I have reflected in the past on how Bollywood objectifies women. There is no doubt that over time Bollywood movies have made some progress in showing the changing image of women. We have bold women centric films coming up every once a while. We have films where the women characters reflect the changing aspirations of women in India. However, I am still left with a lingering feeling of disquiet.
For all the ‘new image’ that the films try to project, there is still an overwhelming focus on getting married and traditional Indian values.
Look at Cocktail (2012) for instance – you have an ultra bold character, Veronica (played by Deepika Padukone). This is one independent woman who plays a hedonistic character. She is confident of her sexuality and makes no bones about it. On the other hand there is this demure Indian woman Mira (yes yes a very traditional religious name too) played by Diana Penty, who starts of being helpless and gains some confidence over the film. They both fall for the same guy; imo a worthless, self-confessed, characterless flirt. In the end the independent woman is willing to change who she is, become ‘traditional’ so that she can get acceptance of the man’s mother and marry the chap. Who wins him in the end? No prizes for that answer. The demure one. The bold one actually hands him over to her. Sigh
This has happened in hundreds of movies with love triangles; two super-hit ones that I remember from the last 15 years are
- Dil to Pagal Hai
- Kuch kuch hota hai (where the tom boyish heroine does not get the guy until she becomes demure and coy and traditional)
Even in movies that had strong female characters, show them (the women) having to ‘atone’ for their strength. We saw that in Corporate (the woman gets sacrificed for her boss’s greed) and Heroine (where a superstar seeks her identity in the love of a two-timing actor)
So what are our films trying to project?
- That it is fine to be a strong independent woman so long as you know that you need to revert to being traditional to snaffle the guy? Never mind that he is worthless.
- That snaffling a guy and having babies is the ONLY & ultimate sign of womanhood?
- That a woman is only defined by her marriage?
I think it is time for film makers to wake up and smell the roses. When will they realise (as a social network contact Amar Prabhu) mentioned that
- Conservative does not imply dated idiot.
- Liberal does not imply loose morals.
- Taming the Shrew is clichéd.
If screen writers of Bollywood understand this, things will be fine. What do you think?