From celluloid to canvas

From celluloid to canvas

From celluloid to canvas
When 21-year-old Shivani Gorle came across a category called ‘movies with a strong female lead’ on Netflix, she questioned the need for such a subsection. The mass media graduate wondered why couldn’t there be movies with both genders playing well-rounded characters which are strong in equal measures. This thought stayed with her, but instead of confining it, she decided to give it creative wings and conceptualised ‘Queens OnScreen’, an art project through which she intends to bring recognition to those female characters who’ve not only wholeheartedly entertained their audience, but also touched their hearts in one way or another.

“I started the series last month with the aim of driving the perception that the heroine is just as badass as the hero. That she doesn’t need to talk, dress or behave in a particular way to win hearts. Or not win hearts. Because she can do whatever she wants. From playing Bond and blonde girls to taking up challenging roles in revolutionary and coming-of-age films, female actors have come a long way since the 20th century. What may have been a sad state of affairs for gender equality in the film industry several decades ago is now slowly adapting to a freer, more diverse and equal world,” she says.

She adds that characters like Hermoine from ‘Harry Potter’ and Shashi from ‘English Vinglish’ reflect new experiences as 21st century women in both urban and rural (and magical) settings. “I want all sorts of girls, boys, men and women to look at my art and feel that positive change. I want them to appreciate that the art they consume holds a mirror to real communities and that they can always look up to characters that are relatable, if not harbingers of social reform,” she says.

With that thought, Shivani went on to paint about 16 queens from the silver screen including Kangana Ranaut from ‘Queen’, Kareena Kapoor Khan from ‘Jab We Met’, Vidya Balan from ‘Dirty Picture’, Ellen Page from ‘Juno’ and Meryl Streep from ‘Devil Wears Prada’ among others, with each vector artwork highlighting one famous dialogue from the movie. So while Kangana is painted with ‘main apni honeymoon pe akeli aayi hoon’, Kareena is sketched with the famous dialogue ‘main apni favourite hoon’.

“I chose films as my medium because they are arguably the biggest cultural influencers in our lives. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Life imitates art more than art imitates life.’ I see that countless women today — young and old — start thinking, talking and behaving like the women they watch in films, who both inspire and influence them. With my series, I wanted to shed some light on the feminism that has firmly taken root in the film industry, and that this ‘subliminal impact’ may actually mean very good things for the filmmakers and the viewers,” she shares.

On the idea behind incorporating Hollywood actors, Shivani says that since she wanted to go global and attract a larger audience, she picked both Hollywood and Hindi film heroines. “It would be unfair for me to not include a non-Indian character; it would mean not acknowledging their badass-ness! I also plan to do vernacular language-heroines soon, starting with Maharashtrian actors and then making my way into other industries like Tollywood. I’ll watch those films with subtitles but I’ll find a way to feature them,” she says.

She quickly adds that diversity is as important to her as feminism. “So I try to maintain a balanced mix of characters across races and cultures,” she says. The young artist, however, adds that she restricts her featured heroines to only those from movies that she has watched as it helps her understand where her ‘queen’ comes from, her thoughts, aspirations, fears and longings.

“So sometimes I rewatch a particular film to look for a dialogue conveying that spark about her; a statement that sums up who she is as a character and why she is powerful. As for the picture, I usually take a screenshot from any of the frames that portray her face and upper body clearly. An upright stance is essential to the composition of the illustration,” she explains. Shivani, who will soon be leaving for New York to pursue her masters, uses Adobe Illustrator to create the portraits, each of which takes her nearly six hours to complete. Sharing her future plans, Shivani says that she hopes to eventually create ‘Queens OnScreen’-based merchandise, by printing these heroines-in-circles on notebooks, T-shirts, badges and even canvas bags. “Things we could wear to show our feminism off to the world!” she exclaims.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox