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Is The 90s Portrayal Of Indian Women In Pop Culture & Movies Still Relevant Today?

Although today’s woman would agree with the woman of yesterday that consent is non-negotiable, she doesn’t seem keen on movies like DDLJ.

I used to listen to ‘Made in India,’ a song by Alisha Chinai way back in 1997 or so.

I loved the tune, and it seemed great that India finally appeared to have an Indipop presence. An album made in India (pardon the terrible pun) could be good, too. The slightly ‘Westernised’ Indians who grew up on Western pop music were feeling happy about it, and I was one of them. The lyrics went something like:

Dekhi hai saari duniya, Japan se leke Russia
Australia se leke America
Dekha hai pyaar ka sapna, dil chaahe koi apna
Mil jaaye gar ek saathiya, ek desiya
Made in India, made in India
Ek dil chaahiye that’s made in India

‘Made in India’ dealt with the message that regardless of how much an Indian travelled, her soul would remain quintessentially Indian. It also said that this well-travelled woman wanted a ‘saathiya’ from India. I recall meeting a young Indian girl who lived in Spain during my Europe tour. She said she wanted a boy from India ‘coz the ones in Spain were all ‘disco boys.’

In the mega-blockbuster hit, DDLJ, which released in 1995, the lead pair Raj and Simran travel in Switzerland as tourists. Let’s look closely at that scene in DDLJ where Raj tells Simran after a drunken night that he knows Simran is an Indian girl for whom ‘izzat’ meant everything and that regardless of what she thought of him, he was a ‘Hindustani.’ He understood what ‘Izzat’ meant to an Indian woman.’Izzat’ here equated to ‘not losing one’s virginity.’

Who really would have been comfortable with anything more than a cuddle in the bedroom while in a state of intoxication, though? Wasn’t the scene about consent, too, rather than just of one’s values? It was not only about the ‘Indianness’ of the woman in question—about staying a virgin until marriage—but also about not being taken advantage of while in a drunken stupor.

It’s 2019, and ‘hook-ups’ seem more casual, especially with the younger generation. Flings are the order of the day. Women( of all ages) have spoken up and said they are not packets of ghee that need to remain unopened or untampered with. There are articles about how a hymen is just a membrane and that it does not symbolise one’s ‘purity’ or ‘sacredness.’ Although today’s woman would agree with the woman of yesterday that consent is non-negotiable, she doesn’t seem keen on movies like DDLJ. The fact that DDLJ finally got cancelled at Maratha Mandir in 2015 almost 20 years after it began playing on 19 October 1995 is telling.

Today’s woman doesn’t want to fit in a mould cast by Bollywood. She wants to shatter stereotypes and write her own rules, which she may choose to break. A small percentage of the female population watches DDLJ every time it airs on TV and still feels it is the quintessential Indian movie. Regardless of how much we’ve changed, in so many ways, we remain the same.

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Image is a still from the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge


About the Author

Aishwariya Laxmi

Aishwariya Laxmi is a writer, editor, blogger, and poet living in suburban Chennai, India. She blogs on https://aishwariyalaxmi.com/ and has a newsletter at https://ash.fambase.com/. Her poems and flash fiction have read more...

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