Vidya Balan’s film Shakuntala Devi made me feel ashamed to experience that history is still his-story. While watching the film I could take Shakuntala Devi out of my General Knowledge (GK) book (which always projected her as a Human-Computer) and know her as a woman and as a human being who had different shades in her life.
Beyond being the world-famous mathematician, she was also a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother. She was a math puzzle herself. If solved, it will make you believe that nothing is holy in this world, everything can be questioned, and she questioned everything.
The way she questioned her mother’s silence, father’s autocracy and her lover’s cowardly act of not taking a stand in front of his parents for their love was overwhelming. She was fearless to any kind of male dominance (be it her father or her partner) and broke the notion that women have to live in a shadow of fear.
She never romanticized or idolized her parents. She was flamboyant. She wanted to be big someday and gathered all her courage to pursue her dreams and showed that she was very much confident in her self. She was adventurous enough to travel from India to London alone and stay with men in Tara Bai’s guest house.
She was confident enough to befriend men and felt safe with them. Shakuntala Devi is often seen in the film battling for equality between men and women. But she was confident and never questioned her beliefs and stands. She was brave enough to take a stand for anything that she felt was wrong.
Her stand on gender issues made me a bit uncomfortable in many scenes throughout the film. I was at the verge of falling down my chair when she said in the film, “Why do men always want women to need them?” It’s so true! I was a bit uncomfortable when she said at one point in the film, “I have different lovers in different countries… Well! My goal is to have 150 lovers across 150 countries.” She was bold enough to share it openly among men when she knew that she could be judged for promiscuity.
She never hesitated to express that as a woman, she is more than just a mother or wife. She too has dreams, and she was willing to live her dreams—go out and showcase her talent to the world. She wants to be ruthlessly famous even if she has to say lie about the sexual orientation of her husband. She even explored her career in astrology and politics. She always said, “I never lose.”
She sacrificed everything for her dreams and her aim in life. She was not like other women who sacrificed their whole life for the family. She contested everything and explored everything without compromising her passion for math. I liked her passion and effort to be the star and that too the brightest one.
Be it calculating the cube root of an eight-digit number at the age of five or shooting her boyfriend (literally) when he refused to marry her because she is “too independent,” or fight against her parents and even daughter, we always felt that she never compromised her own belief and values. She was that rare woman who could break the age-old stereotypes that only view women as dancers or singers on stage. She confidently faced men while solving those arithmetic problems with ease, which might have hurt many male egos!