New Delhi, Aug 21 (PTI) Actor Swara Bhasker says the portrayal of women in films and other visual medium differs vastly from their male counterparts who are given the space to be complex, while female characters, stuck as they are in the “perfect heroine” image, are denied the same humanity.
Swara is one of the few actors who has constantly challenged this norm by taking up roles where women are not necessarily the “goody-two-shoes” characters that one encounters on screen.
The actor said her role of an angry female cop in human trafficking drama “Flesh”, her third web show after "It's Not that Simple" and "Rashbhari", is an attempt to show an “empowered female figure”.
“My character is dynamic. She is no goody-two-shoes. Even as a cop, she is complicated and you could have a problem with her. It is just trying to show that she can be as flawed as anybody else as a human being,” Swara told PTI in a telephonic interview.
Asked whether her foul-mouthed ACP Radha Nautiyal will appear offensive to some people, especially on social media where the actor’s frank political views often attract trolls, Swara said it was about time that female characters were seen as humans first before being judged as women.
Also, the idea that women don’t abuse is a complete myth, she said.
"Who says women don’t abuse? Have we not heard our grandmothers abusing? I remember my ‘nani’ getting frustrated and giving some nice choice ‘gaalis’ (abuses)," she argued.
“The problem is that we don’t look at female characters as human beings, we look at them as women. This is why, for the longest time in cinema and visual media, we were ok with men having all kinds of shades -- grey, angry young man, angsty and the alcoholic Devdas. We have an understanding about flawed male characters but female heroines are shown as perfect,” she said.
According to her, Bimal Roy’s “Bandini” was one of the early films that tried to dent the virtuous heroine image in cinema. More recently, Sudhir Mishra and Anurag Kashyap’s films have shown heroines who can be messed up and confused characters.
“We allowed our female characters to become humans very late, probably in the last 15 years. Going beyond the abuses, largely the thing that we find offensive is just because we don’t want to grant our female characters the same humanity that we grant our male characters. The moment we will do that, nothing will seem offensive,” Swara, 32, added.
Though parts for women have become more varied, female cops are still a rare sight on the screen, except for Rani Mukerji’s role in “Mardaani” series, Tabu in “Drishyam” and Priyanka Chopra in “Jai Gangaajal”.
“It’s great to see empowered female figures because it works on a subliminal level by changing the perception of what roles women should be playing in the society. There are very inspiring cop figures in the world. It is high time that their stories are told as much,” she said.
The show, which has been written by "Andhadhun" co-writer Pooja Ladha Surti and directed by Danish Aslam, was a challenging project as they went into the “nitty-gritty” of how sex trafficking networks operate.
“It was a hard show and some point, Danish and me were like ‘we should have stuck to romantic comedy’… But on a basic level, this is a story that has to be told. It’s such a sickening and heinous crime in our society that we just have to keep telling this story, we can’t give up.” Thematically, the crime thriller is similar to Rani's character in “Mardaani” but Swara said they are different stories.
“I am honoured.. any comparison with Rani maam’s is great. I am a fan. She just changed all a heroine can do. Who could have thought a heroine doing a 'Black' before her. It is a huge compliment for me. But while ‘Mardaani’ was a more focused story, this show is involved in the nitty-gritty of how trafficking takes place,” she said.
The actor said while researching for her role of a cop, she understood the "tangible sense of frustration" that they have when the system gets manipulated by criminals.
"The cops who work so hard and put to risk their lives and personal safety... so many times their hard work comes to naught because one phone call has gone from some superior. I wanted to channel that frustration that is found across the board in so many cops," she said.
"Flesh" also stars Akshay Oberoi, Yudhister, Vidya Malvade and Mahima Makwana.
The series started streaming on Eros Now from Friday.