Posted by Vidya Nesarikar
Have you ever watched a movie and got totally sidelined with the locales, the clothes, or some side plot and that stayed with you long after the movie was over? Something like that happened to me recently. I watched two movies – one was a Netflix original I feel Pretty (2018) starring the talented Amy Schumer and the other was Tumhari Sulu (2017) starring another powerhouse talent, Vidya Balan.
What I found interesting (apart from the actresses themselves who are quite comfortable in their skin, and have not given in to any societal celebrity pressure of looking like lollypops on a stick with breasts) was the portrayal of their women bosses in the film.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that when both the protagonists land their dream jobs by impressing their female bosses, they are supported by their bosses throughout the trials and tribulations of the movie.
Women bosses are supposed to be evil, conniving, diabolical women who will stop at nothing to reach the top.
Why pleasantly surprised one may ask? Well, you know the stereotype of women bosses on and off the camera. They are supposed to be evil, conniving, diabolical women who will stop at nothing to reach the top. (Now, is this even a bad thing?) There is also the whole ‘women are women’s worst enemies‘, but in the black and white, good versus evil stories of Bollywood and Hollywood, that’s how the tummy rolls.
So scripts with supportive women bosses get a total thumbs up!
To give you a quick background, Sulu (Vidya Balan) and Renee Bennett are regular gals. One is a homemaker in Mumbai and the other works in the IT department in a basement office in China Town, New York City. Sulu has limited options as she is ‘12th fail’ and Renee thinks she isn’t pretty and lacks confidence.
Without getting deep into the plot, Sulu and Renee both end up getting a chance for an interview for their dream jobs – a radio jockey and a receptionist at a luxury cosmetic company. They ace the interview and impress their future bosses, Avery McClaire (played by Michelle Adams) and Maria (played by Neha Dhupia) who both decide to take their chance with these earnest women. Their decisions pay off and Renee helps launch a new line of cosmetics and Sulu becomes a very popular RJ.
While I was watching the movie, all I could think of was that these bosses are going to pull the rug under the carpet of these earnest girls. I kept thinking that they are going to use them, probably not pay them, steal their ideas, sleep with their man, and so on and so forth – yes, just like the happily-ever-after trope in fairy tales, I have been fed on stories of Hollywood and Bollywood’s bitchy women bosses. Remember, Sigourney Weaver as Katherine Parker in Working Girl. (1988). Yes, she steals her secretary’s ideas and presents it as her own!
Working Girl also used another familiar trope of ‘women are women’s worst enemies’, that in a position of power, women are far worse than men. While in patriarchal family set ups this may still hold true in many cases (a plot line milked dry by Balaji Telefilms and their ilk). So it is refreshing to see corporate women bonding and being supportive in today’s screenplays. Two or more women in a boardroom will not result in a catfight. Two or more women in a boardroom just want to get their job done and go back home to their families. (Or their cat, or potted plants, whatever works right?)
Speaking of families, who can forget Miranda Priestly, played magnificently by Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada (2006)? And it’s oh-so subtle message that if you want to be a ruthless career woman, pay the price and lose the husband. (Again, is this a bad thing? The husband was quite dweeby and insecure in my humble opinion).
If a woman throws her weight around she is bossy, if a man does it, he is showing leadership skills.
My point is that we have all encountered tropes about the ‘bossy working woman’ in our lives. If a woman throws her weight around she is bossy, if a man does it, he is showing leadership skills. When a woman heads the company, people want to know if she is beautiful, slim, and married (always the most important parameters, it appears). The public would like to know how she manages her home and work. If she drinks at a party, she will be called loose-moraled, and if she doesn’t, she is called uptight. If she works late at night, people wonder who is taking care of her kids, and if she leaves early, people scoff that she has it easy because she is a woman. If she shouts, she has PMS. And of course if she doesn’t grant you leave because your flower pot died, you will brand her a bitch. I can bet on that.
Why can’t we just embrace that there are all types of employers – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s just face that for starters. You got stuck with a shitty boss. Well, you just have to deal with it! Gender shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
62-year-old Indra Nooyi announced this month that she would step down as chief of Pepsi Co after a successful 12 year run. Just for today let us just celebrate women leaders on and off the camera. And maybe some time in the not so distant future, it won’t matter if the leader is a man or woman – just being an able leader would be good enough.
Vidya Nesarikar is a writer. Her stories for children have been published in Champak, Highlights Champs and The Hindu newspaper. She is a trained classical dancer and has a degree in communication and literature. She loves art, movies, and mythology, and hates ‘wife bashing’ WhatsApp jokes. She also writes a parenting blog for appystore.in.