The Good Girl – It is a fable, a trope, a fallacy, a loophole as tactile as any. The Good Girl implies someone who is inherently answerable but never the one to question. Someone who doesn’t lead by example, but merely follows it to the ‘T’. A Good Girl is a myth propagated by society to keep half of its population in check. It doesn’t make sense because there is no one way of being a girl, a woman or a human for that matter.

The Good Girl Show is a coming-of-age story, documenting women in Urban India who are, in the filmmaker’s words ‘negotiating with gender stereotypes and discrimination in our everyday lives’.

Journalist and Filmmaker Anu Singh Chowdhary has written and directed The Good Girl Show, a mini-series, which showcases the journey of small town girl Pooja Prakash who comes to Delhi to study in Delhi University. She shares her PG accommodation with three more girls – Sam, Deb and Meghna – who are all very different from each other. This five-part show is a coming-of-age story, documenting women in Urban India who are, in the filmmaker’s words ‘negotiating with gender stereotypes and discrimination in our everyday lives’.

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Anu, who herself hails from Siwan, a small town in Bihar says that the inspiration for this series comes from, “young girls who crave and demand to be who they are; every single female who is silently pushing the gender barriers to reclaim her rightful space; every man around us we can or cannot trust… Each one of them has been an inspiration. To be honest, every single character in the series is inspired by real people and very real situations.”

Every single character in the series is inspired by real people and very real situations.

She adds that she grew up in a conventional middle-class joint family in Bihar where family honour was considered sacrosanct. She grew up with deeply ingrained beliefs regarding gender, caste and even religion. The social and political ideologies were passed on from one generation to the other like a family heirloom. Women in her family rarely had a say beyond what would be cooked for lunch and dinner, and which shops in Kolkata gave the best deals on silk sarees.

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“But I was the odd one out. I read newspapers and books and debated on and off stage on society and politics. The best part is: I found my closest allies in men around me – my grandfather, father, uncles and my younger brothers. In a family where women were traditionally believed to be subservient, I was being raised to question. I give credit to my mother for this huge role reversal who would come across as someone extremely submissive but silently nurtured me to strength and independence without raising a slogan. She encouraged me to drive and do well in academics, and coaxed my brothers to fix the bed, clean the bathrooms and wash the clothes.”

Having lived in a village and in a metro, Anu has known affluence and shortfalls. She has grown up in a system that validated and fought against ironies and dichotomies at the same time at so many varied levels, she is naturally attuned to striving for balance. But being so closely attached to the project, did she have troubles being objective about what stays and what goes?

Filmmaker Anu Choudhary
Filmmaker Anu Choudhary

She informs, “If you have decided to don the hat of a director along with writer’s, ruthlessness and objectivity comes with the package. Not only while shooting, but also while editing, we kept reminding ourselves that each scene has to be in the best interest of the show. What doesn’t work will have to go, even if it is extremely personal to me as a writer.”

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The concept of girls having their misadventures in a big city has been showcased in US TV shows like Sex and The City and Girls. In Bollywood Pink and Angry Indian Goddesses are great examples, so are mini-series like Girl in the City, Ladies Room and the YouTube channel Girlyapa. The success of these projects made it easier for the filmmaker to tell a story which came from the same milieu.

“Unlike films or TV, your audience is watching your stories on their phones, on their handheld devices in extremely personal spaces. So, if the characters aren’t relatable, they will reject it right away.”

“The digital format is such that you can’t cheat with your audience. Unlike films or TV, your audience is watching your stories on their phones, on their handheld devices in extremely personal spaces. So, if the characters aren’t relatable, they will reject it right away. Therefore, it has to be a fine balance of real and relatable moments and adequate conflict or cliffhangers to keep them enticed and have them coming back to you for a binge-watch.”

From having access to adequate funds to finding good actors and technicians in Delhi, getting this show made has been quite the challenge. But by the looks of it, the series which releases on February 27, is going to make us question the ‘comfortable status quo’, if not change it.

Watch the trailer here.

Anu concludes, “Society insists on girls being quintessentially “good” (or forces them to abide by the roles/stereotypes) because it suits the convenient gender norms. Whoever challenges that will be called a rebel. That’s why you will be tagged as loud, rowdy, troublemaker, housebreaker, footloose, and what not if you dare to wear your feminism, or your belief, on your sleeves.

As women, we have changed enough, evolved enough and we are constantly evolving, growing and challenging the barriers. We are fighting our tiny battles every single day. It is time to look for diverse voices from our counterparts too who also believe in balance and equity. And that will happen only if we learn to raise our boys and men well.”

Read More by Amrita Paul