikas Bahl, and produced by Phantom Films, which he jointly owns with progressive directors Anurag Kashyap (of Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur), Vikramaditya Motwane (of Lootera and Udaan) and Madhu Mantera.
The film is entirely based on the trials and tribulations of “homely” Rani (Kangana Ranaut) after she gets dumped at the mandap by smarmy asshole Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Rani, who by this point has plenty sunao-ed her honeymoon plans to everyone from best friend to bank cashier, is reluctant to let go of her holiday. And so, we are taken on a hilarious coming-of-age journey across Paris and Amsterdam.