While the West has 'Wonder Woman' and 'Black Widow', we have 'Shaktiman' and 'Krrish'. Where are the Indian woman superheroes?
While the West has ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Black Widow’, we have ‘Shaktiman’ and ‘Krrish’. Where are the Indian woman superheroes?
Cinema is a reflection of society, and sometimes society also picks up from cinema. We have ‘Shaktiman’ and ‘Krrish’ but no woman superheroes! The closest we got was perhaps ‘Nagina’. In fact, the brave women in Piku & Thappad fighting for their basic rights are the woman superheroes we get! But they are busy saving themselves, not saving the world. Is it a reflection of society, East vs West?
(S begins the argument as follows…)
From ‘Wonder Woman’ to ‘Black Widow’, Hollywood seems to be getting the ‘superheroine’ formula right these days. Which makes me wonder, why we never had a ‘desi’ counterpart to them?
Sure, we have had many male superheroes. We have got your ‘Krishh’ (I’ve messed up the ‘r’s and the ‘h’-es haven’t I?),’Chhota Bheem’ for the kiddos. In fact, way back in the DD era, we had ‘Shaktiman’ and ‘Mr. India’.
Fact-checking myself? A quick google search tells me that there were characters called ‘Shakti’ and ‘Devi’ based on mythological characters. Well, I don’t quite know whether they count or not. First of all, I had never heard of them. Yes, it might be my fault in being culturally lacking. But neither had my kid or her friends heard of them. (Have you heard of them? Has anyone…)
So until I saw their miniature toys, a bobblehead or something, I did not know they existed. Further, we can not keep relying only on mythology to inspire us. Sure, even in those times we had some really strong, fierce, and amazing Goddesses! I mean, riding a lion, come on! But nobody since.
The likeliest candidate who comes to mind is ‘Nagina’. And she wasn’t even a real superhero. Yes, Sridevi made her pretty iconic. But she was not there to right any wrongs (except her own) or save the world, was she? Sigh.
Where did we go wrong, R?
S, don’t even get me started on where we have gone wrong as far as women are concerned! And hoping to stick to the issue on the table, well the ‘West’ has had two or three generations of truly independent women, at least relative to India.
Girls did not lose out on education because of their gender. Women were and are well protected by the law in case of abuse or divorce or both!
Women still might be primary caretakers as far as kids are concerned but there is a stark difference in what men contribute towards the household, comparing India to the West.
Women can choose careers over marriage if they wanted to, and none of the apparently ‘well-wishing’ aunts would sneer and mock. Well probably because the aunts had the same choices too!
Women are shown fighting for their basic rights, not saving the world!
Movies are reflective of society, and India is still not there yet to see woman superheroes. We are still at that stage where we appreciate movies that have women fighting for their basic rights.
For example, in Piku we saw a modern woman who chose to be with her father over marriage. A father who was pretty comfortable with his daughter having relationships outside marriage. That is what ‘Indian modern’ looks like.
Or the protagonist in ‘Thappad‘ who decides to file divorce from an otherwise ‘functional marriage’ because her husband had slapped her at a party. And of course, the family did not think the singular act was worthy of divorce and did not support her decision. Because she stood for the divorce against all odds, she became our superheroine.
When women still have such hurdles to cross, the thought of a female character that could pull off a Ra.One or a Bahubali, will probably never have crossed the minds of our filmmakers.
And suppose they did try to create a female superhero, are we ready to accept one?
Short answer: yes. Girls are ready to have a GIRL superhero! Someone they can identify with. Someone with their ethnicity.
Yes, as a society we do have a lot of catching up to do. A lot! But that doesn’t mean our next generations should not get a head start! Television and cinema are just the right medium for this. They reach all levels of society and influence people like nothing else.
Take ‘Skater girl’ for example. It is the perfect eye-opener for a lot of girls who would have been otherwise sceptical of taking up a sport like skateboarding. And to think the story has realistic roots as well.
As I type this, my daughter is busy with her own game. She is ‘PowerMana,’ a play on her nickname, a superhero with a (stuffed) puppy sidekick who is unstoppable as she takes on all kinds of imaginary foes from mean bullies to invading aliens.
All kids need to believe, girls especially, that they can fight off ‘the bad guys’ on their own, rather than waiting for someone to save them. Having that belief is half the battle won.
I think the time is right. For us to get our female superheroes. I (and PowerMana) cannot wait!
We are an author duo who love writing together. We have written a couple of books together, Tete a tete with R&S and Anu and Isha. read more...
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Guest Blogger Rita Banerji is a writer and photographer. She’s the author of Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies, a historical look at how India’s perceptions of gender, sex and sexuality have led to the ongoing female genocide. She’s also the founder of The 50 Million Missing, an online campaign to raise awareness about India’s female genocide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com Twitter handle: @rita_banerji
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