A woman is more than just a housewife or a career gal, says actor Kirti Kulhari of Four More Shots Please!
For decades now, the Indian film industry has been stereotyping women into a caricature on screen with a one-dimensional image, incapable of being anything more than a foil to the larger-than-life heroes. Either she is a devoted homemaker or a cut-throat businesswoman, guided singularly by her ambition. There are no in-betweens in Bollywood.
While reality begs to differ, there wasn’t, until recently, any alteration in this blockbuster formula. Other than the artsy films and projects, women are and were a means to the storyline and not the story herself, a trend that was unfair on so many levels.
“Isn't it unfair to see a woman just being a housewife, or just being a professional, or just being so one-dimensional? How can you take away from them everything else that they are?” questions Kirti Kulhari, the Bollywood actor, who rubs shoulders with the who’s who of the industry and has a bunch of big-ticket films to her credit, including Mission Mangal, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Pink, and Shaitaan.
A star in her own right, Kirti believes it is this typecasting that has led to a distorted image of women on screen, leaving female characters no space to breathe, or for that matter, act on their own will.
“I think that's why most women feel very suffocated. They are not being seen for everything that they are. They are put in boxes in terms of the role they play in their life,” she adds.
Cut to the age of web entertainment
Call it the Netflix effect or just a hard-reset in terms of the content being served and consumed by the viewers – the way people look at entertainment itself has undergone a paradigm shift.
Entertainment with responsibility –is the buzzword now, a trend that has been, in parts, possible due to the incoming of OTT platforms. With a vast archive of international and regional shows, films, and docu-series to stream from, the digital-first audience today is spoilt for choice, and they are willing to trade commercial entertainment for quality content.
Or, as is in this case, a combination of both. Kirti’s latest outing, the Amazon Prime Video series, Four More Shots Please! has her playing the role of Anjana Menon, who is a single parent, balancing between her responsibilities at home and a lucrative career in law.
A poster of Four More Shots Please!
It is a fun and light-hearted show, but scratch the surface and you will find a picture of the complex world that women as single mothers, career-oriented office-goers, or as girls in the big city, navigate every day.
“I feel, characters like (Anjana Menon) and shows like these tell you to widen your horizon and look at the whole picture, and not just one aspect of it which suits you,” the actor shares.
In fact, such layered storytelling is also the reason why Kirti got attracted to the character in the first place. She says, “it is the complexity of the whole character” that appealed her the most.
“Everything that [Anjana] is and everything that she's trying to be, the whole angle of being the single parent and the love and hate relationship she shares with her ex-husband… there's so much to play with in this show in terms of my character,” she adds.
No shortcut to success
Four More Shots Please! has done more than just present an alternative to Bollywood’s romanticising of bromance and male friendships. Beneath all the fun and frolic, the series, quite adeptly, has held up a mirror to the society, reflecting what bold, strong, and independent women truly want.
“We are not trying to show you that these are larger than life women,” says Kirti acknowledging that to whatever extent these characters do appear to be flamboyant, it is because of the styling, makeup, and hair. “But their issues, their problems, and everything they are dealing with are all very real. These women are flawed like you and me, and they are owning it,” she adds.
It is this element of realism, complemented with relatability, which seems to have struck a chord with the fans of the series. This is a common streak you notice, in almost all the projects Kirti has cherrypicked so far, in her decade-long experience of being in the industry.
“I think I have developed a flair to pick the right roles,” says the actor. “I think confidence is something that I have developed in myself.”
Kirti has managed to outshine all her contemporaries with her power-packed performances. If her role as Falak in Pink (a 2016 social thriller) was a testament to her thespian skills, then the recognition for her roles as flight lieutenant Seerat Kaur in Uri, the widely popular military action film, was proof that the actor can shine through, even when she is not in the spotlight.
It is, after all, as the star says, a lot of hard work and a touch of magic.
“People think [cinema] is magic – and it is in some sense – but I also have to put in a lot of work,” the actor adds.