Most of the Bollywood movies have restricted the portrayal of sex workers as paan-chewing seductive women with a monetary mindset, or helpless vulnerable, and weak women, who need to be saved. While many may be applauding Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest movie Gangubai Kathiawadi for shattering these stereotypes and taking a refreshing take on sex workers, this isn’t the first time that a character shattered the stereotypes!
Much before Gangubai, Chanda from the movie Dev.D showcased an empowering take on sex workers!
Starring Abhay Deol, Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechlin, Dev.D was a modern-day take on the classic tale of Devdas. Though many people admire the movie because of its realism, we believe the one thing that needs special recognition is the bold and powerful characterization of Chanda. Being the modern adaption of Chandramukhi, Chanda aka Leni is played by well-talented Kalki Koechlin.
Leni is a Delhi student of half-European descent. A date with her much older boyfriend turns sexual and lands Leni in an MMS sex scandal. The incident becomes public knowledge after the video is widely circulated. Her father, having watched the video, commits suicide out of shame and disgust, and Leni’s family decides to send her to live in a small rural town.
However, she refuses to live a life of shame and ridicule.
So, she returns to Delhi where she works as a prostitute at night, while continuing with her studies during the day. She adopts the name ‘Chanda’ for her profession. She finds dignity and independence in the new way of living.
What makes the character of Chanda so exceptional is the fact that she shatters the Bollywood stereotype of sex-worker. She has been shown as a brave and independent woman, who lives life on her own terms. Somehow her story to live life on her own terms bring pride to the otherwise ‘dishonorable’ profession of sex worker. Chanda taking control over her life by indulging in the profession of sex worker showcases the hardly touched humanistic side of sex workers.
The characterization of Chanda makes you see her as a human, who is much more than her profession.
How the makers beautifully focused on Chanda’s emotions and desires, makes you see a side of sex-worker that is hardly shown in Bollywood. With every peep into the character of Chanda, the makers have made an attempt to end the stigma associated with the profession of sex worker. Through Chanda, the makers make a brave attempt to compel the audience to see sex workers as humans with desires and ambition.
We hope, in coming times, Bollywood would start shattering the stereotypes about sex workers and show them as humans who deserve the respect as much as any other professional does!