By Shivangi Singh
Known to choose roles with a difference, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut set new standards with her latest venture ‘Queen’;l. The movie revolves around the life of a typical Indian girl in her early twenties, born and brought up with suffocating values in the name of morality. Rani is a typical girl who never dared to dream beyond having a happy marriage and being a good wife and ‘Bahu’. It is only when she is left at the altar that her inhibitions break and with the life-altering decision of going on her honeymoon alone to Paris and Amsterdam, she sets herself free. It is this journey which she takes alone after being brought up in a nauseating over-protective environment all her life which changes everything for her. As she meets other youngsters- her flat-mates, who are all from different countries and cultural backgrounds, carefree, spirited and living life to the fullest- she realizes that there’s more to life than just getting a “well-settled” life in early twenties with the perfect job, the perfect house and the perfect husband/family. Rani becomes a “Queen” when she realizes that life is meant to be lived and you are young only once. This movie has important lessons for the Indian youth and the society at large. Also, it poses some very crucial questions. This article attempts to throw light at some of that.
On an average, the life of a young Indian girl, except for a few privileged ones, is spent agonizing over how to be a “good girl” and a “good daughter” in the preparation of one day becoming an ideal wife and mother. While the education levels have definitely been on the rise, a majority of middle-class Indian households only provide education to their girl children in the hopes of getting a good husband, with little or no hopes of actually getting the girl a good career with a high paying job. The tragedy is that girls in India are expected to be smart but not smart enough to scare away a husband. Parents having being born and brought up with narrow minded approach towards girls, instill the same fears in their daughters’ minds. The character Rani in ‘Queen’ depicts the same mentality. As a result of over protection, girls in India are afraid to venture out anywhere alone. Add to it the scare of rape and molestation and the picture becomes quite clear as to what scares most parents today. At this, the unthinkable remarks of so-called political leaders of the country such as Mulayam Singh Yadav about rapes and how “men make mistakes” further add to the hopelessness of the situation. It is as if no one cares about women in India. The fact that India has criminalized consensual gay sex between two consenting adults but allows rape inside marriages speaks volumes about the kind of status women enjoy in this country. And it is in this situation that the seeds of misconduct and ill treatment of young Indian women lies. When the elder women have led a sad, unprotected and loveless life devoid of any personal dreams or ambitions, unwillingly abiding by the pathetic rules of the Indian society, how can they empower their daughters or teach their sons to behave any different?
The situation for the so-called “educated” Indian women is no good either. Most of them are so used to being controlled by men, be it their fathers, brothers or boyfriends, that they are completely dependent on them and think it is their birth-right to make important decisions about their lives such as which college to enroll in, what course to take up, which city to live in, which company to serve in, what kind of clothes are considered appropriate, et al. The focus for these women is on how soon can they start earning and live what they like to believe is an “independent” life. It just so happens that they know that at the end of the day, their parents would be little or not in the least proud of their academic achievements or career advancements but would be worried about how soon could they get married and so, the educated, working class of young Indian women want to live on their money for as long as they can, enjoying whatever little joys their income can bring them. Compare the situation with an average twenty-something in the western countries: the girl is free to choose whether or not she goes for further education, she is free to choose what to wear, how to party, who to sleep with and for how long, which part of the world to travel to and when, what field of work she wants to end up in and when and when she plans to get married. Indian women have little or no choice in any of these sectors. While taking a break after college just to explore their options is seen as a sign of “uselessness”, the possibility of experimenting with their sexual selves is unimaginable. In the hypocritical society where men want to sleep with everyone around and yet want a virgin for a life partner, the sex lives of girls in their twenties in India is largely kept under wraps as being a severe ill effect of westernization. The question stares us blankly in the face: Where do most rape cases and incidents of crime against women happen- in the west, where women are free to roam around naked and explore their sexual sides completely or in India- the country of so-called high moral standards? How awesome would life be for the young Indian girls if they had the freedom to just go on a backpacking trip across the world after college or school instead of going for a high paying job or studious college, a trip where they feel free to take a chance on their sexual side without the fear of being questioned or judged by the patriarchal society?
It is this vicious cycle that Rani breaks in the film. In her success, we find hope. We rejoice as the movie gives an unconventional unending where happiness for the female protagonist is not measured in terms of happily ever after with the man she loves and riding away in a horse to live in a perfect castle. Instead, the movie gives power to the notion of unquestioned, unbiased independence for the women. Why should marriage be the end of the road or the ultimate destination for a young Indian woman when for her contemporaries in the west it is not considered essential or is, at the most, just an ordinary part of her life? Why must an Indian woman in her twenties not dream of travelling the world, exploring her dreams instead of getting a set specific education and a nine-to-five job with the sole aim of ultimately getting married to the highest earning groom? And why should an Indian girl mould herself and kill her free spirit in order to be the stereotypical ‘Adarsh Bhartiya Nari’? For challenging all these notions and raising many interesting questions, I salute the makers of the movie! Long Live the ‘Queen’ in every Indian woman!