13 Seats | Verve Mag

Maine Pyaar Kiya, starring Salman Khan and Bhagyashree — each of their debut roles — was once the primary movie I watched with my circle of relatives once we moved to Lucknow from Hardoi in 1989. Like lots of the motion pictures that may come to characterise the ’90s, the female and male leads pursue a platonic friendship within the first part and awkwardly give up to their romantic emotions in the second one. We watched this film such a lot of occasions throughout the yr of the shift that the cinema group of workers greeted us with affectionate familiarity – we have been “regulars” and chairs have been specifically introduced for my folks and me if the screening was once housefull. I used to be six and referred to as “Parul” then – nicknamed after the doll my siblings used to play with sooner than I used to be born – the youngest in a circle of relatives of 8 contributors and essentially the most pampered.

The leather-jacket-clad Prem was once installed opposition to the benevolent, lower-middle-class patriarch who clings tightly to his daughter and inflexible code of habits. He was once extremely sexy and endearing to older millennials like me, who had begun to search out resonance on this in-between house of navigating the query of “modernity” in conjunction with each Western and Indian values. I used to be right away infatuated with him.

Stuck off-guard, intimidated, each my good friend and I seemed on the menus with urgency and ordered nachos. After a couple of rounds of beverages, nice meals, respiring and residing the “Bombay vibe”, we took a tuk-tuk to her space, the place I used to be crashing for a couple of days, but to discover a position that I might name house.

I moved to Bombay in November, 2011. After I arrived, the liberty that town introduced within the flexibility of time and garments was once releasing, and I may espouse sexiness with out constraint, in contrast to the way it were for me in Lucknow. I used to be working out my voice in a movie business that was once aggressive and, every now and then, brutal to people who may no longer adapt. I used to be making use of to screenwriting competitions, just like the Inexperienced Display screen Lab for Kids’s Cinema, craving to emulate Gulzaar Sahab, Charlie Kaufman and Abbas Kiarostami as I attempted to look the possible within the alternatives I may get right of entry to.

Bombay lifestyles was once additionally speedy for an old-school Lucknowite like me, romantically talking. I sought after Rumi’s love, however all that got here my manner have been tips for informal relationships or creepy and unsettling advances from males. Again house, the buddies I grew up with had lives filled with romantic eventuality: all their updates about getting engaged or purchasing a space with their long-time spouse incessantly popped up on my telephone. In some circumstances, there was once sadder information about divorces.

After we moved to Lucknow in 1989, my father was once given an enormous kothi (bungalow) – it was once most effective “massive” compared as a result of our Hardoi kothi were a lot larger; we had a fruit and flower lawn, and an enormous verandah to play cricket. It additionally had a picket swing throughout from my space on the railway station – a noticeably lacking perk. I used to be the one one in every of my 8 siblings who was once despatched to a personal, English-medium college within the new town.

I have in mind recounting this incident to my mom in vibrant element proper after it came about; I were disheartened and humiliated, nonetheless ignorant of the observe of untouchability – if she was once acutely aware of it, she didn’t say. Residing in a kothi within the capital of Uttar Pradesh, going to an English-medium college and dressed in fancy frocks had no longer safe me, and this transition to town lifestyles from the caste ghettos was once of little outcome to that girl, who selected to look most effective my caste location and acted accordingly.

My mom quietly pondered what I had advised her and introduced the answer of creating me halwa-puri at house as an alternative.

In my twenties, I discovered about Mahishasura, the Buffalo god. Or demon, as he was once characterized via Hindu Brahmanical folklore and literature.

The buffalo species, which originated in India, has received a spot in marginalised historical past: consistent with creator Kancha Ilaiah, it’s the productive beast that epitomises the qualities of the Dalit-Bahujans, and in an indication of energy sanctioned via faith, Durga achieved Mahishasura as a result of he dissented from the Holy Trinity.

That’s what Durga Puja celebrates.

Right through my early years in Bombay, I used to be in a long-distance courting with a Brahmin guy who reputedly espoused liberal and leftist values however possessed an from time to time far away manner. The emotional labour in opposition to the upkeep of sanity – no longer just for myself but additionally for someone else who was once in the end going to make use of his prejudice in opposition to me – was once painful.

Romantic relationships all the time run the chance of harbouring a deadly co-dependence. Way back, sooner than I met this Brahmin traveller, I had damaged off a telephone dalliance with somebody because of the absence of it.

Then got here the migraines.

One in all them lasted 4 days, and I popped 3 to 4 analgesics on a daily basis to get thru it. I might keep in the dead of night – clear of mud, robust aroma, perfumes and lightweight. The entirety annoyed me.

Via a chum, I discovered meditation. That very same yr, I additionally discovered Consume, Pray, Love (the movie) in addition to Ketut, whose line has stayed with me for most of these years:
“Break is a present. Break is a highway to transformation.”


I had lately watched Rangeela (1995) within the cinema corridor. A. R. Rahman’s zingy tunes coupled with Urmila Matondkar’s sensuality were tricky to forget about for no longer most effective an impressionable pre-teen who seemed in opposition to films for sustenance but additionally a whole country that might no longer prevent obsessing over Mili’s berets and skater clothes. Way of life sections have been replete with references to Manish Malhotra and full-page photographs of co-ord units.

I sought after to emulate Mili’s taste and put on high-waisted denims and sensual tops knotted on the waist to seize that desirability for myself, however I used to be most effective 12 and within the seventh usual.

He was once too.

