It’s been a while since I watched “Anaarkali of Aarah,” but it’s one of those films that does not leave you easily. It sticks and gives rise to feelings that 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 in 2017.
Anaar, who is the lead in the film could be given many labels, an erotic dancer, a lewd singer, a small town folk dancer or nautch girl, depending on which lens you 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 neighbour, 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 some would say 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 perception for women to gain control of the narrative and their bodies and this is exactly what Anaar from Aarah did.
The film brings to surface the idea of consent. I would like to pose a question to the 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 as we have been conditioned for too long within the boundaries of society and 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 how long her skirt is. This seems so illogical but it is a painful reality. And not just in 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. It’s such a maze for men and is being heard by some for the first time, due to its growing use. I am beginning to think that like respect, many feel that consent also needs to be earned. If you happen to be a singer, who really likes to dress up, you don’t fall under the category of someone who ‘deserves consent’.
The thought of this gives me goosebumps. I wonder how many men at the work, or on the street think that a woman wearing pink lipstick and a black dress wouldn’t mind if they 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 urban streets of Delhi. This is a global issue. One whose only cure is for us to come together and be loud, shameless and unapologetic. There are women on screen and in real life showing us exactly how this can be done. Starting a chain reaction and inspiring others to stand up.
But changing a social system that has existed for centuries 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.