Mindy Kaling got her big break as a writer in The Office, at least that’s when I first heard of her. As Kelly Kapur, Mindy was the most ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) there could be. Except the confused desi bit. Kelly is just mostly confused about many things. But that is not what this is about. In her book ‘ Is Everyone else hanging out without me?’ Mindy talks about her size, what she calls the average American woman’s size. Here is what she says
Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, ‘Normal American Woman Size’ that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like ‘Pick a lane.‘
Basically, ‘It sucks that you have a body that you seem to be okay with. You’re only allowed to be skinny and be endearingly unsure of your body, and we can constantly reassure you that you have a great body. You can’t HAVE a body that needs constant reassurance and expect us to give it to you.’
Mindy is intelligent, beautiful. Mindy has her own show on a major network. Mindy wrote some of the best episodes of The Office. Mindy wrote a best selling book and her Instagram is filled with fashion and fun and workplace humor and pictures suggesting the pain of bikini waxes. Mindy has a beautiful house in LA and for all intents and purposes is a successful Hollywood artist. She is a witty, show-making, parent-abiding, Marc Jacobs-wearing, Aishwarya Rai-loving, memoir-writing brown-skinned diva; and therein lies her biggest shortcoming: Mindy will never succeed in the Indian film industry. Mindy may be many things, but one thing she is most is dark skinned. Dark skinned and heart faced. Short-haired and opinionated. Unmarried and over thirty. The perfect recipe for Bollywood disaster.
Koffee with Karan, that used to be a popular Bollywood talk show until a few years ago, had an episode with Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan (successful Bollywood actors, married to one-another; “Saifeena” for couple-name snobs) that I watched, where they discussed eventually getting married. They discussed how they were completely sure that they wanted to be together forever, but what the marriage would do to Kareena Kapoor’s career as an actor in Bollywood. At least on three separate occasions, Saif Ali Khan brought up the fact that marriage kills a heroine’s career. “…it killed my Mom’s!’, he exclaimed. Karan Johar sympathetically agreed while Kareena watched the two men discuss her career. Watch the clip here:
Following this, I was reading articles on the internet (obviously) and found several articles about ‘Indian heroines who had babies before marriage’, because apparently this is something that required research and thought and publication. Nothing about the guys they had their babies with (also unmarried to these ladies at the time of conception, if I understand how marriage or having babies works)
It seems to me like the majority of Indian cinema wants to write stories only about certain types of women: light skinned, skinny women who silently and sexily support a male protagonist, played by very glamorous women who are very chaste in real life. Everyone’s chastity is everyone’s business. Unless you are male, of course. In that case, well you’re welcome for all the glamor. Thank you for your approval.
Not that light skinned, skinny women are not characters worth being played, or that the women who portray them are untalented. I am not condemning the entire Indian film industry and deeming it a misogynistic cesspool of mediocrity . Creative, intelligent movies about sensitive subjects are made in India, but fall flat on their faces. Like every other industry, the cinema industry exists to sell itself and so it is pointless to blame the industry alone. But to us, the audiences, the consumers, I ask these questions : Is this still a topic for discussion? Do people really care if the female actor they see on screen is married? Does the movie-viewing process actively involve considering starting a romantic relationship with the actors? Does it matter if people have children out of wedlock? Is it our business? Why is chastity still a word? Will moral policing stop in India if we never stop doing it? Why do we insist on being terrible people? Yes, too many questions. I sound like my five year old nephew, whose sole belief is that a moment not spent asking questions is a moment wasted. I will stop.
I fully understand and admit that this article feels likes it’s the 90s, but then so does Indian cinema. So bear with me and read my last paragraph. Leave a comment, even.
Mindy Kaling will not succeed in Bollywood because you know, she is too Goddamn unique for Indian cinema, okay? I’m sorry for dragging you into this, Mindy. I didn’t see see how anybody would bother reading it if there weren’t’ a celebrity’s name in it. Hell, even I only wrote it so I could read about you later in this article I am writing. But if you think about it, though, you weren’t dragged into this. Your Mom is Bengali. You know who else is Bengali? SAIF ALI KHAN’S MOM, WHOM HE TALKS ABOUT IN THAT CLIP. See, you were involved from the start after all. Just like every movie plot ever. Please don’t be mad at me and please continue being my friend. Please don’t block me on Instagram, I mean. Love, cupcakes and Daisy by Marc Jacobs to you. Chanel No. 5, even.