Films examine what it means to be a large woman

Films examine what it means to be a large woman
Bhumi Pednekar and Ayushmann Khurana in the film 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha'.

The movies are clear on the issue of body mass.

If men are bulky, they need to be display evidence of treadmill time and protein shakes. Women, of course, must be svelte or, at, best curvy. Fat people can only be bit-part actors, the objects of ridicule, or villainous types who are too busy being criminals to watch the weighing scale.

Two new films challenge this taboo on depicting an unacceptable body types. Saba Rehman's recent documentary, The F Word, records her attempts to lose weight and regain confidence in her self-image.

Sharat Katariya's movie, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, produced by Yash Raj Films and being released on February 27, is about a thin man who is compelled by economic circumstances to marry a woman several times his size.

Both films have at their centre women who are never allowed to forget how large they are and how greatly they differ from the conventional standard of beauty.

Rehman's 52-minute personal documentary could have taken a generalised view of the automatic equation between slimness and desirability.

Instead, she chose to recount her attempts to shed her plus-size tag by signing up for a weight-loss programme and gym membership and putting on her running shoes.

The result is a touching, and often funny film about a young woman's brave journey towards a lighter body and, hopefully, spirit. Rehman, a 28-year-old filmmaker in Delhi, screened The F Word most recently at the Vibgyor Film Festival in Thrissur in Kerala.

Some members of the audience were "taken aback" by the film's tone, Rehman said, but others appreciated the courage it took to explore a sensitive and potentially touchy subject.

"The exercise was to express myself through a medium and understand certain things about myself," Rehman said in a phone interview.

"Fat people belong to the same category as old people or even your parents - you don't look at them as human beings."

The F Word weaves in humourous animated sequences inspired by such films as (500) Days of Summer and Thelma and Louise and includes interviews with Rehman's friends and family members. A male acquaintance candidly admits that he would think twice before dating a woman who is plump.

The documentary aims to make visible the issue of a bias against overweight people, whether it is in the casual and unthinking use of words, phrases and limericks to tease or describe them, or the assumption that they don't deserve the same opportunities that others do.

"Generally as a people, we are insensitive to anything that doesn't fit out ideal notions," Rehman said.

One of her biggest challenges while making and editing the film was to put distance between herself and the personal nature of the material.

"Since this is a film about body image, I had a really hard time editing it," she said.

"I had to be okay with seeing myself on the screen. I used to think that I look horrible in this shot, I can't use it.

"Because of the film, in a sense, there was a weird sense of healing, since it pulled me out of my comfort zone."

The one area that remains unexplored in The F Word is sexual desire. What do fat women feel about their romantic chances, and how do they deal with possible rejection based on their physicality?

"What happened was that in the film, my own journey got foregrounded, and I kept only those strains of thought that directly came back to me," Rehman explained.

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