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Now how would I feel if my girlfriend lands more roles than me, wins awards every now and then, and to top it all, works with my rivals and agrees to do intimate scenes with them? Wouldn’t I become a laughing stock?
The fifth winner of our June 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Preethi Warrier!
‘Thud!’ the camera fell off the trolley with a loud bang, followed by the lighting equipment, the sound system, in fact, they vandalized the sets and damaged almost everything in the vicinity. All it took were a few moments to destroy the efforts and hard work worth many months.
“Against our Indian culture, stop this influx of smooching in our movies.” The protestors shouted outside the studio. The crew somehow escaped through the back door and once inside her car, her driver sped off before things got out of hand.
She dialled his number continually, he answered the third call.
“Why are you doing this? I have no legal contract with your dad’s production house and I’ve returned the advance you paid me. Why don’t you just leave me alone?” she screamed.
“How dare you accuse me or our production house for this hooliganism?” he hissed. “We are a part of the industry, we know how big a loss it is. But then, it’s the group’s opinion and can’t blame them entirely. Women these days expose a bit too much you know, not to forget the kisses, the love making scenes…”
“Oh, cut the crap.” She scoffed. “The serial kisser, the romantic chocolate boy of the industry lectures me about culture and values. And please, both of us pretty well know who’s behind these attacks, who’s paying them. We are not together any more, I told you I’m done with your brattish behaviour and possessiveness. True, I loved you back then, ignored all warnings and put up with your callousness. Now that there’s nothing between us, why all this drama?”
“You broke my heart dear, you know I was head over heels in love with you. And unfortunately, the whole world knows. Now how would I feel if my girlfriend lands more roles than me, wins awards every now and then, and to top it all, works with my rivals and agrees to do intimate scenes with them? Wouldn’t I become a laughing stock?”
She angrily cut the call. Almost instantly, a whatsapp message beeped,
“I can save you. Marry Me.”
“Go to hell.” She replied.
She sighed. It all seemed like yesterday when he had been a guest at their college festival and had appreciated her performance in the winning skit. She had received a call from his production house a few days later and like a dream, she had signed three movies with them, him being the male lead in all.
Handsome, caring, and madly in love with her, he left her no choice but to reciprocate his feelings. Soon they were the most happening couple of tinsel town, always vocal about their relationship. The three movies were huge hits, and as luck would have it, she landed a variety of roles, in many languages, whereas, he somehow got stuck in similar roles in his dad’s company. But the doting and supportive boyfriend that he was, he didn’t mind her exploring her options.
But then one day he proposed marriage, she agreed, but with a booming career, she asked for time. She was surprised at his disappointment, he in fact wished to be married soon and as it turned out, neither him nor his parents were very comfortable watching her sharing screen space with other men. Their reputation was at stake, they reasoned.
For months that followed, she saw a totally different face of her beau and her prospective in-laws, so much so, that she had to break up. He would walk in drunk to her sets, he once assaulted her fellow actor and she had to bear the brunt, being unceremoniously sacked from the movie. He fortunately didn’t get physical with her, he was instead gradually influencing those whom she worked with. He had already cost her two lead roles, would this be the third? She had no clue.
The morning headlines and the news channels extensively covered the vandalism, the movie in question was an international production, she had worked real hard to bag the role. The director was renowned in the world movie circles, the unit hoped it would all be a small misunderstanding and things would calm down. But she somehow had a bad feeling about it all, she kind of knew who had actually sparked the controversy. And those whom she had taken on, were rich, influential and powerful.
In the press conference that was called, she put up a brave front, as she declared the movie being mature and woman oriented, handling strong subjects like flesh trade and homosexuality. Sure, there was some skin show and strong language her character had to mouth, but then the movie would have an A rating. The press prodded further, and in the heat of the moment, she pointed out, how a vast majority of her male counterparts used cuss word in their movies, but were often applauded for the same. She specifically mentioned commercially successful movies wherein heroes treated the female leads like dirt, danced to raunchy numbers, but nobody ever complained. “Isn’t that against Indian culture?” she counter questioned, leaving many a journalists stunned and confused.
The backlash was more severe than she expected. The men she had talked about apparently had a huge fan base and official fan clubs, who were now disgracing her for disrespecting senior stars. She was being slut shamed for speaking about the concept of the movie. She was being trolled mercilessly, from being called a porn actress, to a gold digger. And those were the most decent comments she had received, she couldn’t even read through many a vulgar abuses being hurled at her on social media.
