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

India Today - - CONTENTS - By Kaveree Bamzai

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.

Septem­ber 2008

Pages 432 Price `399 harPer collins

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