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Women In The Entertainment Industry: The Need For Breaking Stereotypes

Posted on May 3, 2013 in Media, Specials

By Rachita Sharma:

We were hardly getting over the mirage of Delhi gang rape and the subsequent death of the victim, coming to our shock is the brutal rape of a five year old girl in East Delhi. In the aftermath, I’d like to look into something which has been hotly debated through all scales of media. Cinema is always blamed to show a wrong depiction of women, be it in Hindi movies, the “itemized” aura of our heroines, advertisements objectifying of the same and television shows, mostly the soap operas, where often the women have been portrayed as a dumb, melodramatic and “mera-pati-mera-devta” kind of characters.


When we tend to canvass the essential details of how the films show any level of comparison and contrast with the real world; how the process of characterization, and most importantly the representation of gender specific roles is done in our Hindi movies, we would observe a sharp cognitive stance of a patriarchal influence onto the making of these movies. Heroes are shaped up in forms of brands that fetch a guaranteed finance and revenues for the films. Heroines on a subordinate level, barring few exceptions, are usually treated as a beauty dump, merely to fill up the love space for male leads and conjuring up some delicate emotions into the story line. We all are perfectly acquainted with this very scenario, and have exhibited our acceptance towards it, knowingly or unknowingly.

Shabana Azmi, the renowned actor and social activist, who has done extremely humdinger roles in her career, shares her view in a talk show, “The time is for us to reflect within ourselves. The business of cinema is a business of images. When we have fragmented images of women’s body, you rob her of all autonomy and make her subject to the male gaze.” Here, I would specifically mention an essay written by Bindu Nair, named as “Female Bodies and the Male Gaze: Laura Mulvey and Hindi Cinema”. She wrote how the songs in our Film Industry are pictured with a prime reference to her physical attributes. “… In item songs, the styling in terms of make-up and costumes, and the cinematic elements of lighting and shot taking i.e. the way the body is arranged with respect to the camera and hence the eye of the audience, the movements of the body, all add up in turning the women into a spectacle.” Songs like Chhamma Chhamma, Chickni Chameli, Halkat Jawani and the likes have far and long interrupted a promiscuous virtue of the male counterpart. To merely categorize them as item numbers and a taboo to the female stature would be a hypocrite take as we all love to watch Katrina shaking her booty around Hritik Roshan.

Women in the past have always been worshiped and sculptured as a relic of chastity, purity and sublime beauty. Nargis in Shree 420 was carrying a momentous aura in comparison of the sharp and grey character of Nazia, who was famous for her minxish traits. Nutan in the 1950s movie “Bandini” proved her meticulous forte in acting by playing the role of a murderer, which was a great challenge, keeping in mind the surreal roles female actors were offered in those days. Jaya Bachhan’s role in Sholay, with her silent expressions, and an absolute no-make-up look, is still counted as most momentous in her acting career.

But sadly, in today’s entertainment industry, barring the few exceptions, not many directors, advertisement makers etc. are rendering their full efforts in writing good and constructive roles for women. Voyeuristic camera angles, vulgar lyrics of the songs describing the physical attribute of women in the lamest language- this all escalates the level of commodification of women in the film industry. “Mai toh Tandoori murgi hu yaar… gatkale saiyan alcohol se” as if she is a delicious platter served in front of the hero. Celebrating the woman’s sensuality is one way, but accessorizing her body in songs, dialogues and punch lines surely robs her of the autonomy of her own self. Comedy reality shows would provide the finest of examples how the judges laugh their heart out when a male artist carry a womb, caricaturing the pregnant woman’s character.

Deep down inside, we have become tolerant to all sorts of crippled mindsets floating around us. We enjoy these itemized erotic songs, we laugh when our children imitate Sheila ki Jawani in weddings and family functions, we enjoy when the hero stalks the girl repeatedly in films to make her fall for his “charm”, and then we want a complete empowerment of women in the society.