Director: Anu Singh Choudhary
Cast: Mahek Chhajer, Tanya Singh, Carolyne Mate, Srishty Jha
I was worried about this. It was only a matter of time. Web shows that think they’re waxing Pink about Angry Indian Goddesses to a Parched population of social media feminists. The recent outburst of competent feature-length Hindi cinema about women empowerment has had certain drawbacks. Inciting the common viewer is the good part, and their reactions have been necessary, but the way fellow creators have reacted – not so much. In the overwhelming pursuit to make a relevant and timely statement, the craft of it – the nitty-gritties of the medium chosen – becomes a bit of a footnote. Intent alone, as we know, is like a chime on a windless morning.
The Good Girl Show a five-episode series about four flat-sharing Delhi-University girls, is an awry audiovisual manifestation of this misdirected rage. Adhering to a mainstream ‘rebellion’ template while trying to design an authentic North Campus portrait is the safe thing to do – an ideology completely at odds with its alleged spirit.
As a result, we have the usual suspects: a ‘dusky’ Bihari small-town-in-big-city protagonist (whose accent varies according to the urgency and ‘urban-ness’ of the situation), a chain-smoking ‘modern’ Bengali snob (mandatory bitch-to-activist device), an ambiguous Manipuri girl and the boy-loving, fair-skinned, alcohol-chugging looker. And of course, the Punjabi-Bagh-ish, big-hearted landlady aunty. The ingredients almost never change, unfortunately, whether it’s on the web or the big screen.
I’m sure this is a semi-accurate reflection of a regular multicultural DU (or any U) arrangement, but the problem is not the stereotypes, but the over-deliberate gaze that filmmakers – even female directors, like in this case – tend to employ. It makes for very self-conscious, obvious grammar that should have long gone out of fashion.
For instance, the focus on the “act” of a girl smoking, even during a casual conversation, reeks of an haw-girl-smoking attitude: rolling her eyes arrogantly, mouth fagging as if she were airily berating us for thinking that only male buddy-flicks thrive on messy rooms and cigarette butts. Close-ups of the lighter and lips indicate that we’re seeing ‘unconventional’ behavior, which is really not the case. Actions like these should remain in the background, as an everyday thing, not the attention-seeking forefront of all things liberal-lady-like.
The focus on the “act” of a girl smoking, even during a casual conversation, reeks of an haw-girl-smoking attitude: rolling her eyes arrogantly, mouth fagging as if she were airily berating us for thinking that only male buddy-flicks thrive on messy rooms and cigarette butts
This yeah-girls-smoke-deal-with-it face, the artificially darkened skin (so that post-makeover, white-princess transformation), the ubiquitous alcohol bottles, the overly distinct chocolate-box personalities, tags of “premarital sex” in the description section of the videos, and lavish display of ‘theoretical’ independence – it’s a very progressive idea and all, but such an unimaginative sex-and-the-city-ish formula.
There are a few nice, relatable moments – girls bonding over food curiosity, a long-winding discussion on periods near a squirmish cab driver. But there will still be the party song and coming-of-age ‘Zindagi’ song, no matter what the format. And it’s even less convincing when not executed consistently, with amateur music cues and inexperienced performers.
Another example is the typical ugly-duckling makeover shot. Every film in the world seems to have it now: here, too, she enters in a roommate’s tiny dress (“but everything is showing!”) awkwardly covering her knees with her hands. This oft-abused scene, at one time, used to be a charming interpretation of class dichotomy. The climax is, again, well meaning, but so staged and derivative that it’s hard to feel generous about its mood.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call this series another act of commercial tokenism. It is perhaps made by spunky folks who want to have their dramatic say in the gender-discourse noise. It’s just a little more noise – harmless at best, infantile at worst. In this era of instant judgment, with serious sexual harassment allegations against the field’s leading content houses (whose next is, ironically, a woman-oriented comedy), you expect better from those in the position to call out bullshit. Not really a good ‘girl show,’ this.
Watch the first episode here: