INDIAN FILMS AND FEMINISM – A view on Bollywood narrative of films and female portrayal

Films in Indian society has a much wider catchment area than any written literature or political debate. It cuts across class and caste boundaries is accessible to all sections of society and in order to be financially viable needs to incorporate within it all those ingredients which may contribute to its success at the box office.
Having watched and experienced the era when watching television was a privilege for a woman in rural India to a time when every household in village owns a television set.
Since the course of the Indian cinematic timeline, directors and actors portrayed women as a god like figure with no soul at all. Even the initial films were religious.
Acc. to Lynda Nead and the early Indian film narrative “women are offered as a unified and coherent category through the fulfillment of her domestic duties and mission.
Explaining the Indian film narrative, the quotes by John Bergen fit totally in reference to the cinematography “Men act, Women appear. Men Look at women, women watch themselves being looked at. (for reference kindly refer any Karan Johar Movie Except My Name is Khan).
It was the parallel cinema that brought a change to how a woman is portrayed. The early and the 90’s era films such as Masoom, Gulzar’s directorial Arth and Mother India changed the narrative of the women portrayal.
The Rajshree Production and several other movies such as Hum Santh Santh Hain, Hum apke Hain Kaun, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, ViVah, these films made marriage as an institution of women’s empowerment. Myth of Marriage as a means of empowerment of women was a portrayal was so much indicative in those days and is quite relevant to modern context as well.
Women’s empowerment lies in the education, in skills and in financial self sufficiency which films denied to them and even more so to women with disabilities.
In “The Second Sex “by Simone de Beauvoir has commented,” Marriage has always been a very different thing for men and women. The two sexes are necessary to each other, but this necessity has never brought about a condition of reciprocity between them.
In a hit, Salman Khan movie, Biwi No-1, the husband is free to do as he pleases whereas the wife will always be subordinate, secondary and parasitic in her dependence on him.
The only difference between Women who sell themselves in prostitution and those who sell themselves in marriage is in the price and length of time the contract runs for both the sexual act is a service, the one is hired for life by one piece. The one is protected by one male against all others, the other is defended by all against the exclusive tyranny of each.
With the release of Masoom in 1982 which did quite well at the box office, a new note was struck in the history of Hindi cinema.
Prior to this, the films that made to the box office were primarily films either with a religious theme (Jai Santoshi Maa) or films portraying or films portraying some event from history (Rani Roopmati, Jahanara, Taj Mahal, Mughal-E-Azam).
In typical Bollywood movies “women are trapped in culture values that offer no scope for individualizing the self “.
In Arth which is about the married life and the extra – marital affair of the protagonist Inder,both the wife Puja and the lover Kavita -desire a baby. The idea of a child gives them a sense of completeness making the bond of love stronger towards their man. Towards the end of the film puja adopts the girl child of her maid but refuses to share her life with another man.
                  The idea of Motherhood in itself becomes more fulfilling than a man woman relationship.
Feminism is a protest against the relegation of women to a secondary status. It questions the myth of male super priority and aims at empowering women to claim a state of equality. Astitva is about a women’s struggle. It’s a poignant exploration of the negation of identity until transcended to an assertion of self -identity.
The Indian film’s have progressed with their perspective towards its female characters, though it took time for commercial cinema. Recently released such as Neerja,English vinglish,Mary kom,Mardani,

Queen, Highway, Raazi have had a very strong women portrayal.

However, in commercial cinema the role of women as eye candy hasn’t changed a lot.
Movies like Dor, Parched, Margaretta have depicted the different worlds of women the realities in the way they are.
Roman classicist Horace in his Ars Poetica writes” mind is less actively stimulated by what it takes in takes in through the ear than by what is presented by to it through the trustworthy agency of the eyes – “something that the spectator can see for himself “.This view makes film a stronger medium than oral narration and can do a lot for the status of women by instilling awareness and liberating women from the shackles of custom.

The cinema is the art of today, just as drama was in earlier age.
The Indian cinema also encompasses the lives, aspirations, emotions, problems and struggle of “one half of humanity that is the woman.
The word “freedom “takes two different meanings in society. For the male, freedom would mean realizing of the self without any curbing of spirit and living with his multiple existences through women.
For the female it is conforming to social attitude, norms,behavior,and code of conduct. She has to fit into the role assigned for her or suffer for overstepping it’s boundaries. Her area is decided and controlled by male sanction and authority.

Published by Vishal Kumar Ranjan

Film student, Media graduate , Blogger, Hardcore Ronaldo fan. unapologetic about anything.

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