Kollywood
"I have witnessed many women in the arts in India and internationally move beyond their genders limitations."
Rochelle Potkar will soon be making her debut in Taramani, a Tamil film. But Rochelle is not your average stars-in-me-eyes debutante. She is an author and a poet who is very vocal about women-related issues and gender rights.
 
Her books Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories and Four Degrees of Separation have won critical acclaim. She has also read her poetry in a number of literary festivals in India. In a short interview with The News Minute, Rochelle shares her views on being a multitasker, writing erotica as a woman writer, her first film and more. 

From a corporate job to the literary world and now to cinema, you've made quite a few dramatic jumps. What drove you to make these choices?

It has been unplanned. My choices have been guided by my restlessness to explore the human circumstance through storytelling, with its nuance.

You are someone who has been vocal about gender rights. The film industry is notorious for its misogyny - both on screen and off it. Do you think you'll find it difficult to reconcile your views with what you're likely to encounter here?

I might find it difficult. And if that happens I will circumnavigate to what is affordable to me. Ram’s team (Taramani) was very respectful. I met a few filmmakers in Bombay and they too seemed balanced. So, I am lucky so far.

I do believe that every ecosystem makes you pay a price for what you want from it.

In some industries, one may have to handle misogyny by appeasing egos. Fake-praising. The psychological sleeping around is also tiring. The mind subordinated, if not the body. But I have witnessed women navigate their paths based on their intuition. Every environment creates its mutants.

While men have been writing erotica openly for eons, women writers have done it under pseudonyms or just initials. Do you feel the literary world has become more accepting of women writing erotica now?

A bit more.

Of course, well-meaning readers still wonder if erotica stories written by women are autobiographical and confessional. But they don’t question the men writing erotica.

He is acknowledged as an intelligent observer, cultural theorist, anthropologist.

But it’s humorous. At least readers are engaging and querying.

When I wrote a UFO story, no one asked me if I had a UFO stored in my closet.

Male artists/poets/writers are often depicted on screen as tragic figures who are forgiven for their misbehaviour. Female artistes rarely get such generosity.

I think the future will see such films. Of tragic female artists and artistes. Once we reach a maturation and saturation of one kind of depiction, we will have to move on.

As a woman, a poet, and an actor, how difficult or easy do you think it is for women to find the mind-space and time to create art?

I am answering in the plurality.

I think once we become passionate towards something, we relegate existential chores to the periphery. I have witnessed many women in the arts in India and internationally move beyond their genders limitations. In fact, their roles facilitate. They source art from their kitchens, bedrooms, baby cots and bassinets, workplaces, and studios – basically from their daily lives and journeys and that material is very captivating and thought-provoking. Thankfully, art can be visualized and conceptualized while going about daily chores. Incubation. Then in a hot bolt one can produce it in the quickest time

What kind of films do you see yourself in? What about Taramani interested you? Do tell us about your role.

A 30-something or middle-aged woman in realistic films, if they do exist.

I went to audition for Taramani on a lark, one day getting off my writing couch – giving in to a restless impulse. This one is a small role, in shades of grey.

Director Ram has a poet’s vision. His stories are a mosaic of metaphors.

But I have observed now that acting is very bodily-centric.  

As a writer, I can be mindless about my weight, but every female actor in Mumbai is 55 kilos!