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Shamita Shetty’s New Film Shows How ‘Sanskaari’ Housing Societies Harass Single Women

Any single Indian woman who has tried to rent a home has probably encountered this: brokers with conditions, RWAs laying down draconian rules, long lists of dos and don’ts. Women choosing to live life on their own terms just seems to rattle a lot of people.

In popular imagination, Shamita Shetty is better known as the lesser known Shetty sister. Shilpa Shetty’s younger sister has been a Hindi film actor since 2000 and has appeared in several TV shows like Bigg Boss. She is now making a film comeback with The Tenant.

The movie promises to look at the trials and tribulations single Indian women, especially those who want to live life on their own terms, face – particularly from housing societies – that microcosm of our ‘sanskari’ society.

The film releases on 10 February 2023 and the trailer is out now.

The Tenant trailer starring Shamita Shetty

Big sister Shilpa Shetty shared an excited tweet about it.

https://twitter.com/TheShilpaShetty/status/1615602956518445058

The trailer narrates the story of a single woman and many of the issues that single women typically face. So we have an independent woman who clearly wants to live life on her own terms, who rents a flat in what appears to be a typical Indian housing society.

We see all the usual suspects: the curious but disapproving homemakers, the lascivious, voyeuristic uncles, the randy stalker-teens, all expressing interest in their own ways. In the midst of this we see what appears to be the blossoming of an unlikely friendship.

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‘True nature of human beings’

The film claims to examine the true nature of human beings. In fact, from the trailer the film does seem to explore the prurient nature of interest people often have in their neighbour’s lives, and the typically little hypocrisies of society.

We see the men salaciously discussing the woman, women who claim to know “women like that”, young boys clueless about consent. Hopefully the film will do justice to a serious topic and the intractable issues that young women face in our society.

Unique problems single Indian women face

Any single Indian woman who has tried to rent a home has probably encountered this: brokers with conditions, RWAs laying down draconian rules, long lists of dos and don’ts. The social disapproval of single women is very obvious in these situations. Women choosing to live life on their own terms just seems to rattle a lot of people.

Image source: Screen grab from NYT article

A recent New York Times article examines the kind of hurdles single Indian women face and how these restrict and circumscribe their choices and activities. It also explains how these social structures (and strictures) hamper women’s ability to become economically empowered.

A male dominated economy

Image source: LFPR of women

The Labour Force Participation Rate of Indian women is abysmal; in spite of women enrolling into institutions of higher learning at record rates. So Indian women are educated, but less than 20% engage in paid work according to some reports. Contrast this with 62% women in China and 55% in the USA engaged in paid work.

Our social structures restrict the choices and limit the scope of women’s activities, claiming to ‘protect’ them and so called ‘family values’. For some reason, conservative segments of our society always seem threatened by independent women who are not afraid to express themselves; who want to live life on their own terms as The Tenant seems to show.

We are ‘The Country of First Boys’

Image source

High achieving men is a cultural obsession in India, says Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen; this is to the exclusion of women, their aspirations and their needs. Getting accommodation for single working women can be a nightmare and is an extension of this attitude.

Landlords, RWAs, hostels can be antagonistic to single women and typically need them to submit to a long list of restrictive and repressive rules. And then there is the judgement, disapproval, interference that these women have to live with…

Hopefully the trailer of the Shamita Shetty starrer The Tenant will be true to life and live up to its promise.

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