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Short Essay on Indian Cinema and Image of Women

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In recent years, in India, there has been a fold of movies starting perhaps with Raj Kapoor’s “Ram Teri Ganga Maili” in which female sexuality has been perversely portrayed. Since then a krishma Kapoor or a shilpa Shirodkar or a Puja Bedi has had no inhibition in terms of exposing and catering to the perverse tastes of the male audience.

In the West, such portrayal goes back to many decades. A marlyn Monroe or a Brigitte Bardot were the sex symbols of a generation almost three decades back.

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They played the role of women slaved to their sexual instincts, and whose sense of self-worth arose only from their degree of sexual satisfaction. The myth became the reality in the male mind and women became only and ultimately sex symbols.

Men, as a rule, since the dawn of society have held a commanding position vis-a-vis woman. In a world where till recently brawn was more important than brains, this seemed natural and fit.

In a recent film “Sangeet”, Madhuri Dixit played a middle-aged wife to Shafi Inamdar who exploits her physically, treats her like and doormat and threatens to throw her out.

In one scene, he throws whisky at her face. This is shocking enough but more shocking is Madhuri’s reaction she bears it silently. Lack of reaction is typical of wife as she is shown on our screen.

Man, in “popular” cinema is depicted as superior. This so called “superiority” of the male has been mainly responsible for a lewd and low image of the fair sex.

On the other hand a woman is portrayed in a derogatory and degrading way in the contemporary mainstream cinema.

A girl, victim of a rape, is treated as a moral leper while a womanizer is surrounded by a bevy of beauti­ful girls.

Women in Hindi films play stereotype characters. They are shown as either glamorous girl-friends, sacrificing wives and mothers, vamps or rags. They are a mere foil to the male, whatever the role.

The heroine is the darling “beti” who has either lost her mother or father when she was a mere child. Or she is forced to marry a drunkard and rich boy against her wishes.

She, in such a circumstance, either commits suicide and rebels against her parents and even elopes. She can suffer any humiliation, undergo any hardship, shed tears but does not budge from decision.

She takes an ‘insufficient’ dose of poison, jumps into a river and leaves her home one day to live with her man even on a footpath or in a slum. Money does not matter with her.

Love, she thinks, thrives on poverty. She is prepared to be teased in a market or parks and bursts into a lusty song.

The shyness is flung to the winds and she sprawls on the ground, making a variety of suggestive poses with the hero. But still she is supposed to be a paragon of virtue.

The vamp that is charming and beautiful is another stereotype. In fact she is supposed to be more beautiful and sexually attractive than the heroine.

She has a lush torso, full bosom and seductive charms. She acts as the cleavage between the heroine and hero.

She jiggles, writhes her ample bosom, swings hips, winks, dances, pours liquor and bursts into a sexy song and: dance.

The heroines of today, however, can over- smart her in all these gimmicks. She can throw her bosom on the camera with dhak dhak or can tail the-spectators what is choli ke peechhe.

The line- between the two has just disappeared. In formula, films a woman is just shown as a caricature, incomplete, with her body as her only asset, having no mind.

In a film, the girl suffers the taunts of her sister-in-law rather than support herself and her child. An idiot of the village halts her humiliation. An imbecile male is better than a sound-minded female!

Most formula films having failed at the box- office, new stereotypes are being invented. The viewers now want more and bigger doses of vul­garity. People like Madhuri Dixit lifting her ample bosom.

The heroine seems to squirm but smiles when the hero lifts or attempts to lift her ghagra, skirt or saree. The hero degrades the heroine but she falls in love with her tormentor.

Some films like Arth, Ankur Bazar, Umrao Jaan were woman-oriented. In these movies, women and their problems, their status has been treated realistically within certain parameters.

Dimple Kapadia played a highly emotional role of a professional mourner in Rudali. In Damini Meenakshi Shesadri personifies character and courage.

She fights for what is right but pays a price of her conviction. That the film was gripping shows that what is wanting is directorial determination and professional skill on the part of the makers of “popular” films.

Formula films are miles away from reali­ties. The contribution of women in various fields and professions is seldom the focus of a full- fledged film.

Rekha and Simi Grewal played a lawyer in Yeh Aag Kab Bujhegi and in Insaf Ka Tarazu respectively. But they were essentially cameos and not central roles.

Repeated visual images do leave their impressions in the minds of the viewers. Instances of rapes of school children by teacher women in police custody and sexual harassment in places of work prove this point.

The problem requires strict censorship, But the existing Board of Certification appears to have a soft belly; having a bark but not bile.

Should then one conclude that their tastes are worse than those of the viewers.

What is needed is that more women should be involved in mass communication programming levels so that their point of view dilutes the male one which is biased and secretly sadistic.

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