‘Fat’ and ‘fab’ Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann Khurrana in ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’
Is the dominance of size zero in Bollywood about to come to an end?
If you’ve been a fat child, you will know what this is about. All you will have heard from everyone around you, even the kinder, well-meaning souls, is: “oye moti”. Or “motey”. Years later, you may still be able to taste the hurt and the rage and the tears and the humiliation, and remember how that description became an indelible stamp, a never-to-be-forgotten expletive.
It’s as if no one can see you; the real, essential you, who has nothing to do with the layers of flesh that encircle your body. Coping can take the stuffing out of you, the bullying can cause deep scars, and you can either get equally angry and lash out, or simmer and pray for deliverance. Or you can become the class joker, then and later, by offering up your overweight self as butt, but knowing you are secretly giving it back to them.
Mainstream movies have almost always made fun of The Fatty. Or had The Fatty make fun of himself or herself. It’s an idiot-proof banana-peel way of getting the easy laughs. Till political correctness overtook cinema, it was quite all right to place the slender leading lady right next to the fat saheli, the one who would be badly dressed and stuffing her face, just in case we missed the point, the contrast enough to nudge us into laughter.
Those laughs have become guiltier now but the veneration of the thin-therefore-beautiful in cinema — and this is true for mainstream cinema around the world — has only increased. Hindi cinema’s famous fatties (Tuntun comes to mind instantly) lumbered out of scripts as comedy tracks became outmoded. Comfortably padded leading ladies transformed into thin sticks, and Kareena Kapoor’s size zero became the frightening obsession of a generation of little girls.
So tyrannical is this demand for thinness that no other body type has been allowed to take centre stage, so to speak, on Bollywood screens. The relentless factory-like production of sylph-like, waif-like, bloodless creatures who’ve been waltzing off the ramp into the movies has resulted in the parade of washboard abs masquerading as leading ladies.
If they stand sideways, all we should be able to see is a line. If a wobbly bit comes into view, off with her head. Or off to the gym, with punishing schedules and starvation-level diets. Vidya Balan was fat-shamed: the only time she could flaunt her tummy safely was when she played an actress who was slut-shamed in real life. Sonakshi Sinha and Parineeti Chopra are now drastically slimmed-down versions of themselves. Only Alia Bhatt has kept the hint of her double chin intact, and I say, atta girl, but how long she can continue to so, or want to do so, is anybody’s guess.
Which is why I’m grinning widely, delightedly at the creation of Sandhya Varma in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Sandhya, played flawlessly by newcomer Bhumi Pednekar, is Size Plus Plus. She knows it. And the best part of the way she has been written, is that she is accepting of it. Not in resignation, but in recognition. She is not enrolled in a sweat-shop, tread-milling away her adipose. She is not being forced into, or forcing herself into following a killing daily regimen: green tea-black coffee-thin soup-and-leaves, and eight hours of lifting weights.
Sandhya doesn’t have a waistline: the adage of not having a “kamar but a kamra” fits quite well with our girl. She likes what she sees in her potential groom, past his grumpy frown, past his being a “tenth fail”: what she sees is something he can’t. And the beauty of their getting together, learning to negotiate the understated sexual tension which finds containment and release in their cheek-by-jowl joint-family set-up, makes it a love story with real heft, and I don’t intend that as pun.
It is the kind of love that comes out of a gradual getting to know the person behind the mask. It is not the faux Hindi cinema convention in which the hero takes one look at the heroine, declares his “love” for her, and stalks her till she says yes. It is the kind of love which can start with loudly-stated revulsion and being adversarial at first: Sandhya’s reluctant spouse calls her a “saand”; we recoil, on her behalf, and then we see her reaction. It doesn’t fell her. It doesn’t lower her self-esteem.
Sandhya is who she is, and doesn’t care who knows it. What she says, without saying it: it’s not the weight, baby, it’s everything. Will she change the template? Unlikely. But one stone, cast by an influential studio like Yashraj, which has green-lit this weighty film, can cause far-reaching ripples. I hope.
Source:: Indian Express