Throughout my teenage and college days, I remember watching Hindi films with astonishment and a strong sense of humiliation. Exceptions were few. “Tu ladki ke peeche bhagega, ladki paise ke peeche bhagegi. Tu paise ke peeche bhagega, ladki tere peeche bhagegi”, a certain character of Prabhudheva’s ‘Wanted’ had boasted. Even a 17-year-old brain could feel the ignominy, the disgrace. With time, I, rather we, have grown more dishonoured. But what hurts me the more is how we have comfortably set rules for a film to qualify as a mass or family entertainer, and the discourteous values are given a clean chit. What’s more worse? With time, we’ve got less open to progressive content.
Depiction of women in films is a subject done and dusted. The issue is rooted deeper. What you do is a reflection of what you believe, and a regressive outlook is likely to overpower all spheres of your thoughts.
Young filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava, to much of our delight, recently took up a battle with the Central Board of Film Certification of India, or should we say the self-proclaimed censor board? Alankrita’s film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ deals with four women, their fantasies and also the battles they’re make-doing with. As much as the film pleased many of us, I was in for quite a lot of expectations inside the theatre.
At a suburban multiplex of Mumbai, the special show consisted of what you call an educated, urban audience. But the sly smiles when Aahana Kumra, on screen, was savouring an intense penetration, were too loud to be ignored or overheard. When Ratna Pathak Shah shivered in an uncontrollable desire, I saw someone chuckling, ‘ iss umar mein’? Konkona Sensharma, every night, rests herself on the bed while her husband rips her vagina with a savage show-off of his manliness and authority over his wife. Marital rape struck no head, but the open display of sex caused many to giggle.
Almost every Bollywood film has got an unrepresentative representation of bravery by its (male) protagonist. And so is the case when it comes to men lusting women. She sways her waist and he ogles. She bites her lips, his tongue is almost moist as he covets her. You’d argue, the woman wasn’t forced to get there. I’d argue, why never get a man there? The uncomfortable answer is, women’s sexual urge and fantasies always remained unwelcome, in a way. Hence, when I finally stop shilly-shallying and start showing off what I crave for, you are bewildered. Or worse, you’re unrightfully offended.
Not long back, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani wore his bizarre self once more and issued an instruction that influential superheroes shouldn’t be shown smoking or drinking on screen as they could send out wrong messages. It is ridiculous as to how PEOPLE never learnt from those heroes how to rescue a woman in danger and how to help when a building catches fire; but funnily enough, might learn to drink and smoke.
Onir, who is fearlessly expressive with both his own sexuality and his own films, recently made ‘Shab’, a small-town guy’s journey towards fame and how life shatters him in the process. It contained plenty of crisis, to the lead character’s dismay. I remember Ashish Bisht standing in the balcony in an undergarment in one of the sequences, and someone whispered, “Onir is a gay after all; he has to show ‘that thing’ of a man’!
Before we ever crib about Indian films not being substantial enough, we need to recheck how receptive are we towards them, and how sensitive are we towards content that might put our perceptions through an acid test. I was recently in ‘Mubarakan’, a ‘family entertainer’, as everyone has been putting it across. Anees Bazmee, true to his visions, does not include any skin show or sensation since he believes his films are watched by families. While families are (arguably) not okay with experiencing kisses and more, they’re comfortable enjoying characters that are short on opinions. Nobody takes offence on a female character being delightfully obedient to her elders. But when you put her across as a puppet to other people’s will, do I not have a right to take offence?
What majorly goes wrong is how regressive approaches make space to family entertainers, natural intimacy doesn’t. Consciously and unconsciously, we are passing on wrong messages through cinema; a medium that moulds millions of minds in our country. On the other hand, while we head towards a desperate need of rational discussions on relationships, physical intimacy, flesh business and much more (because they all are as real as we are), we tend to eliminate and alienate every such discussion from our films. We are letting down our Alankritas and how!
Think, or pick a cookie and ignore! 🙂
Watch the full movie ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ here