Cinema has forever been a tool for exploring characters. While men ruled the universe for aeons and films explored their existence, there came a new wave that shifted their gaze to women. Remember, when Mahesh Bhatt in Arth gave Shabana Azmi’s character a voice that shattered many glass ceilings at the exact times? Or when Seema Biswas as Phulan was an epitome of what a lady can do if she decides to. One filmmaker to have caught my frenzy and doesn’t seem to leave it in this department is Abhishek Chaubey.
Abhishek is and on record calls himself the filmmaker of the heartland, and if you have followed his cinema, you know his obsession and eye for detail in his zone. The man who has been a constant collaborator of Vishal Bharadwaj has his distinct voice and one that needs all the attention. But more than everything immaculate that Abhishek Chaubey endorsees, my curiosity has forever been with the women he creates.
Abhishek has a knack for capturing ladies in their most secretive moments. There is a mystery to them. Sometimes their name, many times their motives. But the manner they rock their grey zone is what excites me the most.
MARY JANE (UDTA PUNJAB)
My exploration of women in the Abhishek Chaubey universe actually began with this eye-opening saga. Here is a girl out of her bad luck stuck in the wrong place. She hustles to break free, is captured again. She was never meant to meet this fate, but if our destinies were that simple, life would be living heaven. But did you notice, Alia Bhatt’s character in the film had no name? I am amazed how can such a well-edged character be written without a name. If you think Mary Jane was her real name, you have missed the boat by miles, my friend!
BEGUM PARA & MUNNIYA (DEDH ISHQIYA)
I am a fan of the climax frame of Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya. While it is a hard-hitting twist and one that isn’t expected, the portrayal of it through shadows hit the right spots. The mystery is their dynamic. Is a friend, a maid, a helping hand, or there is more. These are women in the heartland of India, navigating their way through the man’s world, and if that is not enough, they are in love (it’s been ages since Dedh Ishqiya released. If you haven’t seen it yet and are cursing me for giving spoilers, you deserve it). While all men want them, what they want is always superior to them, and that is how it should be.
Abhishek Chaubey, in his writing this time around, was playing high on metaphors, the title being the topmost. Indumati Tomar, a woman who has saved a little girl from the head of her family, who has raped her. This is Chambal, a landscape where forget the voice, ladies still don’t have the liberty to lift their head high. Amid this, one of them decides to break the shackles of patriarchy, crime and doom to not set herself free but to save Sonchiriya. It is through the little girl and all that Indu does for her; it is quite evident the hardships she in her younger days has gone through. She never voices them; the mystery is kept for us to understand.
I don’t know how to define Vidya Balan’s Krishna avoiding spoilers. Abhishek Chaubey, in his full-fledged directorial debut, had the best to offer. A decade ago, cinema was seeing a shift, and here came Krishna. A woman who starts of as an obedient wife becomes a rebel and a goon for her good has motives but never let them be revealed. Throughout Ishqiya, Balan’s Krishna manages to keep us confused as to what she wants. And when you understand what it is, God bless Chaubey and his sensibilities!
Tell us what are your favourite Abhishek Chaubey characters and why? In the comments section below.
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