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Pehla Pyaar And Some Gaana-Shaana: Bollywood’s Over-The-Top Colleges

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By Prerna Grewal

Films do well only because of 3 reasons … entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”, says Silk Smitha (Vidya Balan) in The ‘Dirty Picture’.

Mainstream Bollywood, embroiled in the demands of entertainment and commerce, ends up providing unrealistic or delusionary representations of situations, places and people. This is also the case with the representation of academicians and academic spaces in commercially successful Bollywood movies such as ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘, ‘Main Hoon Na‘, ‘Student Of The Year‘ and ‘Two States‘.

Many people have fallen in love with at least two of these movies – for their songs, star cast and dream like romance. Many have also hated them for one or all of these reasons, deeming them as sentimental sap. While certain exaggerations and unrealistic elements have still been criticised, not many people have paid attention to the representation of academic institutes and academicians in these movies. And who can be blamed? It’s easy to overlook sub plots and minor characters in the face of Arjun and Aalia’s mesmerizing romance and Shah Rukh and Kajol’s on screen magic.

Amidst the melody and drama of ‘Two States‘, one is hardly likely to pay much attention to the scene where Ananya’s (Aalia Bhatt) answer to a question is dismissed by the professor as not being up to the mark. This is followed by Krish’s (Arjun Kapoor) effort to comfort her by saying that within a few years, they (Ananya and Krish) will be financially successful, while the professor will still be working in the same institution and making the same amount of money. The character of Arjun Kapoor conveniently ignores the crucial role that the institution and its teachers play by imparting knowledge to students and assisting them in the achievement of their aspirations.

kuch kuch hota haiIn the case of the other two movies, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘ and ‘Main Hoon Na‘, the depiction of the college is more like a circus. Even the principals of the institutes depicted in the two movies, hardly wield any authority and often become the butt of jokes. The characters of Archana Puran Singh in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘ and Sushmita Sen in ‘Main Hoon Na‘ appear as highly sexualised manifestations of professors, where the focus is more upon their body rather than their professional ability.

Student Of The Year‘ crosses all levels of unrealistic representation of academic spaces. The entire movie is nothing more than a ‘high school musical’. It’s simply about the ostentatious display of wealth combined with petty politics of wealthy teenagers. And going even beyond the circus of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai‘ or ‘Main Hoon Na‘, the academic space in ‘Student Of The Year‘ is more like the stage of ‘India’s Got Talent‘.main-hoon-na

Perhaps some of these Bollywood directors and producers need to take lessons from movies like ‘3 Idiots‘ and ‘Aarakshan‘ when it comes to the representation of academicians and academic spaces. Minimal levels of exaggeration are observed in the depiction of these institutes. Apart from this, due credit is given to academicians.

From both the movies, one gets an impression that a certain amount of effort has been put into research regarding the representation of these spaces. Further, their research is critically oriented and not just limited to appropriate representation. ‘3 Idiots‘ highlights how, in the pursuit of the ultimate aim of getting a job, the essential motive behind the pursuit of education is often forgotten. Similarly ‘Aarakshan‘ provides a perspective upon the issue of reservation within the education system.

The problem lies with the overall attitude that people tend to have towards academicians, and Bollywood either supports this attitude, or is too laid back for research and analysis or indulges in hyperbolic representation for the purpose of entertainment. If one is investing so much hard work, energy and resources, they might as well invest some time in proper research. On the making of ‘3 Idiots‘ for instance, both the cast and director highlighted how the decision to stay on the campus of IIM Bangalore was “one of the best”. Not only did it help in imbibing the ‘student spirit’ but also provided them with a better sense of the academic space.

Bollywood is about entertainment. That is the crux of the industry. But because of the mass appeal and influence that this industry enjoys, it also needs to be conscious of a sense of responsibility while conveying messages, using images, portraying a certain setting or situation and so on. It is not that none of the people involved in the industry are conscious of this sense of responsibility. Some, in fact, undertake projects to highlight social or political issues and convey larger messages.

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  1. Durga

    I loved the perspectives you’ve brought in. While chasing entertainment value, it is unfair to lose touch with reality. Youngsters ar influenced by these movies and are disillusioned when colleges are a far cry from what has been portrayed in movies. That’s a dangerous trend!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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