We met at an anti-caste convention in Nagpur that my father had taken me and 3 of my siblings to in 1995. The square-faced boy was once tall and dark-skinned, with a heat smile. When he disappeared whilst we have been enjoying I undercover agent, my eyes looked for him with urgency – the bottled-up fantasies taken from romantic films have been desperate to spill out. Sooner than leaving, we exchanged addresses to ship each and every different letters as a result of he lived in Chhattisgarh.

It was once the technology of mush, when Archies and Hallmark had tapped into our hearts and imaginations – poems flowed and so did guarantees. The square-faced boy and I filled lengthy, handwritten letters into the ones huge card envelopes, which encased our need to look each and every different; we all the time went thru the similar worried regimen of expecting the potential of the postman handing over those secret love notes to our households as an alternative people.

My good friend, let’s name her Mansi, and I might check out on each and every different’s Rangeela-inspired outfits in our rooms and discuss our boyfriends. How the geographical distance had begun to reproduce exhaustion that we didn’t have the gap for, and the way a undeniable disenchantment had begun to seep in in our letters to them.

Mansi and I might additionally discuss our instructional pressures, and I confided in her about my father’s strictness about efficiency. He would no longer hesitate to boost his hand if he perceived a loss of seriousness in our option to teachers – given his insistence at the necessity for Bahujan other folks to excel in those areas – particularly in a rustic with only a few avenues for legally accommodating the ones from marginalised castes.

My courting with the square-faced boy remained platonic, even when we had outlined it differently. And that’s why once we broke up, the absence of grief was once unsurprising.

As I started to search out the vocabulary and inclination to deal with what was once brewing inside me, I additionally turned into preoccupied with some other perception: The Bombay Dream.


I joined FTII in 2009. The historical past of Pune has the whole thing to do with the belongingness I felt to the institute and town. I might be told that in conjunction with the casteist Peshwai, the assertive historical past of 500 Mahar squaddies underneath the British East India Corporate at Bhima Koregaon could also be part of town’s cloth. The Mahar squaddies had ended the Peshwa extended family again in January 1818.

I wasn’t uncovered to as a lot global cinema as my opposite numbers, who casually referred to American popular culture – this shared wisdom was once an it appears risk free bonding workout for them. This may increasingly sound acquainted to Bahujan scholars – the ignorant workout via upper-caste scholars casually flexing their cultural capital thru what they know – particularly what isn’t to be had for mass intake and, every now and then, most effective a very simple get right of entry to of privilege. I used to be wearing the luggage of marginalised communities’ studying hole in those areas. Then again, my deep interest for what they spoke about would couple with the lodging of a few scholars on the institute, who didn’t care if I used to be uncovered to Hollywood classics like The Godfather or Pulp Fiction and for sure didn’t condescend to me because of it.

In April 2002, the similar yr he was once appointed because the president of the Backward and Minority Communities Workers Federation (BAMCEF), my father passed on to the great beyond in a demise that felt surprising, traumatising and destabilising. After he died, I wrote a small verse: A Kid is a Father’s Shadow. It felt cathartic and cemented my courting with writing. Any individual like me, who didn’t have already got any uncles or aunties running in fancy media homes or the leisure business, must construct myself and my social connections from scratch, however I had sustained and nurtured my Bombay Dream to some degree the place my instinct would no longer let me act differently.

If you end up a lady on your twenties, sexism turns into banal however by no means ceases to motive discomfort in lesser circumstances, trauma in worse ones. There was once an irritating spate of cliches directed in opposition to me when I used to be rising up, the place I used to be made to really feel that I had to have compatibility into the neat mildew of both Suman or Seema from Maine Pyar Kiya.

For me, those got here within the type of: “She wears tight garments and shorts and roams round with boys manner an excessive amount of!” and “You give the improper indicators.” Conventional. The discomfort looked as if it would rise up from my no longer becoming into the creativeness of the simplistic Barjatya binary of excellent/dangerous woman nor having the vocabulary to deal with this discomfort. On some days, I favored to turn my pores and skin, and on others, I lined myself up with a salwar kameez. From time to time, I loved a smoke and a drink too, pleasures forbidden to Suman to make her extra palatable to a “circle of relatives target audience”.

Right through that decade, the battle to squeeze myself into this type of restricted classes of girls felt existential. So, it was once a aid when Kiarostami Beau was once oblivious to such a dichotomies.

Ultimately, on the other hand, the figuring out of the adaptation in our techniques and our incompatible goals would first light on us. The connection ended, and he went directly to pursue his film-making goals in a foreign country.

I got here to Bombay to after all pursue mine.


I’ve continuously considered how the theory of steadiness is interwoven with love. My mom passed on to the great beyond in 2015, and to articulate the intensity of our courting could be a hard, if no longer a Herculean enterprise. As I depended on Ambedkar’s writings on Buddhism and Osho’s religious teachings to get during the immense grief, I started to extra deeply examine the character of the occasions that destabilise me, and the character of those who flooring me.

Bahujan ladies have a unique company, which is located in actual lifestyles and box – no longer in textbooks or motion pictures. In Would possibly 2020, I presented the concept that of ‘Bahujan spectatorship’ to reject and subvert Brahmanical illustration and report an inverted Bahujan revel in of eating standard cinema.

Closing yr, as I ended staring at Geeli Pucchi, Neeraj Ghaywan’s phase in Ajeeb Daastaans, the place I labored as an assistant director, a well-recognized reminiscence lit me up.

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