Sanya Malhotra and Richa Chadda come across as among the finest and fittest film actors. In the recently released Paaglait on Netflix, Sanya plays the role of a widow and finds herself in a strange situation, unable to decide and direct her destiny. Should she be playing an ideal daughter-in-law consoling her husband’s loss and pleasing the traditional patriarchal supremos and bosses? Or should she take the first available opportunity to live upto her ambitions and aspirations? In a fix, her hunt takes her to a never ending journey that disapproves her character to calm down and look back.
Similarly, in Madam Chief Minister, Richa peddles with the questions of identity and recognition after being humiliated and heckled by the upper-caste group in her village. This fills her with a sense of pride and passion to eventually take revenge after she gets introduced to Saurabh Shukla (Masterji), who politically tutors and trains her to take forward the message of Ambedkar — Educate, Organise and Agitate.
Eliminating gender injustices, disparities and discrimination becomes her priority, apart from championing the objectives of the men and women of her community. Richa’s character targets the imminent forces that are impeding the progress and prosperity of the subalterns by denying them dignified access to materials and resources. Though absolute power can corrupt one, it can also act as a remedy for correcting thousand-year-old ills and sins that reprimanded those falling out of the hierarchical varna system. It is in this way that rights and duties become crucial to be addressed and articulated. So what if it’s revolutionary and radical?
I understand that the scripts of both Pagglait and Madam Chief Minister hover over gendered — and not biological — notions of roles and responsibilities that make the whole debate around rights and equality totally purposeful. Such debates enable confrontations and contradictions, and can further complicate the issue. A woman can stand equal to man, and be a homemaker, leader and activist all at the same hour by being unapologetic if we are sharp enough to take it the right way.