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How two recent brutal roles made actresses shine (Column: Bollywood Spotlight)


Last week, the female leads in both the releases were subjected to sadism and forced self-by what one can refer to as a stern fallback to -- the

In the haunting Hindi film "Pari", is chained, whipped, thrown violently to the ground and made into an ideal candidate for a trauma centre. in last week's big Hollywood film "Red Sparrow" is a woman on a mission who is at the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.

And I do mean that in a sexual way. Hard up for money and in dire need of financial help to tend to her seriously ailing mother (played by Joely Richardson, daughter to the legendary Vanessa Redgrave), becomes a Russian

In case you haven't already guessed from the actress' name, "Red Sparrow" is set in the forbidding, ominous and politically charged where, if the movies are to be believed, intrigue and conspiracy are a way of life. We recently saw don a steely seductiveness in "Atomic Blonde". Jennifer Lawrence's act is far more vulnerable. She brings in an element of tenderness to the ongoing brutality, like an who slips in a green vegetable dish at a meat banquet.

Dominika is introduced into the dark inescapable world of spying and seduction (not in that order) at a finishing school for potential whore-spies. A "whore school" is how Dominika describes her training ground for orgasmic nirvana. The guru is played by that amazing British who last stole our hearts in Ritesh Batra's underwhelming "The Sense Of An Ending". Here Rampling seeks a different kind of ending for her followers.

As Lawrence goes through a series of not-so-charming adventures in espionage kingdom, we get to meet some truly remarkable actors, including and and the long-time-no-see All of these brave actors have something to add to Dominika's strange and seductive story told by a whose virility of vision is matched by his leading lady's proclivity to infuse vulnerability into sadism.

Early in the largely-gripping plot, Dominika -- injured and shunned from her life as a ballerina -- storms into her dancing partner's sex romp and clubs the lovebirds to death. It is a defining moment of physical violence, underscoring the emotional upheavals that Dominika would have to weather before she stymies the storm.

"Red Sparrow" is being compared with the silly and puerile "Atomic Blonde". But this is a far more profound study of exploitative sex and state-sponsored seduction where young men and women are taught to lose all their inhibitions for the sake of the country. Only, the sex may not be for as noble a cause as the State actors claim.

There are constant throwbacks in the narrative reminding us that the Cold War, Kremlin and the (now SVR) have come a long way since James Bond embraced "Red Sparrow" is strong, seductive and scintillating in its brutal candour on sexual gratification. The camera prowls the lush unkempt locations with predatory urgency, as the actors act out their karma in a mood of resigned irony.

In a classroom for sex training a young man is called up and asked to go naked. He strips completely and stands with his entire body exposed to the camera, as Jennifer Lawrence's Dominika cowers at the sheer brazenness required from her for the job. She is told that her body and mind belonged to the State.

Getting naked for the camera is nothing new for She did it in her last film "Mother!" where she was brutalised to an insane degree. "Red Sparrow" is no less prone to violating the Some would say it's the bigoted I would rather believe it's a sign of the times. The more we speak of equality of the sexes, the more the sex comes in the way.

Luckily for us in Bollywood the heroines are making brave, pathbreaking choices. Anushka Sharma, who is now hitched to Virat Kohli, is not afraid to explore the dark side in "Pari". Most of our actresses are trapped in the glamour glasscase, unwilling to make choices that could break the mould.

Roles that require tremendous physical perseverance are shunned by most Bollywood A-list actresses. Shradha Kapoor is supposed to play the badminton champ But the project is on hold. She just doesn't look convincing on court.

Decades ago, when Madhubala had to play the enchained imprisoned Anarkali in K. Asif's "Mughal-e-Azam", she insisted on wearing those heavy iron chains even though the doctors said it could kill her. The thought it was worth the risk.

Immortality is not an easy state to obtain. Most of our actresses would never know the hunger because they refuse to starve themselves.

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First Published: Sat, March 10 2018. 12:26 IST