Women judge themselves all the time, and way too much says actor Vidya Balan who is all set for her biopic Shakuntala Devi. The film is the life and journey of about the mathematician Shakuntala Devi, who was famously called ‘the Human-Computer’. Devi was able to do complex calculations in a matter of a few seconds and even earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Record. However, her persona was unlike the stereotype of mathematician she was a resilient woman, committed to living her life on her colourful terms and she did not let maths or any of the men in her life come in the way.
In an exclusive interview with Shaili Chopra, Founder of SheThePeople, Vidya Balan talks about how Shakuntala Devi became a source of inspiration for her.
Reflecting on the life of the mathematician, Vidya Balan says women box themselves into stereotypes and ways of society, something Shakuntala Devi campaigned against. Balan elucidates on how Shakuntala Devi defied the notions attached with a mathematician. “I had this notion that, forget a mathematician, anyone who likes maths would be a bit nerdy or geeky. We’ve always associated maths with dull and boring.”
Vidya Balan Shakuntala Devi film. ‘She wanted to have it all’ and she didn’t understand why being a woman should limit her.
“I was so amazed- here is a mathematician, not just a mathematician but a human-computer. You would think that she was going around with a big heavy head or something like that. None of that! She wore it so lightly, she enjoyed life, she liked to dress up, she liked to dance, she liked to eat, she liked to enjoy herself.” Devi was a woman who enjoyed life in all its colours. She didn’t associate the saree with conservativeness or tradition and wore it everywhere, even to the highest of conferences. Even towards the end of her life, she didn’t let go of her bright orange-red-pink lipsticks or give away her colourful attire.
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“The idea of an Aspirational Woman”
Balan recounts how Shakuntala Devi was the portrait of an unafraid and aspirational woman. “She was someone who wanted to have it all and couldn’t understand how her being a woman should limit that or change that”. Since she was 3 years old, she was doing shows, was used to applause and used to earn money for her abilities. Her income was the one running her family and at no point did she have to feel inferior or dependent on another person.
Women as Breadwinners
Talking about the notion of ‘Breadwinners‘, Vidya talked about how a lot of women still have to give their earning to a male member of the family. So, while women and their labour is the source of income, the ‘power’ and ownership of the finances still goes to the men. “I know families where the woman is the breadwinner, but she’ll handover her earnings to the man. It happens not just when there is a father or a husband, but even the son, or the brother. So basically you are saying- because money is power, you cannot have a woman be powerful.” The biopic is scheduled to release on 31 July and from the looks of it is both parts comedy and wonderment.
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Anureet is an Intern at SheThePeople