With a sleazy smile, you quiz her if she savoured kissing her male co-star. With an invisible wink, you catechise her if doing intimate scenes is an onerous, difficult task. You throw a surprised glare at her, for everything atypical she does. You scrutinise her for being herself. You question the pedestal of her identity. The story goes on, forever.
Into 2017… a few decades after globalisation, multiple films on women empowerment, the unforeseen growth in journalism… After all this, we still keep failing the women in Indian film industry who are headed for a voyage to break the norms. And it doesn’t even take much efforts on our part. Patriarchy has taken possession of so much of our senses that it makes us retrogress without us even realising how we are surrendering to the regressive notions that are in need of change.
Let us admit. When we claim to be a part of the mass media, we are responsible for not just feeding the mass what it wants, but also for shaping popular taste. The progress and advancement in cinema and popular culture demand us to retrospect the trends we have been encouraging. It makes us question our questions. This Women’s Day, instead of bubbling up our apparently progressive outlook with bombastic words, let us vouch to never ask these questions to our actresses ever again.
How was the experience of doing steamy scenes with XYZ?
How was it signing 53 files at office yesterday? How was it breaking your head over a presentation for a crucial meeting tomorrow? How was it discussing modern usage of archaic English with your students for three long hours? Would you not answer back with a blank stare, had we asked you these? But when it comes to an actress who is doing whatever it takes her to get into the skin of her character, those ‘steamy scenes’ lead the discussions. Behind every such question, there’s an invisible grin, a sense of undermining her efforts and murmuring to self, ‘she must have had fun’. An actress, for doing her job well, deserves either applause or nothing at all; but certainly doesn’t deserve cheap scorns.
You romanced an actor who is younger to you…
Each time we read about far young (and sometimes minor) women being married off to old men, we are comfortable in accepting it. Forget reality. Every time an actor in his fifties pairs up with an actress in her twenties, we enjoy the chemistry with wide, open eyes. What’s the deal with actresses choosing to pair with younger actors? We’ll tell you. The deal is, women were taught to be ashamed of growing age. They were taught to be ashamed of grey hair, flab in their belly and wrinkles under their eyes. They were taught that the condition to earn everyone’s attention is to look ‘young’ and pretty. And a bigger deal is to find a man who certifies your beauty and physical possession. A younger man makes you look older, and that’s not what the world means by an ‘ideal match’. Let us not typecast love at least?
You played a lesbian. Were you not hesitant?
Hesitant because…? There’s CBFC that does a great job of dismissing almost any progressive outlook? Hesitant because homosexuality is considered a crime? So is stalking a woman. Have we ever asked an actor, “Were you not hesitant to play a character who stalks a woman as efforts to impress her?” No, because we are used to expressions of desire by men, but not women. In fact, ‘lesbian’ is just a metaphor here. Anything and everything that does not fit the societal definition is met with huge resistance. But what is art if it does not break stereotypes, does not voice in favour of equality in all aspects, does not accommodate? Where will our cinema head if it keeps denying the existence of reality? A lesbian woman, a straight woman, a widow, a single mother, a divorcee. They are you, me. They’re us.
You must be dying to work with the Khans…
This one comes across as the most frequent. Of course, it is a privilege to work with anyone who is an expert in his own craft. It is a privilege because it enriches you, helps you grow. But what’s with this constant inglorious approach towards the female performers? After boasting of all the female-oriented films, why would a Khan still be the parameter of an actress’ achievements? How about actresses who wilfully carried films on their shoulders and carved their ways? How about actresses who keep picking roles as per their gravity and not on how heavyweight the fellow co-stars are?
You’ve a child now. What about your career?
Motherhood was, and is considered some kind of handicap. Despite the fact that numerous actresses have wonderfully managed their career and personal front, an actress who is soon to embrace motherhood, or has just had a newborn, will be subjected to a thousand questions pertaining to her career. Not just acting, but women in any and every profession have a CHOICE to continue doing what they love to do. And if someone is willingly bidding adieu to her career and wants to devote time to her child, can we gracefully accept (and respect) it?
However, free suggestions. You might as well choose to plug your headphones and ignore. Happy Women’s Day! 🙂