Qala: Story Of All Daughters Longing To Be Loved In A Society Enamoured Of Sons…

Qala was a victim of a dysfunctional society's where only a male child is valued, and love is not unconditional but based on living up to the demands of parents

Trigger warning: This speaks of loss, depression, and violence against the girl child, and may be triggering for survivors.

I have been reading reviews about the movie Qala, which was released recently on Netflix. Most of the conversations revolve around the breathtaking appeal and acting of the lead actress Tripti Dimri.

I’m not going to express my views on her acting prowess and the equally powerful role of her mother, played by Bengali actress Swastika Mukherjee. I will analyse the story from the point of view of women in the Indian context. Though the movie is set in the 40s, women face inequality even in contemporary times.

Qala’s simplistic beauty, riddled with abandonment pain and aspirations of a gifted child, holds the viewers spellbound. I see a child who desperately tries to please her mother so she can get love in return. She equates love to perfectness and endeavours to earn the upaadhi of Pandit to appease her. Her mother, Urmila Manjushree, struggles to come to terms with her unfulfilled thumri dreams in a male-centric society.

A daughter longing for validation, a mom grieving a son…

Qala seeks to live up to the life her mother visualised for her, the dreams that Urmila could not attain. It wasn’t that Qala did not want to be a singer. But the voice that could have found its originality tried to morph itself to be accepted as Jagan Batwal, enacted by immensely talented Babil Khan, her adopted brother. Qala longed to be a singer, but she wasn’t singing for herself as Jagan said, ‘I sing for myself.’

Did Qala ever have the freedom to sing for herself? She was singing to fill a vacuum that her childhood upbringing left in her.

She did win a vinyl record to her credit but more so for love, love from the mother who disowned her right from birth. After all, she was the one responsible for the death of her unborn brother. Even in contemporary times, most Indian families prefer a male child over a female. And Qala was the stronger one, and how could society during the pre-independence era accept the fact that the infant girl was physically stronger than the boy?

Qala paid the price of being a girl in a patriarchal society

Manjushree had warned her, ‘You have to work harder as you are a girl, samjhi.’

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The price was hefty: her childhood trauma rippled through her adult life. Qala even accepted the casting couch to secure the singing role. All the issues she faced later as she grew up — be it her illness or attempt to subdue all by consuming pills had roots in her childhood.

No one ever asked her — how do you feel, Qala? How has your childhood been? 

No doctor tries to go deep into the psyche of an individual. Yes, Qala was under immense guilt because of Jagan committing suicide as he was losing his voice, a voice that was his reason for existence. As a gifted boy, her brother received the right environment to flourish. Qala resorted to not-so-right ways. I neither support Qala for her behaviour nor am I victimising her.

Qala was a good singer, and neither was she supposed to be like her brother. But being constantly compared and denied what rightfully belonged to her, she felt lost.

When Qala’s Mama found the son she considered could carry on the family legacy, she abandoned her daughter. To get her mother’s love, Qala resorted to unfair means. Did she get that love despite achieving what she was hoping for and considering that her mom would accept her?

When she called her mother several times to inform her of her accomplishments, Urmila ignored the calls as she considered Qala to be the cause of her adopted son’s suicide. It was true to some extent, but Qala had her own battles to fight. A mother did not understand her daughter.Above all, Urmila failed to understand herself.

Qala’s words to the news reporter when she won the vinyl record say it all

“aisa lag raha hai jaise thak ke ghar pahunchi hun aur maa ne darwaaza khola hai ye mere pita ki virasaat hai aur meri maa ka sapna”

(It is as if I have reached home, exhausted, and my mother has opened the door. This is my father’s legacy and my mother’s dream.)

Qala was unhappy and looked outside her entire life for love. Qala’s words ring in my ears, ‘Mama, I’m sorry…sorry, Mama, as she says, standing in the snow…to add…

When I look at her, I see a girl who is sad, confused and longing for acceptance.

Qala was a victim of a dysfunctional society’s where only a male child is valued, and love is not unconditional but based on living up to the demands of parents, albeit not so in all family structures. It is we humans who create society, and it is we who can change it. Qala hires a female secretary. She invites a female reporter and photographer against the established norms.

Isn’t it the society and its unstated laws that made Kala Qala? 

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About the Author

Alka Balain

Alka loves to write poetry and dabbles in colours. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in several journals and anthologies. She loves nature and is an autoimmune warrior. read more...

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