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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Taranjit Kaur On Her Film About Sexual Harassment And Her Personal Survival Aid In Mumbai

  • IWB Post
  •  September 20, 2019

It hasn’t been long I shared excerpts from my conversation with artist Taranjit Kaur; I remember introducing her as an ‘actor-filmmaker’ then. Which, though a true bio, but in retrospect, doesn’t speak enough of her strong multifaceted personality.

Following Taranjit’s work on social media since, what I’ve grown to admire the most is her versatility as an artist. An actor by profession, if not working on her script and direction projects, she’s writing poetry and participating in spoken word events. Through art she voices her thoughts and emotions, and vehemently addresses the issues that remain tabooed in our society.

The day my first poem, I Am Not A Virgin released on YouTube, on @unerasepoetry, I got many hate messages, calling me all kind of names, but at the same time I received hundreds of messages from women, from villages and small towns who wrote how they had suffered at the hands of patriarchy. How so many women have been shamed, and questioned if they could not prove their purity. Patriarchy is not a myth. It exists in a big way in many parts of India and around the world. It’s time we stand up against patriarchy. Lets reach out to every soul that needs to be empowered. #womenempowerment #womenbloggerss #womenpoets #mondaymotivation #poetsofinstagram

119 Likes, 6 Comments – Taranjit Kaur (@taranjit.official) on Instagram: “The day my first poem, I Am Not A Virgin released on YouTube, on @unerasepoetry, I got many hate…”

in one of her recent Instagram posts, she shared a poster of her film on sexual harassment, Behakna, with which started our conversation, transcending to the project that she is currently engaged in – a series of short films, spotlighting the subject of ‘sexuality’.

Taranjit was invited this year for Cannes, where she presented the first film, Love Sex Soprano, from the series. Written and produced by the actor herself, the film details into the various aspects of a woman’s life journey from puberty to adulthood.

Tell me a little about the plot of Behakna, and the character you play in the film.

The film deals with an incidence of sexual harassment at workplace. In corporates, there are well-defined rules for professional conduct, clearly stated lines that can’t be crossed without repercussions; director Sharmila Ghoshal has made several films on the subject in the past.

My character is that of a high-ranking official, the Vice President of a company. In my opinion, empowerment bears a direct relation to sexuality. Whether married, unmarried, or in a relationship, consent is important. A man should not be in a position to force him upon you. In a situation when he crosses a line, show disagreement in the first instance. There is not as much talk around it, because it is still considered a taboo. And it is only when each of us start making efforts towards normalising it that change can come.

Taranjit Kaur
How did you approach the character; how was the experience for you?

Sharmila (Ghoshal) has worked as a corporate consultant for many years, so unlike me, who hadn’t even played a similar role before, the ground wasn’t new for her. I am playing a strong-headed woman, the fact that initially had me thinking about how someone in her position could be intimidated. And in the realisation of which lied my learning that, as humans, we are all equally vulnerable.

It was interesting shooting for the film, Sharmila and I have a good understanding; I have been friends with her son too. As women and fellow artists, we share a common perspective and I am very happy to see that we have build an intense relationship in together addressing the subject of sexuality.

Taranjit Kaur

Taranjit with Director Sharmila Ghosh

Have you ever had to face such trauma personally?

As an actor, I have never faced casting couch, no episode of harassment. Though sometimes, people make remarks subtly and that can be just as disturbing. But I have never backed from questioning the perpetrator in the moment itself. My friends often say that I come across as rude. In my defence, I am a very soft-spoken person but chose to carry a “don’t mess” vibe. I have lived in Bombay for a long time now, and these consciously built walls act as the much needed survival aid.

I hope for things to change, and this is my way of taking small steps towards it. I strongly believe that empowerment has to be internalised – one has to put their foot down and affirm ‘I am not going to take it’.

Taranjit Kaur

Talking about her ongoing project of short films, Taranjit shared, “I feel that as an actor you portray someone else’s role and I had a strong urge to tell my stories – ones that I had based on my own experiences and also from my observation of other women’s lives. Women go through a lot of different things in life, but there exist invisible threads that make their stories and situations similar to each others. At Cannes, as a part of the ‘She Cannes’ Squad, I met a lot of women from across the world, and it was something that I gathered based on my observation and the interactions I had with them.”

In the storyline of Love Sex Soprano, Taranjit together with director Sreemoyee Bhattacharya, has attempted to show the transition of a young girl’s life from the period of puberty, which sees her build a new and rather strange romantic view of life, moving onto her experiencing different shades of relationships, and finally reaching the stage of understanding the importance of self-love. Of finding love within before outside.

“In some way, it touches upon the perspective of women’s empowerment and the idea of having a gender free outlook. But most importantly, it gives the message of finding happiness regardless of external situations,” Taranjit.

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