I was at the Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh recently. Yes, it felt great to be able to visit an independent, radical bookstore and to know that it is safe for now. I took a few seconds to remember the shoe-box sized Giggles Bookstore and everyone-wanted-a-piece-of-it-at-the-end Eloor Library. Yes, even if it is in another part of the world, I felt the privilege of being able to walk into it in broad day light. I revelled in this moment knowing that in my own, when the ‘Acche Din’ arrives we’ll be left with no intellectuals, arts, or bookshops.
When I left an hour later I had added New Erotica for Feminists to my ‘anti-national’ library. ‘Getting what you deserve, again and again and again’ is the book’s catchphrase, and this book by four authors is not really erotica — it is satire, so still ‘anti-national’ in India.
The book is filled with over-the-top reversals of everyday sexist scenarios that are so fantastical they are bound to induce ecstasy in every reader. I’ve been reading a couple of ‘quickies’ every night and I am inspired enough to write a version of the book titled New Erotica for Women in the Film Industry. Here are some samples:
A writer is waiting to meet a film producer. She’s visibly nervous and is worrying about his response to her script. She is called in. “Take a seat, ma”, he says, “I have read the script many times…” She imagines what is going to happen next. He is going to say, “Why don’t you write a cute rom-com?” she thinks. But he says “…and it’s fantastic! Horror is the genre this year, let’s go ahead with the project.” Her heart skips a beat, and she screams, “Yes, yes, yes!”
A popular heroine plays the titular role in a film. It’s not a ‘woman-centric film’. She is not angry, preachy or fighting for equality. She is seen having fun. Even better, her husband is played by a top hero, and they have an equal relationship and equal screen-time. After work, they both come home, make dinner together, and go to bed fully sated. Even better than that, the cut-out set to receive the milk at four in the morning is hers. No milk is wasted and no one dies trying to garland her cut-out. We choke on tears.
The heroine does not make a comeback because marriage and childbirth didn’t stop her from having a career. Can we do it once more?
There’s a heroine who is very popular and so vocal about being a feminist that people are always asking her to keep it down. She gets louder, and instead of being punished for it, she is worshipped.
This is the story of the heroine’s friend, or mother, or aunt, or grandmom. Oh, the feeling of seeing yourself represented on screen. It’s so real, I’m crying. An interview is taking place. A man is interviewing a female actor. They talk about her childhood, how she came into the industry, who her role models are, the kind of cinema she’d like to do. She’s not asked about working with male stars. It feels so good.
A top director likes role play very much. I mean, he’s the one who even asks his male assistant to look at the costumes while the female assistant works on the script.
A popular male star sends out a notice with four conditions that has producers fuming. He’s actually doing it in protest of the gender pay gap. Umm, men who think beyond themselves are just so big… hearted. A singer complains about sexual harassment at the hands of a lyricist. She’s not the only one. The entire industry sticks by her. The sexual harassment committee (because it has already been formed) looks into the case. There is a system in place to hold these men accountable. The transparent enquiry process finds the lyricist guilty.
His accolades are snatched away and no one wants to work with him anymore. This is a dream so wet we’ll drown in it.