Ep 4: Gauri née Protima Bedi

This episode in my curated series of “Women Talking” is a sit down between Protima Bedi and Swati Bhise.

“Feminism” is freshly trending in society today, almost as if the 60s movement had never existed. It seems like everybody is waking up to the phenomenon only recently. We’re still feuding on twitter about whether armpit hair is acceptable, gender pay gap and double standards around body positivity… That’s what happens when you are a Modern Feminist in 2017, instead of being a Post-Feminist ever since 1980!

Women of the distant and recent past didn’t have social media or a savvy institutionalised PR industry to control their own narratives and avoid character distortion. Regardless of whether they made brave career moves or progressive life choices, the media would paint them with only one brush: glamorous personalities to be viewed through the prism of scandals, affairs, questionable wardrobe choices or as trophy counterparts to the men in their lives.

Protima Bedi Parveen babi interview

How different is that from today? In the mainstream, there has always been a general lack of intelligent critique of independent women who dance differently in the spotlight. Today’s celebrities are considered successful “It Girls” only if they have a train of (staged?) paparazzi chasing them; with a bankability that is fresh off the heels of a rehearsed assertion about their race, colour, gender, pay gap, body type or inner demons. Boo Hoo Stars!

On the other hand, someone like Preity Zinta is dismissed as a has-been actress. Where is the article chronicling her journey from Bollywood to Business school, owning a cricket team and getting married to a white dude in her 40s? Once I’ve finished Gloria Steinem’s rare book about Marilyn Monroe, I shall rub it in your face about how misunderstood M was too. Lindsay Lohan has turned her life around (The red hair is back too! Yay!), but nobody in Hollywood takes her seriously any more. Mallika Sherawat calls a spade a spade abroad while talking about India, but she gets lampooned back home. If she were Priyanka Chopra, it would be a whole different reaction. 

Priyanka chopra mallika sherawat

What I want to say to you is this- learn to segregate the garbage from your newsfeed. Learn to observe and form your own well informed opinions, without any help from the intern at Buzzfeed. Control what and who you find worthy, over what men and media value.

Protima Bedi, during and after her marriage to Kabir Bedi, was branded as a “Bad Woman”, a “Loose Woman”. My mother too, scowled disapprovingly when I picked up her autobiography from a library in my late teens. “She streaked on Juhu beach!”, amma said, tsk tsking. Upon reading Protima’s memoirs, I learnt of her struggle for independence and quest for identity. She was set on exploring her ambitions and desires, all against the backdrop of Page 3, divorce & money problems. Isn’t that everybody in tinseltown these days?

Of course, Protima did find acceptance, albeit only after she turned legitimate. Translation: dawning sareers, dancing Odissi & taking sanyas. Nobody felt the need to interview her until that happened!

Either way, check out the video to see how direct, frank, clear and genuine both the interviewee and the interviewer are. Women with gumption! Gotta love ’em!

If only such a rendezvous had taken place during her wild avatar. It would have been a record of her evolution rather than a reminiscence through retrospection alone.