Gone are the days when women on screen were damsels in distress, waiting for the hero to rescue them, or suffer at the hands of the villain. Those producing content for the web are now giving female actors roles that have shades of grey to them — women who fight, survive, take their own decisions, even that means putting their lives in danger.
The most recent example is web series Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen, where Anchal Singh plays Purva, the daughter of a politician, who takes a liking to Tahir Raj Bhasin’s character, and pulls strings to get what she wants.
Her roles, Singh believes, is a reflection of our society. She tells us, “Speaking as an actor, its liberating to view & project women in a different light in today’s time. What is grey, black, white? We humans by design have distinct personalities from one another, make different choices. Then why shy away from women being able to display an array of emotions or sides on-screen?”
The 29-year-old adds, “I don’t know why in the first place we stereotype women behaviour but I am happy things are changing now.”
Another role that stands out, when we talk of layered characters, is that of Rasika Dugal’s in the Mirzapur series. The actor, who played Beena Tripathi, says female actors getting such roles is “refreshing, welcome and long overdue.”
Praising the way stories are written, she elaborates, “It is encouraging to see that the writing of female parts is increasingly getting more nuanced. Scripts are now exploring and celebrating femininity and having a female protagonist helming a show/film, is no longer just an act of tokenism.”
Another factor that Dugal could connect with was how her unapologetic character was about taking decisions beneficial only to her.
“Here is a woman who has so many sides to her that it’s hard to describe her. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve, holds her own in a haveli which is a microcosm of the patriarchal society we live in, and quietly but cleverly plays the men in her life against one another, to her advantage,” asserts the actor.
The recent OTT outing, medical drama Human saw actor Shefali Shah in a rather menacing avatar, and sent chills down the viewers’ spines. She plays Dr Gauri Nath in the web show, who stops at nothing to get what she wants, even if it means killing someone. The character, Shah says, was “unpredictable”, and admits she took some time to slip into the medico’s shoes.
In her web debut, actor Samantha wowed everyone with her portrayal of Rajalakshmi Sekharan in The Family Man season 2. And actor Sushmita Sen’s role in Aarya 2, of a mother who can go to any length to protect her children, was also widely praised.
Makers, on their part, feel that the online streaming space has allowed them to write such characters for female actors. Kanishk Verma, who directed Inside Edge season 3, mentions the character which actor Richa Chadha played in the show. Her character, that of an actor had shades of grey to her.
“With what’s happening in the word, it was time that we saw gender equality on OTT as well. Until now, the majority in films was damsel in distress, but in the real world around us, there are women directors, cinematographers in the field of filmmaking, and other fields as well, and rightly so. Hence it is great to see this change. OTT’s don’t have the headache of box office tropes, you can tell the story you want to tell. It gives scope for any character to flourish,” he says.
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