Life is not about finding Mr Right: Alankrita Shrivastava

New Delhi (IANSlife) Alankrita Shrivastava, writer and director of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, says that love should be represented as complex, and that “the idea of the Prince Charming, the knight in shining armour coming to save the damsel in distress, and then live happily ever after is a very damaging idea to feed into young minds”.

Shrivastava is part of the new podcast series by Bumble, titled ‘Is Romance Dead?’ where she speaks on the theme of love and film, TV and literature. Ahead of the launch, she shares her thoughts on love stories in an interview. Excepts:

Q: What goes into the making of a good love story?

A: I don’t believe in saccharine love stories, or epic love stories. I’m more interested in love that is found in unexpected places, where it is experienced between two people who are not the kind of people one is used to seeing together. I’m interested more in the peripheral contours of love, where love is not necessarily pure and virtuous, but grey and dark, fragile and volatile. Where love is a thing of just lust, or unrequited, or a delusion. I like the shadowy silvers of love. I am interested in what drives people to think they are in love, I’m interested in betrayals, I’m interested in the ambiguity and the hopelessness and sadness of love. I think it’s interesting to explore love by taking it off the pedestal of being this great pure amazing thing that everyone must aspire for.

I think exploring the fractured nature of love is interesting. I’m more interested in love stories that are gender fluid. Love stories that reveal schisms of society, and the imperfection of the human heart. I don’t believe love is unconditional, and it’s exciting to explore love as a flawed idea.

Q: How should cinema present a good love story?

A: My idea of a good love story is not conventional. In recent times I think “Call me by your name” is the most beautiful love story. But it’s not a happily ever after, it’s not about a love that is equally reciprocated… It’s a coming of age story really, but I think it’s exploration of love is most profound.

Indian cinema has been obsessed with love between young heterosexual people perhaps because it was not common in Indian society for young people to be allowed to love freely and choose their life partners. But in 2020 if we continue to eulogise that kind of love story, it’s a bit sad.

Q: Love and romance – do they hold different meanings to you?

A: Love and romance are definitely two different things, and sometimes intersect. Romance can be found in the rain, sitting by a window drinking one’s coffee in peace, by reading poetry, looking at the stars in the sky… Romance for me is the idea of looking at life through rose tinted glasses for a few moments. Or feeling very alive in a few moments — the romance of a school dance for instance, or a late night drive with the wind blowing in one’s face and a favourite song playing.

In a relationship, lots of mundane things seem very beautiful because of the existence of the special someone in our lives. And that is lovely. And that is a melting of romance and love. Love is a deeper, more solid dynamic. And much more complex. We are selfish in relationships governed by love too. Love is complicated whether it is with one’s life partner or between mother and daughter or between siblings.

Love is so many different things between people who are attracted to each other and may be emotionally and physically involved with each other. It is lust and friendship and companionship, and respect and anger and hatred and possessiveness. It is laughter and warmth and tears and pain and joy.

Love is transient and lifelong at the same time. And two people who engage with each other can have totally different emotions and feelings that they both consider love. All romance is not about love, all love is not about romance — but sometimes romance deepens into love. And sometimes love gives rise to moments of romance.

Q: Love stories in a book or on the screen, are often dramatised, and fix a dreamy picture in the head of the viewer or watcher. do you agree?

A: Yes I agree. And I think it’s important to not only have those kind of unreal depictions of love in films and books. Because very often these depictions of love enforce patriarchal stereotypes and add to the social conditioning of women that their main goal in life is to fall in love. And that’s all.

Love is a lived thing, with fissures, and thorns. It’s a continuous nurturing of a relationship. To expect love to be so all encompassing and always so fulfilling and complete is to say that there is no space for individuals to grow and change and have overriding issues and ambition that drive their lives.

Conventional romantic love is not the be all and end all of human existence. In fact we often start to grow up when we experience heartbreak. And there is so much else in life that is required to make us feel fulfilled and grow. Who we are as people, how we contribute to society… all of this adds up. We can’t just be like “lets find love” and all will be well. Life is full of ups and downs, so it’s better for young girls to know that life is not about finding Mr. Right.

So the idea of the Prince Charming, the knight in shining armour coming to save the damsel in distress, and then they live happily ever after is a very damaging idea to feed into. I think love should be represented as complex, not playing into the stereotypes of patriarchy, not building on conventional ideas of beauty, or gender or sexuality. Why were princesses always described as “pretty” or “beautiful”? Even the Ugly Duckling eventually changed into a swan.

This episode of ‘Is Romance Dead?’ releases in the second half November.

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