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Is Bollywood Finally Changing For Good? Pop Culture In A Decade Of Women’s Web May Have Answers

Posted: June 22, 2020

With Women’s Web celebrating ten years of awesome content, here are the top ten Pop Culture posts written by us and loved by you! #ADecadeOfWomensWeb

Take a girl out a drama but you can’t take the drama out of the girl, is what I often say and I think that’s where my love for Bollywood stems from. And so, when I was shortlisting these articles, trust me when I say, it was a task!

In the last few years, Bollywood and basically all things entertainment have come a long way. We have started opening up about the things we usually overlooked earlier. Right from talking about toxic masculinity to consent to female friendships, the entertainment industry is trying to do it all. While, obviously, we do have a smattering of our Kabir Singhs and Arjun Reddys and the like, for most part, things are looking up.

And similarly, our writers too, have left no stone unturned to speak of things that infuriated them, made them smile, laugh feel that bit of mush! So without much waiting, here are the top ten Pop Culture posts from the past ten years of Women’s Web.

Vishwathika

So Many ‘Strong Women’ Movies, So Few Women Writing Them…

If you have, like me, grown up on a steady diet of Bollywood, you’d have seen some wonderful women in Bollywood movies. I’m talking Kajol from Dushman, Aishwarya Rai from Guru, and Jaya Bachchan of Kal Ho Naa Ho. But have you wondered how many of them were actually written by women? In recent times, we have women like Gauri Shinde and Alankrita Shrivastava but what about earlier?

This is exactly where Vishwathika makes you think! Not just the women of Bollywood but those of Tollywood and Kollywood. Thoughtful and not dramatic at all but definitely worth a read!

The year 2017 saw quite a few women-oriented films get released by Bollywood and do quite well, like, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Secret Superstar, Tumhari Sulu, and Lipstick Under My Burkha. But not all of these films had female writers. Only Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (Garima Wahal was involved in both the writing of the film and the lyrics of the songs along with Siddharth Singh) and Lipstick Under My Burkha (Alankrita Shrivastava wrote both the story and screenplay of this film while Anvita Dutt Guptan was the lyricist) had female writers. In fact, out of the top twenty films, only three had female writers – the ones I’ve already mentioned and Hindi Medium which had a female lyricist – Priya Saraiya.

Despite this, some of the films have portrayed women really well – even the films that weren’t women oriented like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. Many others have done a horrible job though. Even Bareilly Ki Barfi does a bad job in spite of having an important female protagonist – she isn’t very well-developed. Badrinath Ki Dulhania is superficially feminist, it’s all about breaking out of a patriarchal family hierarchy and letting women give importance to their careers. However, the male protagonist is quite violent towards the female protagonist and literally kidnaps her; yet, this isn’t seen as a big enough thing for her to let him go forever. This diminishes the seriousness of abuse and is a huge problem. Having a female writer might have helped.

Sabiha Gulrays

5 Ways Bollywood Has Of Glorifying Mothers And Making Life Difficult For Women

Speaking of women in Bollywood, I often wonder what this obsession with ‘perfect’ moms is!  Remember, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? Of all the issues it had, the worst one would be Jaya Bachchan’s instinct about SRK. Does anyone else’s mom really know the moment they’re stepping out to go to their mom? Do they?

Oh. Or even Hema Malini continuously forgiving her children for royally ill-treating her. I don’t think any real-life mom would tolerate that. Am I wrong?

For years, we have glorified mothers on screen like it’s our favourite thing to do! We make them look like these goddesses handling everything with ease while looking utterly flawless all the time. Bollywood seems to want mothers to be perfect and not regular humans at all. Which is what Sahiba says too!

Some of our ad makers have used mother’s love as a bait to sell products.They have used words like being protected, loved and taken care of which are all references to a mother’s love to brand their products. From the goodness of mosquito repellents and food items to skin care products and everything else, it was being compared to that of a mom’s love and care.

Being a mother to a growing up toddler I can definitely vouch for the constant feeling of the concern that moves in the minds of a mother. We are forever worrying about the well-being of our children.

The continual efforts that are made to ensure a child is well fed, well dressed, healthy, well educated, and a million other things are all supposed to be a mother’s responsibility, if the movies that have puffed up a mother’s role are to be believed. This has almost ruined some things for us women, through their larger than life projection.

VJ

Let Me Bust 7 Myths About Love That Hindi Movies Create And Cause A Lot Of Damage

I come from the DDLJ generation, and the amount of issues that movie has is a whole can of worms. But I come from a generation that has seen SRK glorify love to the point you believe that’s the love you want. You want someone to ‘woo’ you like Raj does to Simran, not realising he’s basically a creepy stalker who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

And thus, Bollywood has successfully ruined our ideas of love. We all grew up believing that love is the end-all thing, it is the ultimate goal of life. But look deep within yourselves and ask, is it?

And with her trademark wit, VJ essentially busts all these Bollywood lovey-dovey myths. ‘Ishq wala love’ no more!

