Actor and activist Swara Bhasker has written the foreword for a collection of essays, titled Inquilab: A Decade of Protest, published by Harper Collins. She announced this on her Twitter handle yesterday.
According to Amazon India, on which the book is available for purchase, the anthology includes the voices of Anna Hazare, Kavita Krishnan, Rana Ayyub, Rohith Vemula, Kanhaiya Kumar, Romila Thapar, P Sainath, Chandra Shekhar Aazad, and Ramachandra Guha among others. It is a very rarely that an actor - and a woman at that - writes foreword for a collection political essays written by the stellar journalists, activists, and academicians in the country.
Swara is well known for being vocal about issues and speaking her mind when the need arises. She grew up studying Sociology and Theatre, and has been working in the Indian cinema industry for over a decade. Having played a plethora of roles, she is admired for her diverse choices and brilliant acting. Her characters – in both art-house and commercial movies – are known to spark a dialogue.
Here are five of her most memorable performances.
Tanu Weds Manu | Tanu Weds Manu Returns
Bhasker brought to life the very loved character of Payal Sinha, the lead’s best friend in the movie. This was Swara’s first box-office success, following which she gave more commercial hits, including the sequel. Swara, yet again, chose to play the role of a woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and does what she thinks is right.
Payal is the one who pushes Tanu to confront her feelings for Manu. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, she undergoes artificial insemination without telling her husband, because the idea of your wife having a child with someone else’s sperm is too much to handle for some Indian men. Watch this one for her performance and a few bonus laughs.
Nil Battey Sannata
Released internationally as ‘The New Classmate’, this comedy-drama won Swara two Best Actress awards at the Screen Awards and at the Silk Road International Film Festival. The actress stars as Chanda Sahay – an unconventional character most others would have turned down. But Bhasker jumped at the opportunity to play a domestic household help who is struggling to make ends meet as a single mother to a young girl. It’s a beautiful tale about aspirations that shows the world how powerful a mother-daughter relationship can be. The movie received overwhelming praise, so much so that it was remade in two more languages.
Veere Di Wedding
Shashank Ghosh’s movie explores the depths of female friendship, a subject that is very rare in Bollywood. Swara plays Sakshi Soni, one of the four women in the movie, and the friend who books that Thailand vacation for them. (Can we also be friends?) But what really got everyone talking is her no-nonsense and outspoken character. She’s the kind who gives it back to the aunties, gives her unfiltered opinions, and so on. It even sparked a furore online when her character used a vibrator on screen. That’s just too much female agency for some people but Swara is not one to back down. All in all, this one is a must-watch!
Anaarkali of Aarah
A fan-favourite, Swara’s performance in Anaarkali of Aarah got her nominated at the prestigious Filmfare Awards for Best Actress, Critics. In the movie, Bhasker portrays the role of a small-town dancer from Aarah, Bihar, where her peaceful existence is shaken when a privileged university chancellor outrages her modesty publicly. The story – about consent and the plight of women from marginalised sections – is brought alive by Swara’s near-perfect Bhojpuri lingo and brilliant acting. So much so that she’ll have you rooting for Anaarkali with all her unabashedness, strengths, and flaws. You can’t miss this one!
If there’s one thing this web series brings out, is that the Indian audience has not moved past their image of the Indian woman as a ‘sanskari nari’. The story revolves around the lustful desires of a teenage boy for Rashbhari – the town’s heartthrob and teacher. The men want her and the women can’t stand her because she somehow becomes the problem. Through Rashbhari, Swara reminds us of the double standards that plague society. While men can sleep with whomever and as many women as they want, people are just not ready to watch a sexually active woman. Watch it and find out for yourself.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)