Why Can’t We Women Have Freedom To Just BE?

Posted: October 20, 2019

Mythri had something new to learn everyday, watching as the lady transformed completely, walking, talking and even laughing differently as she got into the skin of her character. 

The first winner of our October 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Soumya Bharathi.

The Green room was unusually crowded today. Yesteryear actress Kamini Devi was performing after a hiatus of 10 years. The tickets were sold out for an entire week in advance.

For Mythri, it had been a week of sleepless nights. She considered herself extremely fortunate to have been given this rare opportunity to perform with a legend. A star whom she had admired and emulated during her growing up years. But the very thought of performing on the stage with her in her very first public performance left her in a state of constant anxiety. The fact that she was playing her antagonist in this play wasn’t helping her one bit. As she got dressed the commotion outside was a tell-tale sign that the star had indeed arrived…


A month back…

Mythri was trying hard to conceal her nervousness, holding the script in her hand and going through it one more time. The very first time her director Harini had taken her co-actor’s name, she was ecstatic and petrified in equal measures.

She was going to share the stage with great Kamini Devi!! Who would have thought that this legendary actor would make her come-back to the stage in a play directed and acted by little known artistes.

But the gossip circulated all around in the theatre circles in hushed tones but how director Harini had received a phone call from the actor’s office regarding the actor being interested in working with her. A shocked Harini had gone to the actor’s mansion the very next day with her best script in hand. It was an intense drama with two strong female characters. She had already finalised one lead- her friend from National school of drama Mythri who she believed was naturally talented and very hard working. She was looking for another female actor when she received the surprise phone call.

Upon, hearing her narration Kamini Devi had loved her script and was keen to start reharsing as soon as possible. Ecstatic, Harini had called Mythri and informed her about what had happened. Both the girls couldn’t believe their luck and started intense preparations for the play. Script reading had been scheduled the very next week…

Mythri glanced at her watch and sipped on her iced tea as Harini made sure everyone was present and ready. Ten minutes before the scheduled time, Kamini Devi arrived in her jet black Audi, dressed elegantly in a silk dress with delicate embroidery. She carried her copy of script in hand, and walked in greeting all the crew members with a broad smile. As she shook hands with Harini, the director introduced Mythri to her. Mythri was spellbound by presence. She wore dark shades, a bright red lipstick and not even one strand of her blow dried hair was out of place. Her cheeks had baby pink blush which made them glow and eyebrows were perfectly shaped and trimmed.

“Hello my dear young lady, pleased to meet you…”

It was only when Harini nudged her that Mythri had come back to her senses.

“Same here M’am… ” Mythri stammered in response.

“I am so eager to work with all of you. So, shall we start?” Kamini Devi headed straight to work, as everyone took their seats. An intense script reading session followed.

During lunch Kamini Devi ate with all the cast and crew, laughing and chatting with them. In the days ahead, she always came on time and had no starry airs about her. She was always impeccably dressed and was a thorough professional. Her easy demeanor helped allay the apprehensions and fears of most of the cast and crew members, as Harini and Mythri marvelled at her kind nature…

A week later, rehearsals began for the play. Kamini Devi would always arrived well prepared and she not only knew her lines but the entire script by-heart. She would joke around on the sets but during her performances she just morphed into her character effortlessly. Mythri had something new to learn everyday, watching as the lady transformed completely, walking, talking and even laughing differently as she got into the skin of her character. She was a complete team player, and put everyone at ease on their respective jobs.

As time hurtled towards the D-Day, there were just three days left for the play to begin.

The dress rehearsals were scheduled and as everyone was busy trying out their costumes with hair and make-up done, Kamini Devi was seen having an intense discussion with director Harini. Intrigued Mythri went and joined them.

“This costume is too glamorous. And hair and makeup  does not feel right. I play a woman grappling with insecurities and battling depression in her life. So shouldn’t I dress in accordance with my character? Can you arrange for something simpler and modest for me?” she requested Harini.

