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Tannishtha Chatterjee: Breaking the stereotypes

Actor Tannishtha Chatterjee who gave a splendid performance in her recent movie, ‘Parched’ was here in Goa at NFDC’s Film Bazaar, held on sidelines of 47th IFFI. In conversation with NT BUZZ she speaks about women centric movies, censorship, reality shows and the colour bias which is prevalent in our country

ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ

  1. Now we are witnessing many women centric movies, like your movie ‘Parched’ which was released alongside another women-centric one, ‘Pink.’ How do you look at the changing scenario?

Definitely the narrative is shifting. But, I think the day we stop saying and defining movies as ‘women centric’ or ‘women director’ movies, then we will reach that level of equality. No one says ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ was a male centric or a movie made by a male director. Also the fact is that out of many films made in Bollywood only maybe four or five are with women protagonists. But, as now we witness more women with earning power, we want to watch films that are entertaining them. Like it happened in television as women were watching it, it started speaking about women’s stories. According to me what’s most important is a female voice and feminine perspective. It doesn’t matter whether the protagonist is male or female. Also we need to break stereotypes.

  1. When you say that gender doesn’t matter when telling women centric stories, taking a cue, there were few criticisms with ‘Pink’ movie, as why we need a male protagonist (Amitabh Bachchan’s characters) to tell a story. Comment.

As we have very few stories about women it would be nice to have a female protagonist to tell all kinds of stories. And also to watch women of different shapes and forms and not only the cliché which is a particular standard of beauty. As you want to celebrate all kinds of women and their stories.

It is the feminine voice, whether male and female character, it is important. Like in the Marathi movie, ‘Sairat’, the lead male character, Parshya, has all qualities of a Hindi hero, pretty looking even though he is Dalit, but he is not macho and is one who cooks. Portray the male character with female empathy. And the female character of Archie is a reverse stereotype, who is not scared of goons, rides a tractor.

  1. When it comes to issue-based movies, Bollywood often spoon feeds its audience. How do you look at this process?

Yes I think that our movies do get preachy and I personally don’t like didactic movies. The film should just tell the story and convey something through that movie. The movie ‘Sairat’ tackles with issues like caste politics, honour killing, but it never underlines anything. And it is doing all this in the commercial mainstream language and it looks so real. It is also a brilliant example of pop culture as now audiences have fallen in love with these characters and they are idolising them. Otherwise we see that pop culture is reinforcing prejudices, but this movie is changing that.

  1. You also starred in the Pan Nalin’s ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ which was entirely shot in Goa. Can you elaborate about the experience of working on this movie?

It was a completely different film as it was devised film. We didn’t have a script. The brief Nalin gave me was ‘come for a holiday and a retreat in Goa and let’s see what we explore’. Actually I got into the movie quite late, but the other characters we already part of the workshop and they wrote their own characters, which then Nalin improvised. Then developing the script, we didn’t know that the film would end like that. The last speeches which we delivered in the church were written by us. It was more of Tannishtha writing than the character. The character of Amrit who gets raped in the movie, Nalin made her disappear for three days and the scene where we are searching for her on the beach, was actually real as we were wondering where is she? And why Nalin is bringing this twist? as we thought it was a fun film. So, all our agitation was coming out. So, we were on edge of a reality show and fiction. Making this movie was a deep experience for us. We gave something which affected us.

  1. Many such movies, be it ‘Parched’ or ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’, do not get much commercial success. Does that affect you?

Both these movies may not join the `100 crore club at the Indian box office but for me they are successful movies. ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ was released all over the world. It received standing ovation at Toronto and Rome Film Festivals. ‘Parched’ did Silver jubilee in France, it was the opening film at the maximum film festivals. This only shows that they are global films.

  1. How do you look at the issue of censorship as many dialogues of the movie ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ were censored which were then released online?

Yes, when you censor something you tend to find ways to do things. And that could be one of the reasons why we see good movies coming out from Eastern Europe, Iran, countries with huge censorship. They find ways in telling their stories in more creative and metamorphic ways. I totally disagree with censorship. But, still if it is done we will still find ways of saying things.

  1. Recently, you became a household name when you came out and expressed yourself at the comedy reality show when the host made comment about your skin tone. What do you have to say about this colour bias which is prevalent in our country?

We are an independent nation for more than 60 years now. But, we are not still free from our prejudices. We are not comfortable with our languages, skin tones, clothes we wear, etc. I believe that it is our ‘west toxification’. We are west toxified and not westernised. Commenting on someone’s skin tone is prejudice; crack a joke on me, on my choices. Also what I feel is that we copy from west superficially. Satire is to break prejudice. In satire you attack things in power and not minorities or marginalised issues. Then it is bullying. We don’t understand these complexities.

  1. How do you look at the fairness advertisements and also did you face any issues when it came to getting roles?

I believe that the propagations made by fairness advertisements of one will get a job and confidence, after applying some fairness cream is criminal. It affects 80 per cent of our population. We need to question this. Speaking about my personal experience, many a times makeup artists have told me go two shades lighter as it is not a village girl’s character. At that time I told them that I am a person who comes from urban cities, who has travelled the world and this is my skin tone.

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