Loud, Shameless and Unapologetic: That’s who we will be

It’s been a while since I watched “Anaarkali of Aarah”, but it’s one of those films that does not leave you so easily, it’s clingy and seems to give rise to expressions that I feel deserve to be expressed. So before you read further if you are looking for a review of the film, this is not it, though I will add that it is the best film I have watched so far in 2017. Anaar, who is the lead in the film could possibly be given many labels, an erotic dancer, a lewd singer, a small town folk dancer, nautch girl, depends on which lens you decide to put on. But if you ask me, right from the start she came across as a strong woman who loved her art deeply, she loved to sing. Anaar could have been my neighbor, friend, family or even me, after all she was just a woman, loud, shameless and unapologetic when it came to doing what she loved. These words “loud, shameless and unapologetic” as most would suggest don’t suit a woman or are not considered civil in a society that has been blinded by patriarchy for centuries now. But I feel these are adjectives that have the ability to cut through the bullshit and for women to gain control of the narrative as well as their bodies and this is exactly what Anaar from Aarah did.

A stark reality that the film brings to surface is the idea of consent and I would like to ask a question off readers. What kind of woman deserves consent? I am hoping that each one of you is thinking that consent is universal and applicable to every human being irrespective of their gender. But that’s not the first reaction you get from people, as we who have been conditioned for too long within the boundaries of society start to place women in boxes. These boxes are nothing but spaces of judgement, where the level of consent will be decided based on how bright her clothes are or how red her lipstick is or worse still how long her skirt is. This seems so illogical but it is the painful reality and not just for small town India, but all over the world. It seems like education is not enough to change deep rooted misogyny. The story of Anaar makes you really explore the concept of consent at all levels and whether you really have understood it.

Consent, such a maze for men and thanks to the rebellion a concept possibly heard by some for the first time. I am beginning to think that like respect, many feel that consent also needs to be earned and if you happen to be a singer, who really likes to dress up, you don’t fall in the category “deserves consent.” Even this thought gives me goosebumps, I wonder how many men at the work place, or on the street think, that this woman wearing pink lipstick and a black dress, possibly wouldn’t mind if we don’t take her permission. And let’s not be fooled this is not just in the narrow lanes of villages in Bihar but also in the elite streets of Delhi. This is, as I mentioned earlier, a global disease one whose only cure is for us to come together and be loud, shameless and unapologetic. There are women whether in reel or real life showing us exactly how this could be done and like a chain reaction inspiring others to stand up.

But changing a social system that existed since the Neolithic times or at least that’s what history tell us, is going to be a mammoth challenge but I think women of today are ready to take this on. Even if changing the global narrative all at once is impossible, one personal narrative at a time is possible. After which, the world will watch all of us walking into the night like Anaar, swaying our hips if we like, to the music of freedom.

Neha Saigal


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