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Women in cinema: I am even fine with irrelevant characters, but can't understand showing female characters as even weaker than they are.
There have been quite a few reviews of Rajneeti, but when I went to watch it, I was a little surprised to see something which I was not warned about in the reviews I read. Therefore, this is not a review, just a rant on the depiction of female characters in cinema, and for the purpose of this post, specially Rajneeti.
Let me begin by saying that I am aware that not all female characters in Indian cinema are or need to be strong. And that a majority of the female characters are irrelevant. I am even fine with irrelevant, but can’t understand showing female characters as even weaker than they are.
I specially got irritated with the movie, because the promos and media had Katrina’s character, compared to Sonia Gandhi!! Deep disgrace to Mrs.Gandhi. Comparison to Mahabharat – deeper disgrace to the female characters of the epic. Since the official website of Rajneeti points to reviews connecting it to the Mahabharat, I am assuming Mr.Prakash Jha does not mind that comparison or even wanted it.
So, there are four female characters in this movie. There is Bharti (Nikhila Trikha), who is supposed to be the “Kunti”. The movie begins with showing us that she is a communist activist along with Bhaskar Sanyal (Naseerudin Shah) with whom she has a baby out of wedlock. Then there is a Indu (Katrina Kaif), who is supposed to be the “Draupadi”. Then, there is Sarah, sadly the only female character in the movie who takes a stand, but does not seem to have any mythological connections. Finally, there is this party worker played by Shruthi Seth, to show the dirt in politics.
So, where is my problem?
I had my first problem, when I heard Bharti say, “Humko hee samjotha karna padtha hai”. Bharti, who is supposed to be an erstwhile communist activist says that about women. One, I hate people saying that, and accepting that compromise is the property of women. Second, I find it hard to believe that a character who had the courage to be an activist, protesting against her own father would make such a statement.
Would she make such a statement? What do you think?
My biggest problem came with the character of Indu played by Katrina. She ends up marrying Prithvi(Arjun Rampal) although she loves Samar(Ranbir Kapoor). There is a scene in which Samar convinces her to marry his brother, Prithvi. The reasoning blew me out of my seat. According to Samar, Indu would be happy in his house because, Prithvi, inspite of himself, is a good guy. Their mom, is a good person, and most of all, if she does not marry Prithvi, her dad would get her married to Veer(Manoj Bajpai). AAAAAAH!!!
So, what are the assumptions here?
That, marriage is the only thing left in life for her. That, this smart looking, champagne drinking, sports car driving girl, does not have the courage to stand up and say that she does not want to marry Veer? The first one is horrible and the second, unbelievable.
Often, in many reviews, the comparison is made to Draupadi. And Indu’s character fails miserably in comparison. Draupadi, in the epic:
1. had the guts to proclaim to the world that Karna should not try to win her hand in marriage due to his caste
2. had the confidence to make fun of Duryodhana, implying that he is blind
3. was smart enough to have an ally in Krishna, who would come to her rescue when she called for him
4. was intelligent enough to question the legitimacy of Yudhishtra putting her at stake when he had lost all of his property
This woman is extremely strong. There can be opinions about whether her actions were right or not. But as a character, she had a stand of her own.
Come to Indu. There is no representation of ambition, decisiveness, or independence in Indu. Nothing that comes of the character is her own doing. Add to that Katrina’s acting and you have a very weak character staring at you.
Even the role of a politician is a weak representation. There is not a moment in the movie, where Indu the politician is given the opportunity to develop. She is just a puppet, who needs to draw some votes based on public sympathy, as vindication of her husband’s death. Even the speech she makes is in that line. No vision for the state nor for the party. Just a “victim’s role” which needs to be cashed in on.
Sonia Gandhi, to which this character is compared, had a very different entry into politics. She did not enter politics immediately after Rajiv Gandhi’s death in 1991, seeking justice, or playing victim. She entered politics at around 1998, when she saw the Congress party faltering. None of us can deny that she has been instrumental in bringing the party back to power. Sonia Gandhi’s journey in politics will always be one inspiring story! Indu’s character had none of those qualities.
The best thing about the movie – all the women get pregnant. Obviously, that was their only purpose, after all!
The most common response, that I got from people when I spoke about this was that it’s a movie and these are just characters. My problem is that all the women in the movie are so weak. What was the director thinking, when he made all the female characters like that? I know that Prakash Jha is the director of Mrityudand where Madhuri Dixit played a very strong role. But here, he has been busy collecting pieces from Mahabharat and Godfather, sticking them together, forgetting to go deep.
Are our women this weak and dumb? And this characterless?
I could not tolerate that point of view that kept gushing at me, as I watched the movie, from every female character on screen.
What do you think?
Preethi is currently pursuing her Graduate Studies in Sociology in Purdue University in the US. She believes that her two years at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, where she did her post-graduation have read more...
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