Posted by Srishti Walia
Dear Sara, Batool, Jugnu, Zubaida,
You know this is the first time I am writing letters to characters? It is funny actually, because I often find myself reminiscing my days as a literature student. But then, I also find myself priding on being a distant spectator and reader. Therefore, I write about characters, I never write to them.
Churails deserved something more from me, aside from my nauseatingly critical self. So today, you have forced me to shed my film-scholar skin, forego my rhetorical detachment, and write directly to you. So here I begin.
There is so much profundity in your words that goes beyond the immediate circumstances, that I can list a thousand words and it would still be incomplete.
But incompletion, like mystery, evokes excitement and can push others to watch, and I want nothing more than more people seeing you all vociferously occupying space, cinematic as well as public.
What are the few lines that I hold close to heart? Is it Batool‘s “Marna kisko hai, hum toh bas dard ke deewane hai” or Jugnu’s prophetical utterance “khoon main bhi zeher aata hai” or Sara giving it straight to Jamil “It’s about your perpetual tharak, sweetie” or is it Zubaida’s youth that perpetually asks for justice?
There is so much trauma in women’s past which reality has always tightly held and imagination has rarely let out, that your narration of your stories, in one tiny impeccable word, is important. Honestly, I was not worried for any of you ever. I knew, from the start, that you will all come out victorious.
Of course not without scars, but scars serve as memories, they keep you moving. I am also certain pity is never what you want from the spectator. What you want from the spectator, is immersion. Deep, painful, overwhelming immersion.
You showed the world that female solidarity is not an organic formation, that it is not grounded in homogeneity. It is built upon varied levels of oppression, it is rife with internal conflicts, with different interests. Albeit somehow a revolt against patriarchal systems brings women together but renouncing their individuality is not a condition for participation. You and your team then express and give way to an intersectionality that is not stuck at the level of representation.
You vehemently challenged the beauty industry, the myth around women’s bodies (I cannot stop myself here from quoting again — “humara jism jo aapki hasraton ka mahal bhi tha aur aapke gunahon ka macbara bhi”), their objectification, motherhood and abortion, rape culture, failure of legal recourses for women, and most pertinently, women’s continuous and violent exchange with men on which patriarchy still prides itself. You have given me a lot to unpack and I am extremely grateful. I want to watch again, and again.
Now I must leave, but I cannot without mentioning my fascination with your smooth and powerful movement between ritualistic visuals of blood, nightmarish and dreamlike reality, mythical references to the devil, and actual spaces of violence, rebellion, and a beautiful scope for feminist deliberation.
Srishti Walia is a research scholar in Cinema Studies at JNU. She can be found on Instagram.