Women of Steel
If Amruta Fadnavis is a banker pursuing her passion for music, Zia Mody is balancing legal battles with motherhood. Sania Mirza refuses to conform while Alia Bhatt is reaching for the stars. Like the Mother Goddess with 10 hands juggling life’s many aspec
Our past 10 cover women on how to strike a balance
“Everybody professes love for our soldiers, but it’s opportunistic love”
Bangalore-based writer and former ad woman, Anuja Chauhan has built up a formidable cast of spunky women, from Zoya of The Zoya Factor to Jinni of
Battle for Bittora. Long before Hindi cinema discovered that single young women could have both spark and sass, Chauhan was toiling away in the wasteland often described as chick lit—a term used loosely for any woman who happens to write on women and liable to set anyone’s teeth on edge—to produce fiction both meaningful and fabulous. Chauhan, in her fifth book, has created yet another independent, feisty woman Tehmina Dadyseth, which young actresses in search of sensible roles should immediately pencil into their packed diaries. But more than that, she has crafted a young man with spirit and adventure, and recreated an era, which will give you goosebumps and gobsmacked moments in equal measure. And above all, there is the very relevant debate between national security and individual independence. Here is Chauhan talking about all the modern-day Tehminas and Baazs who would like to speak their mind and live their lives, but may be too afraid to.
Why did you choose to set Baaz in the 1971 war?
We have fighters in the family and they’re such a larger than life bunch, so swaggering and largehearted to be with. I’d been crushing secretly on them for years, so I felt it was time to make that crush public. But I also wanted to make it a deeper portrayal than you’d get in
Top Gun or a Commando comic, I didn’t want to fetishise them...their lives are tough, and complicated and I wanted to capture all that faithfully. I was also sure I wanted to catch the defence services in their prime—back in the day when NDA boys were a prized matrimonial catch and the bloom was still very much on the rise.
Was it heartbreaking to you to write Baaz and Tehmina’s characters?
I liked how they’re both the coolest cats in their respective spheres—and how, under the superficial differences (she’s rich, he’s poor, she’s seen the world, he’s never been out of Haryana) they’re actually very similar people. I loved writing the scenes where they figure that out about each other—you know, that high you get when you recognise somebody as your own, your
apna. The tragedy of course, is that while on the personal level, there’s no conflict at all, on the ideological level,
there’s this huge yawning chasm.
Interesting you write this as a new culture of not questioning “national security” takes root. Tehmina is a pacifist. She would be more than be lynched now, don’t you think?
Totally! Look what happened to Gurmehar Kaur. As a ‘fauji’ child, I followed the OROP agitations closely. What is tragic is that everybody professes so much love for our soldiers, but it’s an insincere, opportunistic love. They’ve just been made into a sort of holy cow and put up on an altar to be worshipped, and thus, very neatly, muzzled, milked and muted.
As an artist, what do you think of the culture of self censorship around us?
There is self-censorship happenning while writing/reacting to a Facebook post, imagine what goes through the mind of a creative person when they sit down to write a book or a film or a song? Talk about death-by introspection and murder by paranoia.
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