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Satyajit Ray famously gave us so many great women characters. Then where are the women in Ray, Netflix’s tribute to the director?
I saw the trailer of Netflix’s upcoming movie Ray, directed by Vasan Bala, who has been a favourite of mine since Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota, starring Radhika Madan and Abhimanyu Basu because it had women kicking asses in the movie even with the loads of patriarchal residue floating in it.
Perhaps that’s why I was expecting a little bit more work from him in the aspect of representation in Ray. But it had the mention only of the male cast in the title of it’s trailer.
Ray is an anthology shaped around four stories of Satyajit Ray, and all four of them revolve around MEN. Of course the stories are extremely different from the regular Bollywood fare; each character is developed and explored very well and from different backgrounds, but where are the women?
Yet again, like everywhere else, except the kitchen, we ask the same question, where are the women?
These stories were adapted as modern day classics, but didn’t Bollywood have a single writer who could incorporate a woman into the story, especially given Ray’s legacy of movies? Has the position of women remained constant through the transition between traditional and modern? Again, we must not forget that Satyajit Ray movies gave women a lot of agency for the era they were made in, but in the trailer we see barely 10 seconds of combined scenes of all the women, in their limited scenes they say three or four words, that are in context of the Man, it’s about the HIM.
So much ‘women centric cinema’ and not one anthology to incorporate a female protagonist, why?
Let me tell you why, because to incorporate a woman, they would need to add a man who wronged her, that’s pretty much what all ‘women centric’ films are about, eventually THE MAN. The man does something and in consequence to that, the woman reacts and has her story or journey unraveled. The latest anthology Ajeeb Dastaans starred big names like Shefali Shah and Nushrat Bharucha but except the one story starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Aditi Rao Hydari, the rest were about a women reacting in a certain way because of a man.
Why can’t a woman just let be, just let herself be? In most women centric films she is the determined strong willed character who is fighting, and by the latest trend, one who apparently thinks that the only way to empowerment is great sex.
Yes putting your sexual needs out there is essential, normalizing it is great, but ultimately the film just uses this to cater to the male gaze! It just gives films more space to work with female bodies and show them a certain way. She also needs a partner who is ready to share the domestic load (orgasm is great but have you sat and cleaned the house all on your on!?), but apparently that doesn’t matter.
Where are women who can be such protagonists with certain characteristics attached to them, beyond the regular trope of a ‘women centric’ film. Where is the woman who fucks up or has certain experiences that doesn’t take gender too much into consideration, although it will forever remain an aspect to play a role? (The future looks bleak, you can’t blame me for this exaggeration).
Why can’t a woman have a memory of that of a computer or a woman be an (in)famous actor, or a sales person or a poet! Why can’t she have a wicked laughter where her teeth stained near the gums becomes the point of focus for the camera?
Yes we do need stories where women are always fighting battles for genders, against patriarchy. Women will fight that till the end of time (again, don’t think the planet is heading towards a new beginning for sure) but doesn’t mean that they can’t have zany, peculiar characteristics or have a story that is about them, doing their job or having an experience. Their experiences will have a gender bias involved but an event that happens around both the genders will remain same.
To explain myself better – a man or a woman witnessing a murder will leave a heavy impact on them mentally, yes maybe if the murderers found out someone witnessed the murder, they may or may not act with respect to gender of the witness, but the experience remains same, both the genders have experienced it. That event can take place around both the genders, but in a film, it will inevitably take place only around the man, the woman can probably be his wife who becomes concerned when the man stops refuses to talk to her because of the trauma or goes missing.
Netflix called the cast of the film (which obviously meant the male protagonists), the ‘Dream Team’ in the description of the trailer, yes, clearly, without even the names of the women being mentioned in the title or the description. The audacity!
To make it worse, the first dialogue of the trailer, which is the voice over of a man contains the phrase “Janam hum bhi toh dete hain, jaise usne diya” (We give birth too, just like he does)
Again reminding us that religion is just another male ministry, which makes religion to me a fucked up concept, because if lionesses can be the primary hunters of the group, I am sure female divine power is equally worthy.
To add to it, we see a glimpse of four female characters – one of them being what seemed like a holy woman, drumroll for orientalist gaze and the exotic woman whose ‘powers surpass logical reasoning’ (seems like a dialogue some shady uncle would include in a wife joke on whatsapp) Her veiled and unseen face pans out for maybe 1 and a half second. You can see her glimpse for half a second in the trailer later on, a hazy glimpse.
The next is Bidita Bag, staring into the mirror while Kay Kay menon stares at her, male gaze, male gaze, the ship is slowly sinking and she tells him that he makes her ‘feel like Juliet’, giving the man all the power once again. This pans out for 2 and a half seconds.
The next woman again has 2 seconds devoted to her, where she talks about the man and reminds Ali Fazal how he forgot her despite his computer kind of memory. Again devoting her time to the man as the man gets violent a second later and tried to attack her because of his bruised ego (oh how new and original, didn’t know this was possible!)
The last of the women is Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor, who is given another 2 and a half seconds to scream at Harshvardhan Kapoor about his terrible acting (this is a part of the plot of the film, in case you were wondering lol) Again, it’s about the man and her worth in a trailer that defines the film becomes attached only to the man.
To come to the poster, we see the entire ‘dream team’ absorbed into it, with enough space to accommodate HD quality faces and bodies all the actors, while not a single actress could be fit in. This psychological thriller clearly has no space for women because apparently the women psyche could not have weaved itself into a ‘thrilling, mind blowing, plot’.
Till when will we have women characters justifying themselves, isn’t it time we have women characters who are beyond these adjectives of strong willed, determined or manipulative or righteous. How about someone who has something substantial and detailed, something as basic as giving them professions, not even asking for some very ‘hot shot’ technical terms (doesn’t mean women can’t handle it, they can whoop everyone’s asses there, but just that the film scripts becomes lazy when it comes to research around women) just give her a job man! Give her a life beyond men. Give her dialogues that aren’t replies to men or aren’t centered around them. Give us women who fuck up, it’s really okay.
But seriously another story where the entire cast is just full of men doing stuff while women remain in the shadows, background, and veils (quite literally in this case)?! And then they say, there is equality because women centric films hai na.
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