Most movies show that love (and sex) are for young, able, heterosexual and conventionally beautiful people.  Physical attractiveness is elevated above all else (shared values, likes and dislikes), and the boundaries of what is considered attractive are drawn restrictively. The ultra- feminine, ‘new girl’ Rani Mukherjee was who Shah Rukh Khan fell for in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, ignoring the tomboyish Kajol, who knew him for years. Of course, as soon as Kajol swapped the dungarees for the saree, and short hair for flowing tresses, she was instantly the perfect love interest.

These limited ideas about who is capable of love and being loved have an effect on real people. Which is why is heartening to see movies like Badhaai Ho or Margarita With a Straw, which show that love is not just for the young or abled. However, in terms of representing non-heterosexual relationships on screen, we have a long way to go. Homosexuality is still played for laughs on the screen in India, and well-written, sensitive films portraying such relationships are few and far between.

Kasturi Patra

A Short History Of Kissing And Erotic Scenes In Hindi Movies; Going Full Circle

Love in cinemas is one thing but do you remember the kissing scenes? Yeah, I don’t either, mostly because we saw flowers making out! Or our parents flipped channels the moment two actors even came close!

And so, when I started reading Kasturi’s article on kissing and erotic scenes, trust me, I was stunned! Did you know people actually kissed on screen in the 1920s and 30s? So much for our favourite brand of ‘female chastity’! But after the formation of the Cinematography Act of 1952, onscreen kisses were termed ‘indecent’ and were no longer shown on the screens. And thus, came in the making out of the flowers!

But thankfully, in the early 2000s, kisses did make a comeback and how! Think Emraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat in Murder. (I was still forbidden from watching it but, I was a rebel!)

One thing that strikes the observer from this trend is that maybe, the heroines in Bollywood were much more liberated and free thinking than our heroes. Because, if Aamir’s movies can portray such intimacies involving various actresses, then one does wonder whether a lot of our A-lister heroes shied away from doing kissing scenes for the sake of their ‘good boy’ images?

It was in the early 2000s that erotica started making a proper comeback in mainstream, commercial movies of Bollywood. The period witnessed a slew of bold movies, such as Manisha Koirala starrer Ek Chhoti Si Love Story (2002), Bipasha Basu starrer Jism (2003), Murder (2004) starring Mallika Sherawat, Julie (2004) starring Neha Dhupia and Meghna Naidu starrer Hawas (2004). However, if we analyse these movies, we’d see that most of these actresses were clubbed under the title of ‘bold actresses’ and rarely would we see the mainstream A-listed actresses engaged in such kind of movies.

Aruna Uppuleti

It’s Time To Put An End To Item Songs That Give Men A Warped Idea Of Women’s Sexuality

Item songs = objectification of women. As if we don’t objectify women enough in our cinema, we have a whole different set of songs to objectify them even more. These songs with their catchy words and bouncy tunes are enough to be dance-floor favourites but have you ever looked at the lyrics, closely?

Aruna, with her, article tells us exactly why we need to ban these ridiculous songs with their awful words.

These kind of items songs appear repeatedly in movies. In “Munni Badnam Huyi,” actress Malaika Arora is seemingly taken control of and voluntarily presenting herself as an object. In “Fevicol Se Item,” actress Kareena Kapoor, who is a highly successful leading heroine in Bollywood movies, is symbolically likened to a piece of tandoori chicken to be washed down with alcohol. She is figuratively reduced to chicken thighs and breasts in the lyrics. In “Chikni Chameli,” actress Katrina Kaif presents herself as an object of sexual gratification for the male.

Sickeningly,  these songs feature the hero of the movie as one of the men surrounding the actress. Such famous actors and actresses happily take up the task and accept this type of song, showing their audience that it’s okay to behave like this with any woman.

Kanika

What Indian Movies Teach Us Wrong About Consent Could Fill A Book

If I am talking about item songs, consent cannot be left far behind. Bollywood movies really have zero sense of consent. Be it everyone’s beloved Raj of DDLJ or Kundan of Raanjhanaa, stalking and almost forcing the girl to say yes is only an upward trajectory.

Why we glorify it, is still beyond me, and Kanika too. She tells us, clearly and directly how consent is one thing our movies seem to never ever understand.

While there may be grey areas when it comes to courtship, there should be none, when it comes to sex. Sex without explicit consent is just wrong. The case of Brock Turner, brought consent to the forefront of international discussion. To be meaningful, consent cannot be passive, as in, the person did not say no. Consent must be active, i.e. the person said yes.

Choice of attire does not imply consent. Many women wear sexy clothes and make up to feel good about themselves. Others wear these to attract men. In either case, their attire is not a blanket permission to all men to ‘come and get it’. In case of a misunderstanding, a ‘no’ must be respected.

Parvadavardini Sethuraman

Why Is It So Difficult For Men To Accept A Woman Calling Out Toxic Behaviour?

