This is How The Versatile & Outspoken Shahana Goswami is Questioning Stereotypes

SheThePeople spoke to Shahana Goswami about how the film industry has set 'standards' for women and how they expect women to look a certain way in order to become an actor

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Shahana Goswami

Shahana Goswami play Fatima in the powerful series Bombay Begums and portrays a woman torn between her choices, her priorities and her ambitions. Goswami, also know for her performance in Rock On has also done major international projects including the 2013 film Midnight's Children, directed by Deepa Mehta. Goswami also plays the female lead in the Khyentse Norbu directorial Vara: A Blessing. She received the Asian award for the best female actor for her performance.


SheThePeople's Shaili Chopra spoke to Shahana Goswami about how the film industry has set 'standards' for women and how they expect women to look a certain way in order to become an actor. Goswami further tells us about the challenges she faced and how she overcame them. All of us know how women are expected to be tall, fair, beautiful, slim and glamorous to become a part of the entertainment industry. But Shahana Goswami made a place for herself breaking all such notions. Here are excerpts from what she shared with us.

The film industry has tried to call themselves more diverse more recently but we know that they have always had a prescriptive die-cast of the kind of woman they want, somebody who is extremely glamorous, visually of a certain kind. When you stepped into the industry, how much of that struggle did you have? Tell some of your experiences.

People again would stereotype and say, she's really good but she is not glamorous. She is not filmy enough or whatever so there was always that aspect of, she's a great actor but, and that but was physically in terms of, I would say I don't think I was ever, I never felt or have known of being discriminated for my skin colour but it has been about being not too glamorous and my weight.

Shahana Goswami opens up how 'weight' plays a role in Bollywood

I think maybe these are the only two things that I have seen an effect of, in terms of the way people treated me and I've seen when I've lost weight, how people respond and how things change, or how suddenly when I did a photoshoot where I'm looking glamorous or the one kitsch Bollywood dance I did was in a completely different independent film called Vara and I heard some big producer who saw it and they were like, oh my god we can't imagine this is Shahana. But that's what I mean, people have very small imagination because they don't have that time and they don't invest enough to see somebody in a different kind of space.

Shahana, everybody when they talk about Bollywood, they send you certain kind of visual references. You have to be tall, you have to be slim, you can’t be dark so on and so forth. Did you kind of navigate some of these?


It’s true that there are certain stereotypes that come in the way and I would say that there was this notion of whatever character you play becomes a larger reality because people can’t seem to see creatively beyond that. So I played a mother in Rock On at the age of 22 but people could only see me as that. They could not see the 22-year-old anymore. They could not see any other character. Or the fact that the various characters that I played had a certain kind of dressing style which was a bit dowdy maybe or not that glamorous and neither was I that person. We were not living in the world where you had an outwardly projection of being more glamorous. Today we have hair makeup and styling which can accentuate and present you differently.

Back then, you didn’t have any of that. I’ll be honest, there was the weight thing and I’ll be honest in the sense, a lot of people close to me also started telling me at that time that just do that, that’s the one thing you haven’t done, do it and see if it makes a difference and I would go through oscillations of believing that no, I will be who I want to be. I have got this far doing things the way I did and if I start catering to these requirements then what is the difference? But also then feeling like okay, maybe that is the one thing I haven’t done and how does it harm me? It’s good for me. It’s a healthy choice. Why not? So I went.

I did go through a lot of that doubt but there was always a resistance and the resistance was to the fact that I don’t want to lose weight because that is what is required as a generic thing. You take me out on a project and you tell me that this particular character requires you to lose weight, I’ll do it because I know that’s the kind of dedication I have. But people, like I said don’t have that imagination and now that I am in a place where I actually didn’t really work. The majority of the weight that I have lost in the recent times has been because I stopped caring about it and I didn’t think so much about it. I just had a kachori and eaten chilly cheese toast. But I know that makes a difference to people.

To summarise what Shahana Goswami says, let us all stop the beauty test right now and accept women the way they are. It is even more important for women to themselves be comfortable in their own body and accept themselves without giving in to how the society wants them to be. We are all unique in our own way and it's time we embrace ourselves for who we are.

Watch the full interview here:

Image credits: The Indian Express

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