What she says matters...

What she says matters...

A sense of sisterhood by way of movie dialogues is getting women to voice out their hidden feelings and reflect on their own lives, writes Rasshme Rao

There’s something about film dialogues when a strong female character delivers them — they grab your attention and make you think long after the credits have rolled. 

So when Shakuntala Devi was asked in the recent movie by the same name what she loves most about being on stage and she replied cheekily: “To see the faces of people when they see a girl in plaits doing maths,” you want to pump your fist in the air. Then she lands in London and tells fellow tenants in the guest house that she shot at a man in India and laughs heartily as if it were a joke. When she later wonders if she scared the male guests away, her landlady replies candidly, “what can be more scarier to men than a woman who speaks her mind and laughs with abandon.” I could have sworn that we would have seen many heads nod in approval had this film released in theatres. Remember movie-goers’ response to Queen?

This is no feminist male-bashing, but an acknowledgement of the strength of  well-etched women characters in films whose words carry the power to inspire other women to reflect, effect change and move a step closer to self-empowerment. Lockdown gave cinema buffs and others alike, a chance to watch different movies on OTT platforms. And there have been many films with strong characters and interesting storylines — Thappad, Bucket List (Marathi film starring Madhuri Dixit), Shakuntala Devi, Firebrand (Marathi film), Pinky Memsaab, the series Self Made (based on the life of Madam CJ Walker), Masaba Masaba (based on the life of designer Masaba Gupta and her actress mom Neena Gupta), to name a few.

It may not be totally unfair to say that English Vinglish starring the inimitable Sridevi, put the spotlight back on strong dialogues by women, which are relatable, perhaps even mirroring problems women face. Such dialogues have given them a sense of sisterhood and made people, especially women, reflect on their own lives, about how women are treated in society and about the need for better sensitivity.

Roopashree P N, a programme manager for German language books, is an avid movie buff, who feels that dialogues have certainly become more powerful and are now being used to underline the essence of voices in films with strong female characters. “I think writers are rediscovering the power of dialogue to impact or improve people’s thought processes and so the issues remain in our minds for long. Dialogues motivate viewers to open their minds to different ways of thinking. For example, the “No, means no” dialogue from the film Pink, gave people a chance to tell men to stop and think about a situation and what it means to a woman, and a lot of men to see where the problem really is. Once minds open, that’s when mindsets begin to change,” she explains. Roopashree cites Shakuntala Devi as a thought-provoking film in recent months. Vidya Balan, who plays the titular role, says towards the end that her daughter taught her to see her mother as a woman, something she had failed to do earlier and had allowed resentment to build against her mother.

“This dialogue got me thinking about why women degrade their own gender,” she adds.

Theatre activist, director and actor P D Sathish Chandra agrees that meaningful and strong dialogues help connect with a character portrayed on celluloid, like a conversation that connects to the soul. 

As for the resurgence of this trend, Sathish Chandra says, “Heroine-oriented films did not carry much money since the 1980s when hero-centric scripts found favour with the masses. But now, with dialogues taking the spotlight again, women-centric films have become a growing trend.” The success of a film is a return on investment and powerful dialogues are a value-add. 

Perhaps what many women hope for when they hear empowering dialogues is just that — a sense of respect much like Sridevi’s character in English Vinglish who says: “I’m not looking for love, but I want some respect.”