Qala To City Of Dreams: How Unloved Girl Child's Melancholy Fuels Her Ambition

Both film Qala and the web series City of Dreams have ambitious achievers of women as the lead characters, who as the ‘girl child’ have gone through a similar journey of lack of parents’ love and support.

Shweta Parande
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Film Show Unloved Girl Child Trauma
Both film Qala and the web series City of Dreams have ambitious achievers of women as the lead characters, who as the ‘girl child’ have gone through a similar journey of lack of parents’ love and support. A similar undercurrent was seen in the plot of the Dil Dhadakne DoDickinson, and also Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata. A look at how it harms society.

 Qala, the much talked about piece of art by Anvita Dutt starring Tripti Dimri in the titular role and Swastika Mukherjee as her mother, has female empowerment and emancipation at the core of it, albeit in a twisted manner. In today’s times, there are many shows, series, and movies with the theme. Even female versions of superheroes and a female ‘Bond’. But the way it has been shown in Qala is beautiful, and reminiscent of Nagesh Kukunoor’s series Mayanagri: City of Dreams, starring Priya Bapat in the lead, Atul Kulkarni as her chief minister father and Siddharth Chandekar as her brother.

Film Shows Unloved Girl Child Trauma

In both Qala and City of Dreams, the leading lady suffers from deep childhood trauma owing to the lack of a parent’s love (with the other parent no more). While in general most human beings may have this affliction that one parent has loved them less or that they may love a sibling more, it may also be something just in the head.

Females across the world may experience stinging heartache throughout their life, having been told she is not important or is less worthy of being a girl. A female is a second-class citizen - she has no place in this world except to cook, clean and feed, make babies and serve her master, and die unsung - or so she is told!

Parental Support (or the lack of it)

This may not come from the parents but from the society, relatives, neighbours, teachers, peers... For any child, as long as the parents support you, nothing else matters! But the parents are also a part of society, and sometimes one of them is too keen to please the ‘samaj’ and follow patriarchy, despite themselves. The other parent is only following the pattern of the more patriarchal one. Therefore, the child suffers, especially the female, but also the male. 


How the Male Child Suffers

The male child may also be impacted because of this behaviour, because of the expectations from him as the primary breadwinner and child-bearer, or even because he sees his sister/s suffer. But as he grows up, he is groomed by other men (and women) to become another patriarchal version of them. Often, he has no freedom to follow a different path!

How the Girl Child reacts

In Qala and City of Dreams, the girl child takes it as a challenge to prove the parent wrong, especially while pursuing her biggest goal and ambition. She wants the approval of the parent who told her she was not capable of anything, or who simply loved her less for having been born a female. Her trauma is like chronic pain and seeped into her DNA.

Dickinson Has Gender Bias But Also Support From Men

A similar undercurrent was seen in the plot of the series Dickinson. Based on the life of celebrated American poetess Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld), the comedy-drama by Alina Smith unapologetically shows discrimination against women, including not being allowed an education or becoming a poet! And, of course, Emily is not given a share in her father’s property. However, some men, including Emily’s brother Austin (Adrian Blake Enscoe), don’t agree with the norm that females have to be rendered powerless. In real life, too, some men are supportive of us, without whom we would not be where we are. However, that in itself is a part of the cycle of patriarchy!


In Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do, too, a brother (Ranveer Singh) opines that his sister (Priyanka Chopra) is more capable than him to handle the family business. The father (Anil Kapoor) and mother (Shefali Shah) expect the son to take over the family business and marry off the daughter, who then suffers from anxiety and marital issues.

Film Show Unloved Girl Child Trauma

Envious Male Sibling/Colleague Of Confident Female

When you bring up children equally, the female child grows up confident and may not have “girl child issues". However, there may be a male sibling who is envious of her and demands more attention. This has also been observed in the corporate culture, where rising female workers are subject to envy by patriarchal male and female colleagues who can’t stand her for her “modern”, “feminist” values.

The Haunting Male Child In Qala

In Qala, it is the other way around. (SPOILER ALERT) The female baby apparently sucks in the energy of the male twin in the mother’s womb and survives to be born. The male baby continues to haunt her. A male, young protégé (Babil Khan) adopted by Qala’s mother also seems to get more love and attention than her and leaving Qala devastated. 


Mother-Daughter in Qala and Autumn Sonata

It all starts with the mother - she is the center of your universe and you come from her. Your relationship with your mother defines your life. So it is for the father, but more for the mother.

There have been many portrayals of the complex mother-daughter relationships like in Qala. Who can forget the 1978 Ingmar Bergman Autumn Sonata which depicted the tumultuous relationship between a famous pianist mother (Ingrid Bergman) and her docile daughter (Liv Ullmann)? As the mother visits the married daughter, it is obvious that the child still longs for her love and approval. This film was the inspiration for Rituparno Ghosh’s 1994 film Unishe April starring Aparna Sen and Debashree Roy.

In Qala, the daughter longs for her mother’s love till the end. Why can’t the mother give up her ego and embrace the daughter? Are her feelings no longer motherly but only competitive towards her daughter?

Equality In Society And Rise In Rivalry Among Sexes

As society moves towards more gender equality, we will see more cases of male-female rivalry - healthy or cut-throat - among siblings, peers, and colleagues, everywhere. Again, as Qala’s mother instructs her, the female will have to work harder to make a place for herself in her profession. Equality doesn’t come easy.

Repercussions Rising Out Of Resentment

For centuries, families by default have been treating girl children with discrimination, without thinking of the repercussions. As the girl grows into a teenager, she sees more discrimination vis-à-vis her brother or male cousins, and resentment arises. As she becomes a woman, she either looks to get married to a suitable boy and get out of the household of her birth, or she breaks free! 

This rebellion and competition with the male or even female sibling may result in certain behaviour that is not acceptable in society, or even crime - as seen in Qala and City of Dreams. This should serve as a wake-up call to society to change its ways, and the change begins with you.

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Film Show Unloved Girl Child Trauma