As the director went to make the necessary arrangements, Mythri who was listening all this while, suddenly felt like speaking up.

“M’am if you will not take offence, can I ask you a question…”

“Sure, dear” Kamini Devi smiled at her.

“Why do we always judge a woman by her appearance? If she dresses up with great effort we mock at her vanity. If she dresses down then we assume something is wrong with her life or that she grappling with her own issues in life. If she wears make up she is artificial. If she doesn’t, she is a simpleton. Why can’t we women get some breathing space? We are human after all… why does our external appearance always have to reflect on who we are? Can’t a woman who has issues to deal with in her life wear a good dress and a bright lipstick? Can’t a woman who is successful and influential have a bad hair day? Don’t we deserve this freedom to just BE?”

As she stressed on the last word, Kamini Devi was left in deep thought.

Mythri wondered whether she had crossed her boundaries. An invitation from Kamini Devi later during the day to join her for dinner at her home added to her fears.

At 8 ‘o clock in the evening, Kamini Devi sent her car to pick up Mythri. As she entered her sprawling mansion hesitantly, she saw Kamini Devi seated on the sofa alone in her living room. She was taken aback for a moment as she looked at the ageless star wearing absolutely no make-up for the very first time. Her eyes were brown in colour, and her skin was pale. She had delicate lips and her hair was tied in a simple bun. She looked different for sure, very pretty nevertheless.

“Welcome to my home” she said warmly.

“Thank you for inviting me M’am”

As Mythri sat down opposite this stalwart of acting, many questions bothered her. Why had this diva invited her home today? Was she upset by her words? Had she said something that irked her? If so why wasn’t she showing any signs of anger or upset?

As if she had read her mind, Kamini Devi replied back

“Your words made me think about myself and my craft in a new light today. Yes, we women give a lot of importance to physical appearance because somewhere we are afraid of being judged. At least I was for most part of my life. I grappled with divorce, loss of my parents and the sorrow of being childless for a decade. I even stopped working as I lost my focus because I struggled to cope with my reality. In this situation, I was in no mood to doll up and look perfect, so I stopped making public appearances and became a recluse. But thanks to some great friends and therapy sessions I have overcome my depression and embraced life with positivity. Today, when I look back I feel I was too scared of being judged”

Mythri listened in silence.

“As a coincidence , while traveling back home, I was reading another script today and felt these two lines spoke to me”. She handed over the bound script to Mythri and there were two lines highlighted in it…

“She believes—
Cosmetics were
once. . .
War paints.
She awaits their resurrection.”

Mythri was wondering what to say when Kamini Devi spoke again.

“But this script or any script should not dictate who I am or what I want to be. Isn’t it?” She winked at Mythri as Mythri smiled back with a great sense of relief. This conversation broke the ice between two women as they bonded with great camaraderie over dinner in the hours that followed..

As Mythri touched up her make-up Kamini Devi entered the green room greeting everyone. Harini came and handed over her dress.

“Thank you Harini, this is perfect but would you mind if I sport bright red lips today? My character is dealing with some mental issues and assure you my performance will reflect it. But she can still sport bright lips and some make-up, we owe her that freedom. How about shattering some stereotypes tonight?”

“Sure M’am”, Harini smiled.

“So war paints on Mythri?” Kamini Devi smiled as Mythri smiled back nervously.

The noise outside grew louder and seats filled up in no time. Kamini Devi and Mythri hugged each other backstage and wished each other good luck.

“Come let’s show them what defines us…” Kamini Devi whispered in Mythri’s ears as the lights dimmed and curtains rose..

Editor’s note: In 2019 our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month got bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry.

The writing cue for October 2019 is this quote from the poem Mascara by Indian poet and author, Meena Kandasamy, known for her writing on feminism and caste annihilation, often reaping from her own life.
“She believes—
Cosmetics were
once. . .
War paints.
She awaits their resurrection.”

Soumya Bharathi wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations! 

Image source: YouTube

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