*spoilers on the Hindi movie Shakuntala Devi
The biopic Shakuntala Devi echoes the incredibly popular quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "Well behaved women rarely make history" .
I enjoyed this movie not just because it has a strong influencing woman as the protagonist but also because the movie embraced both her flaws and brilliance in its entirety and Vidya Balan did full justice to the role.
The movie starts out where they show Shakuntala Devi as a child prodigy in Math. It also shows she's sassy, strong and willpowered (read badass) right from the beginning. It would have been disappointing if the story would have gone down as a usual woman who sacrifices her dreams to raise her child. I'm not trying to diss someone who does that. My mother and I are all examples of women who gave up their careers for children. But honestly, I don't call it a sacrifice anymore because if that decision irked me, I would've never done it. That was my choice. Not working and staying home gave me more happiness and for some, working, earning and raising a family gives happiness. So that's absolutely a personal choice. Shakuntala Devi chose the latter. She loved her child but that didn't mean she would leave Math. When people expected that from her, she fought for what's right for her.
There are instances in the movie where you feel she's a bit selfish. But that's where the movie dazzles. Like I said earlier, the movie shows Shakuntala Devi's flaws too which makes us relate to her more because it only makes her more human.
It's not fair to ask a mother to choose between her child and something she's passionate about. I quit work because I didn't care for it. But I didn't quit dancing,singing and writing because I'm passionate about it. I would like to nurture my child and my passions at the same level. This is what the movie shows us too.
It's one of those movies which serve as a reminder to us women of how wonderful and inspiring we are, because we keep forgetting our self worth.
There are several dialogues in the movie worth mentioning. One absolute favorite was "Why do men always want women who 'need' them?". Another good one was when Shakuntala Devi responds to her husband who boasts about raising their daughter all by himself (which is in fact true and is shown in the movie throughout). She says, "Congratulations on raising your own daughter!" The moment you decide to have a child, it's your responsibility to raise him/her. It's not just the prerogative of mothers but both parents. We do not need to glorify something that is actually expected of you! You can absolutely be thankful of a supporting spouse but just like at work, you are lauded with praise only if you go above and beyond what your role demands.
One thing I didn't like was how she kept her daughter hidden from her father which I think is why the girl felt so detached from her mother. I'm a firm believer of the fact that a child needs both parents. Even if it's two fathers or two mothers, we need two because that will give parenting two perceptions or point of views. But anyway, that's my personal opinion. To each its own.
Shakuntala Devi comes off as a strong woman and is still vulnerable. And that was the beauty of the movie. She faces problems head on but feels disappointed her daughter's first word was "baba". The whole movie is picturized as told by the daughter.
I particularly liked the scene where Shakuntala Devi realizes her mother's silence was helplessness. Being raised in India I know what it means! In olden days, women were neither sent to school and nor allowed to work. This made them feel inferior and hence kept quiet and never voiced opinions. It's different now but Shakuntala Devi's mother didn't have a choice. This is also an aspect of the story the director wanted to show; mothers in three different times and something our mothers have oft told us, "You'll understand when you have kids of your own!" This is true. There are a lot of decisions that my mother made that make more sense to me now than when I was a child.
Shakuntala Devi is not a must watch but if you like women led movies then you must watch it. Shout out to Vidya Balan and the director Anu Menon. "It never was a dress!" Cheers!