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Geeli Pucchi and Overlapping Identities

By Sanyam Varun and Saumya Mhatre



A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans


A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans






Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans is a story of overlapping identities. Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan who is known for his critically acclaimed film Masaan. Much like Masaan, this film portrays Caste politics in-depth and explores varying degrees of marginalization. With two women in the lead, Bharti played by Konkona Sen Sharma and Priya by Aditi Rao Hydari.


Geeli Pucchi is a film about intersectionality. It is the first film to have a Dalit Queer Woman as a lead. It is a Dalit story being told by a Dalit filmmaker. Even the crew of the film were part of the Dalit and Queer community. The representation we see is more nuanced and more understood compared to other films we have seen before.


A still of Bharti, played by Konkona Sen Sharma. and Priya, by Aditi Rao Hydari.


We were lauding Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 for pushing the conversation of caste in mainstream Hindi cinema. But it barely moved the conversation ahead. It had a brahmin cop as the lead. It put Dalits in the same roles they have been put in since the films from the 50s. As poor, desperate souls who face discrimination in the rural parts of India. It put them back in the same shoes. The caste issue became a rural issue in the film that the ‘urban’ folks were never aware of and hence it has shed light on something really important.


It’s not untrue. The film was based on true events. But it gets tiring to see Dalit representation being limited to such stereotypes when the issue of casteism is much more widespread, diverse, and complex than it. That’s where Neeraj Ghaywan comes in. Much like in Masaan, he has presented a nuanced story of Dalit life in India with Geeli Pucchi.


In Geeli Pucchi, Neeraj Ghaywan says, the women may come from a different class and reality but they have one thing that puts them on the same platform and that's patriarchy.


"Aditi's character Priya is being told at home about how to behave or who to mingle with, while Konkona's Bharti has seen all these realities and is hardened. They are not right or wrong. They are victims of their circumstances."

A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans



Our story here doesn’t end with our two leads finding the love of their life in each other. When Bharti finally stands to be transparent with Priya about her caste, she tells her in when they are vulnerable together. But when Priya retracts her hand, that slight gesture from someone she thought would finally understand her, she is astonished. We can see it in her eyes and her reaction that she feels betrayed. Priya, who said she is ‘not bothered’ by casteism, suddenly has a change in demeanor. Bharti feels foolish to think that Priya would let go of her caste privilege and accept her for who she was.


Geeli Pucchi not only remains a story of caste dynamics but a story of the binding nature of patriarchy. Priya is privileged with her caste but society’s unacceptance of the queer and treatment of women limits her. She stays confused and guilty. Confused about whether her queerness is valid. Guilty for not giving love to a man who loves and cares for her in all ways possible. She feels guilty for not being able to reciprocate that. For not being able to completely be ‘Sharma ji ki bahu’. Whereas Bharti is her own woman, she has accepted herself as she is and has had the freedom to explore her sexuality.



A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans



From Bharti's side of the story, we know she just got snubbed from a job that she had been waiting for and that she periodically gets into fights with her male colleagues which means that even in her current job she has to struggle to hold her ground. While Priya had to walk in, do a palm reading and flash her caste privilege to get the job.


By the end of it, much like the steel cup of tea that Bharti was served with at Priya’s household, she has a cool steel exterior as her words drip of slight venom when suggesting Priya rather stay home than get back to work.


A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans


The story doesn’t end on a simple note because the subject matter itself isn’t so simple. It is hard for Bharti, like many Dalits in our country, to claim spaces in society even after being more than qualified for it. When the traditional route of trying to get her job as ‘Data operator’ doesn’t work, she takes a different one. It may seem ‘unethical’, as she throws Priya under the bus of patriarchy, leaving her trapped in her marriage, but that’s the last resort the circumstances gave her. Geeli Pucchi reveals the realities of Dalit folk in the world where they have to fight tooth and nail to reclaim spaces and prove to be worthy of opportunities that are otherwise gatekept from them.

A still from Geeli Pucchi, one of the short films in the Netflix Anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans


By putting characters in such complex and well-thought-out situations, Neeraj Ghaywan showcases a much more human side of them. That’s at the very crux of both Masaan and Geeli Pucchi. Regular humans put in tough situations to bring out and understand what makes them so human. And filmmakers like Ghaywan excel at that.

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