Breaking Stereotypes, This 2014 Movie Proved That The ‘Hero’ Needn’t Always Be Male

Rani Mukherjee's Shivani Shivaji Roy in Mardaani turns gender stereotypes of a hero oriented movie on its head. Do watch.

Rani Mukherjee’s Shivani Shivaji Roy in Mardaani turns gender stereotypes of a hero oriented movie on its head. Do watch.

I must have watched at least thousand movies till now, and the majority of these dealt with a male hero rendering punches, with cars in air like flying saucers, or the hero breaking a court room table out of rage. While as a little girl I had appreciated all such movies, things changed when I grew up. I questioned myself – why watch all male centric movies with doltish dialogues of the testosterone filled heroes?

But there came a certain movie that proved to be different. Mardaani. Directed by Pradeep Sarkar under Yash Raj Films production this movie was released in the year 2014. The storyline revolves around a dedicated and courageous female cop Shivani Shivaji Roy who busts the crime cartel of child trafficking and drugs run by a Delhi based Kingpin Karan Rastogi.

Mardaani – no damsel in distress

Director Sarkar had done a brilliant job by showcasing the female protagonist Shivani throughout the movie unlike most Bollywood entertainment movies which are more inclined to portray a woman as a damsel in distress. The director had packed all such characters off the bay, and had depicted Shivani as a powerhouse who is not only a police officer but equally deals with her other roles where she is a foster mother to her niece and a wife to her doctor husband.

Giving it a feminist angle, I say the usual Bollywood stereotypes focuses on a hero fighting the pitfalls of the system. And when the corrupt system throws him out of power he takes matter in his own hand and decides to carry on his job, and ultimately emerge as a winner. Mardaani is also a typical Bollywood style crime thriller only the gender has been reversed. In place of He it is She.

In a very interesting write up by Sanjukta it had been mentioned that since time immemorial we had worshipped and cheered the male hero when he said “Hum jahan khare hote hai, line wohin se shuru hoti hai” (Kaalia, 1981); “Rishtey mein to tumhare baap lagte hai” (Shahenshah, 1988) and the list is endless.

She also says generations after generations and films after films we the common masses had clapped when the male protagonist took up challenges to save the downtrodden, to protect the honor of his spouse, mother, sister and daughter.

And then she delivers the masterstroke by saying that one fine day someone sat up and pondered on the fact that would it make a lot of difference if one changes the gender of the protagonist.

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The answer after watching Mardaani is a straight “No”. The gender doesn’t decide the hero. That the hero who saves the day should not necessarily have a penis, the vagina can be a hero too.

A vulnerable man

Going back to the movie: we always witness that a woman had been victimized, but I must applaud Yash Raj Films as in this case it was Shivani’s husband Dr Bikram Roy who had been at the receiving end for his wife’s ruthlessness when it came to her profession. Indeed Bollywood had maintained its tradition of victim depiction, but as I had said earlier the gender had been changed.

Mardaani did fetch in criticism for showing the vulnerable side of a man through Shivani’s husband, but in answer to that I say yes certainly we feminists do not wish to put a man down, and why can’t a man have a softer, more vulnerable side? The movie deserves its share of respect, unlike all the other Bollywood blockbusters where it had always victimized or scandalized a woman. While we watch films where a man is shown flying from mountains, parasailing without a life jacket, and a lot more of such silly stunts why do we get so disturbed when we see a woman playing a role of a top cop or the man playing a victim?

As pointed out by Sanjukta on this criticism, if the title Mardaani itself is self defeating she says there is certainly no need for a woman to be strong like a man because the woman can choose to be anything she wants. She can be a pregnant woman using her brains to find out the killer of her husband (Kahaani, 2012), a virgin dumped on her wedding day when she decides going for her honeymoon all alone to explore the world (Queen, 2014) or can be a foul mouthed expletive uttering muscle flexing sexist joke making her a tough cop who can slap the shit out of the goons as has been showed in Mardaani. And we should respect all women without slut shaming and also discard our parochial mentality towards us women.

Being a mother & wife

This movie also breaks the stereotype that a woman must be a mother.

Shivani and her husband were foster parents to Shivani’s niece and the director gives us no chance to ponder on the fact why she isn’t a mother. When in real life, a woman is tormented for not being a mother, I say it is none of your fucking business to decide if a woman wants to be a mother or not. It is completely her choice.

Coming to the next factor to cook or not, it has been shown in the movie that Shivani does tend to kitchen chores and also caters to the need of her husband and daughter, but she also calls from food outside when she doesn’t have time after her gruelling work schedule. It might have been better if they had shown her husband sharing these chores.

Here I find a similarity with me. I too dread kitchen chores and I would not like anyone to criticize me on it. It’s my life and it is my choice that I will cook when I feel like it, else I won’t. And I guess all women will agree with me.

It’s OK for strong women to be feminine

The movie also broke another stereotype by presenting the tough cop with manicured nails, long hair and eye liners.

So what? It’s fucking cool for a woman to wear whatever she likes. For me it had been my lipstick. I am a single mother but I wear sindoor whenever I feel like it. I do not even step out without lipstick. And society has no business pointing fingers at us. As I said earlier the director in this movie had packed all the glamour queens off the bay so Shivani inspite of being a beautiful fashionable woman, was a ruthless cop.

I’d recommend that everyone watch this movie as it has broken the stereotype of a typical Bollywood entertainer. A feminist film, it can be a source of inspiration to all women. Please go watch it again as this movie had won several awards and accolades for its great achievement of the brilliant portrayal of a super cop – A woman.

Published here earlier.

Image source: YouTube


About the Author

Rimli Bhattacharya

Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, an MBA in supply chain management and is engaged with a corporate sector. Her essay in the anthology “Book read more...

103 Posts | 686,043 Views

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