“I saw a Netflix category labelled “featuring a strong female lead”, and I thought it was both exciting and kind of sad,” said Shivani Gorle matter-of-factly. She is a 21 year young woman trying to change the narrative around women in cinema through her illustrations. Her series Queens On Screen series contains female characters played by women both in Bollywood and Hollywood along with a popular dialogue that the characters recited.
Gorle wanted show that the heroine is just as badass as the hero. “That she doesn’t need to talk, dress or behave in a particular way to win hearts. Or not win hearts. Because she can do whatever she wants. The larger point of this project is to ensure that one day women don’t need a separate category on Netflix or any other movie distribution medium to portray convincing characters; there’ll just be regular movies with equally well-rounded and powerful characters represented by all genders,” explains Gorle about her project.
Queens On Screen want to show that the heroine are just as badass as the hero
“Characters like Shashi from English Vinglish and Kumari from Udta Punjab reflect our new experiences as 21st century women in both urban and rural settings,” Gorle says. “I want all sorts of girls, boys, men and women to appreciate that that the art they consume holds a mirror to real communities. The only reason this is possible is because Bollywood has finally begun to portray women in films through dynamic, well-rounded characters that are as powerful as their male leads.”
She plans to feature at least a 100 Queens before she concludes the series. “That’s the least I owe myself and my audience.”
Gorle grew up as the only girl child to a middle-class family from a small Indian town of Nagpur. But her parents didn’t ever suggest that she was in any way ‘lesser’ or inferior to a boy. Gorle says both her parents worked and recalls her mom resuming office 2.5 years after she was born. and her dad continued to work his way up from salesman to CEO.
“So I’ve never been made to believe that I couldn’t rise to my highest potential. In our little family of three, we haven’t factored in gender or religion in any important discussion. My dad used his hard-earned hand-to-mouth salaries to fund my education in the best schools,” says the freelance illustrator about her parents’ liberal upbringing.
Growing up, Gorle watched all sorts of patriarchal TV shows that her mother watched from Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki to Kasauti Zindagi Ki. Perhaps a good learning in how not to raise a family? “We would watch it in jest, amused by how dissimilar our own lives were. For me there were just good jobs and bad jobs. Yes, I did notice that only my mom would wash spare clothes and put them out to dry in the mornings, but my dad did the dishes after dinner.”
Gorle believes that her upbringing was liberal and unbiased because her family moved from town to city as soon as she was born. “Constant feeling of adjustment and newness prevented me from settling into the traditions of a more rustic life where gender roles were not so flexible. And for that I am supremely glad.”
I chose films because they are the biggest cultural influencers
She picked up art when she went to study in a boarding school for six years during her childhood. Her flair for drawing and painting came from there. Gorle, who wrapped up graduation in 2015 from KC College in Mumbai, will be moving to New York to begin her Masters programme in branding at School of Visual Arts.