What perturbed her was, she received absolutely no support from the Movie Association. Her comments were heavily misquoted and misinterpreted, she was supposed to have offended the top heroes, who now wanted nothing to do with her. Her ex- boyfriend’s family almost controlled the association, they were established producers and money sure spoke volumes. As far as her lady friends in the industry were concerned, many of them had often discussed casting couch and sexual favours, but apparently, standing with her meant jeopardizing their career which none of them obviously wanted. It was a man’s industry, more than any other.
A month more and the controversy eventually died down. The slogan shouters who would often assemble outside her home, found some new prey. She had no movies in her kitty, the international production had delayed the project indefinitely, no production house wanted to work with her.
She would have fought, she was a fighter. But for what and with whom? There was no evidence against her boyfriend or his family. The very women, whose concerns she had raised, had distanced themselves from her. Moreover, it wasn’t about a few people, millions out there had suddenly turned against her, she couldn’t change their mentality overnight. If only she had been offered more time, a proper platform for discussion, but her voice had been shut too soon, she was a nobody in the industry now. Why would she be the torch bearer for people who hardly cared?
Her parents suggested she take up post-graduation, she held a degree in mass communication. She had been a good student, active and bold, she could study further, enhance her skills. She realized it was the right thing to do, she would have otherwise slipped into depression, with her dreams shattered, and a prosperous career crashing down on her.
She moved abroad, not many knew her there. That did her a lot good, she had returned to normalcy, into her own private space. She had a few clothes now like everyone else, she could repeat the same set of outfits many times a week, something she couldn’t dream of in the film industry. She could enter a café or a park, nobody bothered her for a selfie. She could tie her hair in a messy bun anytime she ventured out, make-up or dark circles didn’t concern her. The weighing scales or an inch gained around the waist no more gave her sleepless nights.
Most importantly, she was free of all politics, the rat race, women being pitched against each other on the basis of their physical attributes. Back then, she too had nursed a heartbreak, but the gossip columns had splashed it all like entertainment. At least now, she could date anyone, there wouldn’t be any offensive comments in her inbox, she wasn’t under the scanner anymore. No boring page three parties and forcibly mingling with conceited people, a life of anonymity had it’s own perks. She was detoxing in peace.
She did miss the studios at times, she missed good work. If only, she could do something worthwhile in the industry, try to reach out to those talented actresses who never got their due, thanks to their refusal to bend down and ‘compromise’.
“Yesteryear Indian American actress and filmmaker wins the Oscar Award for the best short film.” Tabloids around the world read.
The press conference reminded her of the last one she had attended, many years ago. She had spoken her heart out then, she would do that now as well.
“Your short film highlights male domination in urban India, isn’t patriarchy limited to rural societies?” The first question came her way.
“Toxic Patriarchy is everywhere, in fact, more among the elite and educated. My intention was to make the audience aware.” She responded.
“Aren’t you proud, you pulled it off so efficiently with an all women crew?” someone questioned.
“Of course I’m proud, but I think the only reason we pulled it off so efficiently was because we were an all women crew.” Pat came her reply.
“You are of Indian Descent, the movie is shot in India, your crew and the production banner are American. So do you dedicate your award to India or America?” someone else queried.
“I dedicate my movie to women all over; Indian, American, or any nationality, it hardly matters. I hope my film encourages at least a few of them to stand up for themselves and more importantly, for their friends, their colleagues, for the other women in their lives. Unless women stop demeaning each other, until they muster the courage to support their sisters, sexism and misogyny would be here to stay. I hope I could make a difference.” She smiled proudly.
Editor’s note: Oprah Winfrey has seen all possible reasons to be underprivileged in her life. A black girl born to a single mother in rural Mississippi and raised in poverty in the inner city Milwaukee. Faced sexual abuse in childhood and early teens. Was pregnant at 14, her son born premature and dying in infancy. But she did not let all this drag her down once she decided to pick herself up and work to raise herself above all this.
She began as a co-anchor at the local radio at 19, and thereafter has risen to be known globally for her trademark style of talking and interviewing – an emotive, personal connect with those she speaks with, an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Oprah, has today become a household name.
The cue is this quote by her: “So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground.”
Preethi Warrier wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: a still from the film Race 3
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