In director Rakhee Sandilya’s recently released Ribbon, we see actress Kalki Koechlin play Sahana, a competent leader in her company. When she decides to go through with an unplanned pregnancy, her boss is sad to see her go off on a long maternity break. The problems begin when she decides to get back to work after three months.
Sahana has to juggle parenting duties with her engineer husband Karan (played by Sumeet Vyas). At work, she finds that she’s been coolly replaced by a man and the boss, who once found her indispensable, doesn’t care much for her any more. Then there are also the regular problems that every young, urban couple will relate to - finding the right nanny for the baby, increased expenses, etc. Naturally all of this strains Sahana and Karan’s relationship.
Speaking about her character, Koechlin says, “The characters of both Sumeet and me are very relatable. In the beginning we show them as evolved, educated and people who move with the times and practice gender equality. But as soon as problems creep in, the whole scenario changes. Suddenly everything takes a patriarchic turn and the man becomes the head of the house with decisions revolving around him.”
Throwing light on the questions Ribbon raises about gender equality, Koechlin adds, “We have definitely grown up as a society. There is a lot changing in terms of mentality and especially this generation is more accepting of the change. But somewhere I feel we are mentally accepting of gender equality but culturally we are yet to go a long way. We are okay treating both genders equally until the pressure from within you and outside quarters seeps in.”
It is nice to see more women having skilled jobs. But the ratio of more women entering the skilled pace is increasing but more men entering the domestic space is not. So perhaps that is the ratio we need to change
The discrimination that Sahana is seen coping with isn’t far from the truth. In fact, Koechlin sees this unequal distribution of opportunities, significant wage gaps, and indiscriminate sexism in the film industry as well. Even in Hollywood, actresses like Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Amy Schumer have raised their voices against being paid lesser than the men. “It is no different here. The actresses are still paid lesser than the male actor. The job of a DOP is still more of a male dominated field. Even here we see that when a woman does this job quite a few eyebrows are raised. Moreover, the characters written for women are also based on too many clichés. There are heroines still waiting for Prince Charming and there are heroes who still save women from everything.”
The film industry still has very few women directing or working as technical crew on a set. Though the number has increased in the last decade or so, there is still a long way to go. Koechlin herself is a great example of an actress successfully working on her own terms and making interesting film choices. “I am greedy for good roles, because as an artiste, I need to keep expressing myself. But with films like Piku, Queen, Margarita With A Straw and now Ribbon, the landscape of Bollywood is changing slowly but surely. I'm excited and grateful to be a part of that story,” she says.
The good news is that gender equality has at least become a talking point today. “It is nice to see more women having skilled jobs. But the ratio of more women entering the skilled space is increasing but more men entering the domestic space is not. So perhaps that is the ratio we need to change,” she adds. Koechlin strongly addresses the fact that it requires both men and women to stand up for this. “Let us remember: this is not a fight between men and women. It is more about developing a curiosity about the other half.”
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