Toilet Ek Prem Katha and more: Bhumi Pednekar is the small-town champion of feminism

Bollywood actor Bhumi Pednekar is all set for her second outing, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, along side Akshay Kumar that will hit theatres on Friday. Her debut film was Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

In a career spanning two years, she has worked in three films – after Toilet Ek Prem Katha, she will be seen in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan opposite Ayushmann Khuranna. While her debut film was a surprise hit, the trailers of the upcoming two films are out and we can understand the character arc and milieu of her characters.

Apparently, Bhumi seems to be choosing roles where she has a clear, feminist voice in a completely traditional, archaic set-up. Let us take a look at her films vis-a-vis her characters and the how feminism plays a role in each one.

In Dum Laga Ke Haisha, she essayed the role of Sandhya Varma, an overweight woman who knows that her appearance does not really matter and she deserves respect as a wife and a woman. Despite a traditional, small-town upbringing, she does not hesitate from slapping her husband (Ayushmann) and making him realise that she is his equal, if not his better. She even files for separation when she fails to get the respect due to her. When the two fall in love, it is not due to their looks but the fact that they respect each other.

Bhumi Pednekar
Bhumi Pednekar

Bhumi won seven awards for her performance in the film directed by Sharat Katariya, including the Stardust and Screen awards for best female debut.

In Toilet Ek Prem Katha, as the promo videos show, Bhumi’s character is in love with Akshay’s and the two get married. However, when she realises that she needs to walk a long distance and defecate in open, she leaves her in-laws’ house. She demands that a toilet be built in the house before she comes back.

The trailer of Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, again, shows Bhumi as a progressive woman in a traditional set-up. Her fiance suffers from erectile dysfunction and it appears she is not afraid to fight her own family that wants to outcast him for the illness.

While a woman with her own, clear voice is nothing new in today’s cinema, what makes Bhumi Pednekar’s case interesting is the fact that her characters are all based in rural or small-town localities. When she fights for feminism and equality, she does not have an urban, educated brigade to support her. She fights patriarchy right where it breeds and grows – the traditional rural and semi-urban families where women are seen as lesser than men.

Bhumi Pednekar
Bhumi Pednekar

Fighting from within the system maybe tough, but that’s how the root cause of the problem can be addressed and resolved. And it seems, Bhumi has set her heart on roles that emanate from Hindi heartland.

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