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Movies that centre men (like the recent Sanju) let them make 308 mistakes and yet live full lives. Women on the other hand, are rarely allowed to make such mistakes.
I have not watched the movie Sanju but one scene from the trailer was interesting. It was the scene with one man and two women. The man confesses to having slept with 308 women and is debating on whether to add to the number while the two women look at him as if he were an endearing little boy who is blurting out the truth in a hurry. It doesn’t help that one of the women is his wife.
I wondered how this scene would be received if the genders were reverse – one woman and two men and the woman confesses to the same crime with one of the men being the husband. Forget 308, let’s just begin with her confessing to a number under 10. I couldn’t even visualise the scene and I realised that this would probably not be an A grade movie and least of all, a Rajkumar Hirani movie. The Indian audience have liberated themselves enough to go from ‘Ek Hi Bhool’ all the way to ‘308 Bhools’ – at least where the man is concerned. (Bhool = mistake).
Another annoying aspect is that Indian movies with male protagonists have such varied content, they are shown to lead such full lives, the content is treated with so much love and care that as an audience you experience the full range of emotions from laughter to sadness to drama to self actualisation. Compare this movies that have female protagonists – in these, there is a thick cover of gloom hanging over their heads until the end, when they breakthrough and find their place in the sun. It is inspiring, but there will be very few people who will gladly exchange places with the characters on screen, which is the exact opposite of what happens when you watch movies with male leads. I have not watched Ocean’s Eight or Veere di Wedding so I am not sure if the narrative has changed. At least for the latter, we know that it involves four women, all of them either considering or grappling with marriage which is a very narrow lens to view a woman’s life through.
Why don’t Indian movies capture the woman’s journey with the same love and care? It would be wonderful to watch a movie where female characters have the same number of highs as lows in their lives, where unimaginable hardships are not thrown at them every two seconds and marriage and family are shown as important chapters in their lives instead of being the central aspect from which they derive their strength. A film where the woman is a born winner (just like the movies with male leads) and she overcomes her struggles without a hair out of place, with a good dose of humour and wit and goes back to her happy family with a final hurrah. Now that’s a movie I would love to see!
Till then, I will just wait for ‘Ek Hi Bhool’ with a woman protagonist. 308 Bhools is a pipe dream.
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Roopa Prabhakar describes herself as a mother, a working woman, a closet feminist and blogger.
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