When you think of strong women, you can add Madhuri Dixit Nene to the list. The new version of the dancing queen, The fame game on Netflix, blasting WhatsApp aunty groups and following a new trend of strong women in Indian movies and OTT series. And for good reason. The female characters are just more interesting, says series creator, showrunner and co-writer Sri Rao.
“There’s so much more opportunity to create complexity with female characters. Women are allowed to be so many different things. They’re allowed to be vulnerable and strong, they’re allowed to be emotional, they’re allowed to be sensitive, they are also allowed to be courageous and courageous,” he said.
“There has always been a propensity for gay male writers to write female characters.”
That’s why Rao, an American-born Indian who started his career as the editor of season 2 of a popular spin-off series General Hospital: night shift, says he is drawn to writing female roles. “There has always been a propensity for queer writers to write female characters… I think we can understand some aspects of their journey as women – as overlooked or marginalized people in the world, I think we have kind of a connection that way,” Rao said.
Rao also wrote Katrina Kaif-starring Baar Baar Dekhoand several short films. Whether we watch biopics like Saand ki Ankhmovies like Pagglait or series like Bombay Begums, Indian cinema is increasingly offering a variety of entertainment that showcases the acting talents of women. Partly because of the ability to explore different themes on OTT apps. These platforms are helping to “meaningfully erase boundaries” and are helping to educate an Indian audience more than ever about different lifestyles and places.
The fame game was written with this goal in mind, but not to be part of the trend, according to Rao. He wrote the screenplay with Dixit in mind, as a fan, hoping to showcase his underrated talents. Beyond the female lead, Rao also explored a number of generally uncomfortable themes for Indian audiences. This includes domestic violence, homosexuality and feminism.
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“All I know is that people don’t blink and kind of accept it in India. I know a lot of whatsapp aunty groups are blowing up and they’re really excited about the show. And nobody really bumped into those themes,” Rao said.
“I think it’s interesting that it wasn’t a big talking point. Like nobody took up arms,” he added. He thinks movies like Pink, Piku, Tanu marries Manu and Queen have all contributed to the increased interest in female leads. Actors like Tapsee Panu, Kalki Koechlin, Kangana Ranaut, Shabana Azmi, Sanya Malhotra, Bhumi Pednekar and Deepika Padukone are among those who regularly star in productions – be it OTT or Bollywood – in such roles.
While Rao isn’t on a mission to make political statements, he hopes his show, and the others that are on the way to his deal with Netflix, feature characters who represent “all of society.”
“I think it’s understood that you can have a movie with a female lead,” he said, and you don’t need a hero to be there next to her,” he said. added Sri Rao.