Monday, April 29, 2013

What I want to take away from watching Gippi....

...... and hope that you will, too.

You’ve probably already seen the rushes for Gippi. She’s endearing, she’s sweet, and she’s the perfect underdog you want to cheer for. As the uber-chic section of classmates make fun of her weight and take pot-shots at her awkwardness by alleging homosexuality and what not, you know that Gippi is swimming against a tide even before the movie releases.

We may not share her story entirely: but, Gippi could be anybody. It could be you, it could be me, it could be my neighbour, or my neighbour’s second cousin’s nephew’s classmate. And the girl who takes the wind out of Gippi’s sails, again, could be anybody. It could be you, it could be me, it could be my neighbour, or my neighbour’s second cousin’s nephew’s classmate.

We will cheer Gippi on as though we know what it is to be on her side. We make the Gippis, the Eenus (Taare Zameen Par, if you haven’t a clue who Eenu is), the Shashi Godboles (remember Sridevi in English Vinglish?) and the Southall Football teams (Goal, remember?) the poster children of our war cry against bullying and discrimination. We have tears rolling down our cheeks as we see the picture shown to us from outside, because we know "both sides to the story". If we imagine ourselves as characters in the film, we often think of being the one that walks the extra mile to embrace the troubled person. These lovely character-driven movies become something of a movement for the short time that they are in the cinema houses. They run their course, win awards, have their cast and crew interviewed till their last pores are asked questions, and then they spin around on television in rerun after rerun. But what we do, though, is to continue on our soliloquies: those we bullied will remain the subjects of our taunts, because, well, they aren't Gippi/Eenu/Shashi Godbole. They are the weirdos, the freaks, the "bearded ladies in a circus" as Shane Koszcyn said.

But here’s something that often happens with us: the underdog remains the underdog. Fat girls like Gippi will continue to face flak. While the masses will love the Gippi on screen, it will be difficult to embrace the Gippis around them – not because these real-life Gippis are any different, but because it is easier to appreciate something that the masses appreciate and validate.

A grand part of my childhood and teenage years went by under adipose. I was a chubby bubby, a fatty boombalatty, a rotund roundy – whatever you want. And no one spared me for it: I was called everything in the book, and many more new words that the book could not justifiably accommodate. When I was that fat, F.R.I.E.N.D.S was a huge hit in its first wave. I remembered listening to classmates talking about how they’d still love Fat Monica, and that her being fat should not be a basis to discriminate against her, because well, Monica is Monica. The same people sniggered and guffawed at me when I signed up to dance for School Day.  Oh look, the blimp wants to dance! By the time we graduated from that batch, I had gone from being responsible for the Gujarat quake in 2001 (by, allegedly, trying ballet), to being responsible for the Tsunami in 2004 (by, allegedly, falling off the bed early in the morning).

I stayed put on that number on the weighing scale when I was in college: studying law and CA together leaves little time for a life. That was when “To be Fat like Me” released, with Kaley Cuoco in the lead. Three girls at college sat together and spoke about how the film sensitized them, and I was part of the conversation, in agreement with them. But, later that day, they giggled and asked me where I managed to find clothes, because clearly - they said – I was "plus plus size".

So here's what I want to say. Let’s make a fresh start with Gippi. Let’s learn what the film wants us to, and let’s try to listen, and not just hear. Gippi is not a poster child: she is us, and us warts and all. Who doesn’t have insecurities? Who isn’t trying to get ahead in life? What’s different between the two of us? I want a happy life, a good future, a safe space and peace. You want that too, though you may choose to word it differently. Just as Gippi says (translated from Hindi), “We think we are fat, ugly or idiots, and that the others around us are better than us - but the truth is, there's nothing like that. We're all the same!

On May 10th or after, whenever it is that you go to watch the film, go with an open heart. Go to learn, and come to care for the underdog. The underdog that lives, not just the underdog that was shown on screen.

P.S: Karan Johar and Sonam Nair, and anyone associated with the film have nothing to do with this post. This is just a piece I wrote after watching the rushes.