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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

People Try To Break My Confidence, But I Am Fat And I Am Proud Of It: Theatre Artist Anuradha Rao

  • IWB Post
  •  February 20, 2019

“Love yourself as you are because the world has no plans of quitting their body-shaming, judging-you-constantly game anytime soon. People try to break my confidence, but I believe in taking pride in who I am- I am fat and I am proud of it.”

For passionate theatre artist Anuradha Rao, this the principal that she swears by. Faced with the cliched perceptions of people who think that being plus-sized makes you slow, dumb, and basically not worthy of being in the spotlight, she chose to not let it kill her confidence. Unable to comprehend how talent is judged on the basis of one’s looks and body size, she established The Big Fat Company, a theatre group which has one unshakeable condition – the dress size of every actor should be XL or above.

Anuradha Rao

Like Anuradha, IWB too believes that the rampant body-shaming culture should be done away with. With this goal in mind, we bring to you our latest campaign #JudgeMeNot, in collaboration with Craftsvilla, which focuses on breaking the binds of society’s judgment on everything from a woman’s outer appearance, the fact she is fertile or her professional choices.

Excerpts from our interview with Anuradha, whose sole goal is to shatter these stereotypes:

People tend to reserve certain terms and labels for plus-sized individuals to…

…insult us, yeah. I have been called names like couch potato, lazy, road-roller, pumpkin, dumb- people get very creative when it comes to shaming plus-sized individuals like me. Judging someone, criticizing them, making them feel small- this is what our society is a pro at.

But growing up with this negativity around you, being constantly shamed, did you feel self-conscious when you made your first appearance on stage?

I would have felt conscious had I gotten any of the main roles, aur woh toh hota hi nahi hai na. In my first ever play on stage, I, a 19-year-old, was given the role of a grandmother and while at that time I felt like, “Oh, what a challenging role, playing the character of an 80-year-old!”, I soon realized that I was being typecast in similar roles because of the fact that I was fat.

I was rarely the center of attention in subsequent plays either and that’s what happens to the plus-sized actors- they are either the comic relief, the mother-in-law, the grandma, the maid and that is it.

Anuradha Rao

It is their loss that they judge someone’s talent by their looks. I have always felt that we can somehow ignore what the world is saying to us, but if our own family makes comments on our body, it tends to get under our skin.

It obviously does. And this is more for girls than it is for boys as family members are worried that “Itni moti ladki se shaadi kaun karega?” Well, their intentions are… somewhat concerned about our future but they don’t realize the damage they do because of it. I had an aunt who would like to shame me publicly. Like during any family function, she would spot me and call out loudly to say things like, “Hey eat less!” “Don’t become a burden for your father, who will be unable to marry you off.”

Wow, people and their narrow mentality. Well, what would you say has been the silliest comment you have heard while you were performing on stage?

“How could you wear what you are wearing?!” Yeah, it’s like only slim people have the right to wear clothes they like and when it comes to us, we suddenly have to become mindful of our body size.

Anuradha Rao

As you earlier mentioned, plus-sized people are typecasted in certain roles. How is The Big Fat Company breaking these stereotypes?

Well, our plays are devised physical performances where we communicate more with our body movements and expressions than words. A lot of people think that big bodies can’t move gracefully, but our characters are pretty active and cover the entire stage with grace which others think we are not capable of.

Anuradha Rao

We are redefining the entire paradigm of body and movement. Some of our audience likes it, some don’t, as they have never seen nor expected plus-sized people to move like this. Some comment like, “You should be aware of how your body looks and move according to that.” It’s their choice, how they perceive the content they see. All we want to get across is the message that I am the way I am, and I feel adequate with what I have, be it weight, colour or body hair.

So, what would you say your dream role is?

Any role, as long as the focus is on challenging my acting skills and not based on the dimensions of my body.

Anuradha Rao

I wish there would be a time when this comes true. But do you think that one day the audience viewing your plays won’t be divided between those judging you for your body size and those who appreciate you for your work?

Well, the aim of The Big Fat Company is to become obsolete, to erase the need to have a theatre group separately for us. There shouldn’t be a different category for plus-sized actors, transgenders, etc. No judgments except what level of art one brings to the stage. And I have high hopes that one day society will realize that the partiality they reserve for different attributes of a human is pointless. And till we get to this bright future, my job is to spread as much positivity as possible.

This article was first published on December 6, 2018.

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