The Bollywood and Its Women

Posted on March 2, 2012 in Media and Culture

By Ritu Ganguli:

Here’s the scene: while the entire world sweats its creative juices out trying to venture into realms of ideas and emotions its audience has yet to revel in, Bollywood stresses out its producers with monstrous budgets and midget plots, with an added horror of its portrayal of women.

What is it that allows film makers to badger us year after year with item songs like ‘Lucky Boy’ ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ ‘Sheila Ki Jawaani’ ‘ Beedi Jalaile’ ‘Jalebi Bai’ and the likes that have become the very marketing strategy of most high budgeted ventures, the very reason people go to tolerate a film for an insane three hour sitting? No points for guessing here. It’s the procurable, seductive, bollywood-designed portrayal of women.

What’s the problem with Bollywood heading the head it is, one asks. In a country where the independence and voice of a woman is constantly put into a tight spot, where being a virgin before marriage is absolute mandatory, where being married is the only dream a girl can have when she barely turns 18, Bollywood marches right ahead and makes its women all-attainable. The contradiction between real world and reel world is horrifying.

Let’s take a moment to look at ‘Biwi Number one’ where Salman Khan, played the role of a two-timing husband. It was a humor driven story, but carried far from a humorous message – even if you are an average, unattractive married man with a wonderful home-maker and child, you can venture out and engage in a hurricane extra-marital affair. To be further noted an affair with a super model who is rather intelligent, independent and articulate thinking. The storyline cheekily indicates that the ‘modern’ Indian woman is capable of an unfair affair and that at the end of the day, your cultured Indian wife has been taught to forgive, your devious deeds as the undeserving husband.

My ever blacklisted film ‘Bachna E Haseeno’ starring Ranbir Kapoor a playboy who dates women and literally chucks them at his whim, is a film that has a very (un)cool underlying message – Indian men can woo several women and not end up marrying any, because at the end of it, he will default end up with a beautiful, level-headed girl who is ready to give up her career and principles for your true love.

This compared to the film ‘Life in a Metro’ where modern, sensible, dedicated wife and mother, Shilpa Shetty finds it difficult to connect to her husband- who is secretly sleeping with someone in his office. She accidentally meets someone in her daily routine life and falls in love with him. Theirs is a genuine journey of love, dealt with sensitivity. But when it comes to choosing a sparkless life with her cheating husband and an enamored journey with her whole-hearted lover, Shilpa is made to choose her husband for no logical reason.

Cut to a more recent ‘The Dirty Picture’ — it had a very strong message against the exploitation of women in the industry and how a woman had to pay with her body in desperation to find true love and a place in the industry. However they exactly used the same marketing tactic which they seemingly tried to criticize in the film — sleaze and voyeurism to promote a film. Most of the people who went to watch the film went to get a glimpse of the literal ‘dirty picture’. For those who understood the sarcasm, fair enough, for those who did not (which I suppose is a majority) the price of the movie ticket was worth the ‘oomphs’ and ‘umphs’ of the voluptuous Vidya Balan. Even when a ‘women’s issue’ is questioned, the woman had to be objectified to pull the masses to the theatres.

It’s a vicious cycle really. The more such films are made, the more people go for it, the lesser the quality of thinking imparted to the mass. If a larger chunk of more conscious Bollywood film makers decided to come up with more challenging and talent oriented films, there’s no stopping good change. No it’s not magic, but it’s the very power of Films. The minute you portray women in a certain way in movies people begin to identify themselves with it – so why not in a fantastic light?

Bollywood owes more than item numbers to its audience. It owes its congregation a greater mindset, siding with Indian women rather than against them.

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