To speak of toxic males and NOT mention our dear Dr. Kabir Singh is a crime in itself! If someone has embodied what toxic, misogynistic males are, it is this man and his Telugu and Tamil siblings (Arjun Reddy and Adithya Varma)

So when women called out Kabir Singh’s toxic behaviour, they were often counter-questioned about Kundan’s (ft. Raanjhanaa) toxic stalking. Honestly, though why are women called ‘unstable’ and ‘angry feminazis’ for calling out toxic behaviour?

I wonder – if Raanjhanaa’s Kundan can be an innocent lover, Kabir Singh a passionate one, then why was Ria from Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, portrayed as a someone with serious mental health issues, who in the end is shown to be in a mental asylum? She was also the obsessive lover who wouldn’t take no for an answer. If that’s counted as love and passion in a man, why not in a woman?

The fact is that unreasonable obsession, be it for a person, relationship or for that matter anything, is a sign of mental health issues, and the person is in need of professional help.

Same is the case for repeated display of violent anger. Then why this attempt to justify it, when it is portrayed by a man on screen? A vast majority foolishly even dubs such unreasonable behaviour as ‘masculine traits’, while woman is expected to be coy and put up with it. Her agency and opinion don’t count. When she defies this and still speaks up, she is blamed for creating an unnecessary scene.

Aparna Vedapuri Singh

If Titanic Had Been Made In India

If you’ve watched Titanic, you know it is quite possibly a pretty unsanskaari movie to begin with. But have you ever wondered what would happen if it were made in India?

Would Jack and Rose be able to find the fulfilment of their love? Will they be separated due to fates and their class divide? Or will they eventually give up their lives for love? (Oh so romantic! Not!) Well, Aparna does imagine and trust me, it is quite on point.

Rose gives in to her passion for Jack, spends a night with him, and finds out the next day that she is pregnant. Because, all sex before marriage is rewarded (sorry, punished) with pregnancy, didn’t you know that?

The day after the sinking of the ship, after Rose has been rescued, we would see her emerge on board the Carpathia wearing a white sari. Naturally, there is no question of this Rose now marrying another man, because the virtuous Indian woman doesn’t do that. 

Rose doesn’t travel the world or have a job or do anything for herself. Her life is spent moping in front of a photo of Jack. She devotes her time to raising her son (who looks exactly like Jack), and training him to one day take revenge on her behalf against Cal – who could have saved Jack, but didn’t.

Madhur Dave

So What If They Didn’t Get The Guy? Here’s What The ‘Leftover’ Women Of Bollywood Are Doing

Yours truly’s piece on ‘the leftover women.’ If by now, you haven’t gotten a hang of my love for Bollywood, this article is the one for you! If you can imagine Titanic set in India, why not imagine the lives of Naina (Dil Toh Pagal Hai) and Preeti (DDLJ) without the man they were supposed to ‘get’?

These women were fierce and independent and proved that they loved the men but didn’t need him to be happy! Honestly, the peak of my writing career, this.

Here’s what Tina from Mujhse Dosti Karoge has to say!

So I was in love with Raj, no not the DDLJ one (ugh. He’s old!) My Raj, the one I called Mr. America despite knowing that he was from the UK. I was trying to be cute. Come on! I was always told that men like dumb girls. So I pretended to be as dumb as I could be and look where that took me! I got left at the altar with Uday Chopra! Uday. Chopra.

But I turned my life around! You all know that I had a flair for drama. So I thought why not make use of that and do something for myself! I moved to Pune and joined FTII. Take that, Pooja! You may have been my best friend but you also stole the love of my life and left me behind with Uday Chopra. Uday. Chopra.

Aswini Ashok

Woman’s Body As A Battleground: Through The Lens Of Aadai, Uyare And Game Over

For years, we have seen movies and TV series from the male gaze which often portrays women first as bodies than as humans. But with women writers entering the game, this seems to be changing. We have more women in the industry showcasing onscreen women as humans.

At such a time, movies like Aadai, Uyare and Game Over are definite game changers! They make you question certain notions and think and think hard.

The politics around women’s bodies have been done to death by men (in real and reel life), yet, there seems to be no end to their impositions. Women across the world are still fighting for political control over their own bodies. From anti-abortion laws to marital rapes the politics around women’s body has always been at the receiving end of the arrogance of predominantly men lawmakers, than the plight of the fighting women.

Parvathi’s Uyare dealt with men’s notion of sabotaging a woman’s appearance to destroy her. Tapsee’s Game Over was on vandalizing a woman physically and mentally by sexual assault and cyber-crime. Amala Paul’s Aadai dealt with the ‘shame’ associated with a woman’s body – the one by which women are made to see themselves as lesser beings.

While Uyare and Game Over challenged the notions it addressed and made the protagonists come out of the trauma with flying colors, Aadai’s approach falls flat, making the shero reduce herself from her actual self and fit into something else that was problematic.

I know that now, you definitely want more of our Ten Year posts but you don’t have to wait too long! We will be back tomorrow with another category and another set of awesomesauce authors and articles. All you’ve got to do is keep a watch on this space for more #ADecadeOfWomensWeb!

Picture credits: Still from DDLJ

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