GIRL ON FIRE
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- Published 28.11.13
It’s Holi. Their eyes meet. She suggestively smears her cheeks with colour. He lustily does the same to his lower lip. She pulls him close and kisses him full on the lips. He stands frozen to the ground. She smiles and winks and quietly walks away. Leela jaisi koi nahin!
Deepika Padukone’s Leela in Ram-Leela is the most uninhibited heroine you would have seen on the Bollywood screen for a long time. If ever. Brazen and bindaas, Leela is a woman in love and lust. Unafraid to make the first move, her smouldering eyes mirror her desires. She’s ready to take on the world for her man (Leela matter-of-factly tells mom Dhankor: “Shaadi kisise kar loon, suhaag raat Ram ke saath hi manaungi”), but can also ward him off with: “Jigar pe mat jaa, trigger dabaa doongi.”
She doesn’t hesitate to spell out S-E-X. “Bistar chubhega toh tere oopar so loongi!” Leela tells Ram suggestively.
“Leela is the new-age Bollywood heroine who towers over the image of the touch-me-not leading lady that our films have fed us for decades. Leela shows us that what’s okay for a guy is also okay for a girl,” says Bharathi S. Pradhan, The Telegraph columnist and editor, The Film Street Journal.
Leela is the latest in a line of leading ladies this year who have walked the love walk and talked the lust talk. Uninhibited and sexually liberated, they haven’t hesitated to make the first move physically or emotionally and have been bold enough to stand by their choices.
Whether it was Parineeti Chopra’s Gayatri in Shuddh Desi Romance kissing a man she’s just met, living in with him after only their second meeting and running away from her marriage twice, Amrita Puri’s Vidya seducing her brother’s best buddy in Kai Po Che! or Vidya Balan’s madly-in-lust Neetu in Ghanchakkar, the liberated Bolly heroine, unafraid to express her needs and wants, has arrived. Finally.
“It’s a woman who knows what she wants and that it’s a man’s world is not going to stop her from getting it. Maya was strong and vulnerable at the same time and had the guts to publicly take on a man she had jumped into bed with not too long ago. She’s one of the most satisfying roles I have ever played,” says actress Chitrangda Singh about her unapologetic and ambitious act in Inkaar, that released earlier this year.
Pradhan feels that it’s the “sense of ever-growing equality” in Indian society that has made the Bolly heroine bolder than ever before. “The leading lady can now kiss and seduce, be in a no-strings-attached relationship and even dump a man without being labelled a whore.”
Homi Adajania, who made Deepika the bold and bindaas Veronica in Cocktail — she partied and she peed, she stripped and she screwed — much before Sanjay Leela Bhansali came calling with Ram-Leela, welcomes the new-age Bolly heroine. “Veronica was the only character I totally got and knew I could do full justice to. She was a female version of me! I wanted to be way more explicit but was asked not to by my producer,” says Adajania.
Both Pradhan and Adajania feel that the liberated Bolly heroine is, thankfully, here to stay. “Our heroines today are a reflection of the women that inhabit our towns and cities. Of course, they may not go kissing a man they have just met, but they are women who have a mind of their own and can do what was largely regarded as a man’s domain — from paying the restaurant bill to buying a man a drink to even inviting him to bed,” says Pradhan.
But what impact will the Veronicas and the Leelas have on the average man in the multiplex? “We live in a regressive, chauvinistic, male-dominated country that needs to be strongly impressed upon with regard to women’s liberation and their rights. We’re a hypocritical bunch, so the average man will enjoy watching a feisty, strong woman on screen rather than in his face and the average woman will find the liberated heroine inspirational. Either way, it’s a win-win situation,” predicts Adajania.
Coming up in January: Madhuri Dixit’s sexy and shrewd femme fatale in Dedh Ishqiya. Hope it’s a Happy New Year for the brand new Bolly woman.
THE BINDAAS BABES OF 2013
MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA
That sexy image of her emerging out of a village pond in translucent tee and super-short shorts left very little to the imagination. Much like Anushka’s Akira in last year’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Bijlee was the one who initiated love (and lust) with Matru (Imran Khan), even though she was engaged to another man. And then of course, there was the hot, hot liplock. Who made the first move? Bijlee, of course!
Dressed in a corset and fishnet stockings, she asks her husband “Bajaana hai?” Vidya was a riot as the robust Punjabi homemaker Neetu, ever ready with an expletive on her lips and not shy to seduce husband Sanju (Emraan Hashmi) after a hard day’s work. We loved: Neetu suggestively telling Sanju, after she’s sexily plonked herself on him in bed: “Itni tayyari ki hai aur bistar bhi nahin todenge?”
The Sudhir Mishra film had Maya (Chitrangda) as an ambitious go-getter, unapologetic about her sexuality and willing to use it to her advantage. Unpretentious and uninhibited, Maya chose to end her physical relationship with boss Rahul (Arjun Rampal) on her own terms. She wasn’t one to mince words — “That doesn’t mean every time he walks in I just spread my legs”, was the line of the film.
SHUDDH DESI ROMANCE
Gayatri is the commitment-phobe small-towner who doesn’t want the baggage of a relationship to burden the ‘friends-with-benefits’ equation with Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput). Uninhibited enough to lock lips with a stranger in a bus and live in with him after just their second meeting, Parineeti made Gayatri a flesh-and-blood character. Confused yes, but ballsy enough to live life on her own terms.
SAHEB BIWI AUR GANGSTER RETURNS
“Yeh hamesha mard hi kyun milte hain humein? Shaayar kyun nahin milte?” was the drunken rant from Madhavi, the unfulfilled wife in this Tigmanshu Dhulia follow-up to the 2011 gangster film. Vulnerable and deplorable all at once, Mahie made Madhavi a ticking time-bomb, unafraid to lay bare her needs, both physical and emotional.
kai po che!
Attracted to her brother’s shy best friend, Vidya (Amrita) wasn’t embarrassed to make the first move. A tease, she often dominated her relationship with Govind (Rajkumar Yadav), even taking the lead in having sex on her balcony on Navratri night as the sexy strains of Pari hoon main played on.
Deepika’s Veronica in Cocktail was bindaas with a capital B, real with a capital R. No-strings-attached relationships, dancing and drinking the night away, she was a revelation. The film developed cold feet in the second half, making Veronica toe the Bharatiya nari line, but give us the no-holds-barred Veronica any day. Yes, without her pants!
zindagi na milegi dobara
“Mujhe afsos karna nahin aata.” That standout scene of Katrina getting off the bike, striding through the deserted Spanish highway and kissing Hrithik, best summed up her Laila in the Zoya Akhtar film. A deep-sea diver unafraid to take the lead when it came to love, but smart enough not to expect anything in return.
How many Bollywood heroines have propositioned the hero with a direct: “I want to make love to you.” Genelia’s Maya did just that in Nishikanth Kamath’s Force, showing us that our leading ladies had grown up.