Shonali Bose’s ‘Raat Rani’ Inspires Women To Love Themselves Unconditionally

Rejection On Valentine’s Day
Modern Love is one modern show that has made space for itself in everyone’s hearts and made the audience believe in love all over again. The show based on a New York Times column of the same name narrates love stories of people like you and me, which reinstalls our faith in love.

The series spinoff has set its eye on Indian cities and the love stories blossoming amidst the bustling metropolitan cities. Modern Love: Mumbai is the first instalment of the series (Modern Love: Chennai and Modern Love: Hyderabad are next) with an anthology of six stories narrated by six creators whose immense talent never fails to amaze the audience.

Six directors—Vishal Bhardwaj, Shonali Bose, Hansal Mehta, Dhruv Sehgal, Alankrita Shrivastava and Nupur Asthana—bring six stories to the anthology which are adapted from a bunch of global essays from the NYT column.

Modern Love Mumbai Raat Rani

Since the trailer for the series dropped, everyone’s been anticipating to see what will unfold in each one of the love stories. However, my focus was on Shonali Bose directorial starring Fatima Sana Shaikh.

Bose’ Raat Raani is an invigorating film that almost comes as a surprise. It is astounding what the director does with her story which revolves around a woman whose husband suddenly leaves her with a lone cycle.

The filmmaker makes a socio-political commentary as she reimagines her protagonist Laila (Shaikh) as a woman of Kashmiri descent and builds a story of female emancipation around her. It’s amazing how Bose gives the nearly 20-minute-long episode a cyclical element as the story ends at the same location where it began.

Raat Rani opens against the backdrop of dusk and the Bandra-Worli sea link where Laila and her husband are enjoying the sea breeze. She is all dreamy unfortunately she gets a rude wake-up call with her husband’s sudden departure with a small note saying he’s bored of the marriage and is thus walking out.

For the next ten minutes, Laila breakdown sobbing uncontrollably or getting enraged thinking of her husband Lutfi walking out on her. Amidst all of it, she is struggling to mend the cycle, the collapsed roof of her home as she waits for him to return until the day she finally crosses the flyover.

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Bose explicitly shows the turmoil she goes through with Lutfi’s desertion through her struggle with the old cycle she now has to use to commute. As the story progresses, Laila eventually learns how to get control over the cycle and climbs up a flyover as well which indicates that she has also moved on from the emotional turmoil and is now ready to live a life anew.

With each progression, Laila also starts decorating the cycle in vivid colours and jasmine (Raat rani) flowers that won’t ever dim her light for anyone ever as she did for her husband. The short ends with Laila breaking all rules she could; feeling more liberated than ever.

Fatima Sana Shaikh’s performance as Laila makes up for the half-baked roles she did after her debut film Dangal. Bose’s film Raat Rani is the perfect playground where Shaikh got to display the talent she has. She like her character is uninhibited which makes the film even more delightful to watch.

Log maante hain ke raat rani ke khushboo se saanp bahar aate hain isiliye uske bagal me din ka raja laga te the. Magar raat rani apni khushboo kisi ke liye kam thodi karegi [People believe that jasmine’s smell attracts snakes and thus they plant day-blooming jasmine along with it. But the night-blooming jasmine’s fragrance still envelopes the air],” she tells an acquaintance as she serves Kahwa (Kashmiri tea) at night to earn some extra money.

The dialogue stayed with me for it encapsulates the essence of what Shonali Bose was trying to convey through her film. “Self-love” is now a trendy thing but to love and cherish oneself is not an easy journey to embark upon, especially for women who are always conditioned to put others’ needs before theirs. Shaikh’s Laila transgresses all the boundaries and loves herself unabashedly. In turn, inspiring a lot of women to love themselves unconditionally.

Modern Love: Mumbai is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Views expressed are the author’s own