Women and Women of ‘Bollywood’

The Ideal

I was very small when I had thought that ‘good girls’ are like Tina, who value their culture no matter what, and in return, they get to marry a handsome and charming guy like Rahul. Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai also taught me to never behave like Anjali from the first half otherwise I’ll spend my life offering Rahul just an orange juice. I also learned that you can still try to be an ideal woman. Just start wearing sarees and you too will eventually marry Rahul, definitely not because Rahul is a problematic man.

Hero showing the parameters of being an ‘ideal woman’ to the heroine.

But sadly, being a middle-class kid in an Indian family, I was an Anjali, with a bob cut, t-shirts, and pressure of being perfect in everything, from academics to sports and extracurricular. But in my heart, I always dreamt to be a Tina, until I was introduced to Geet.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Geet, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl was the best type. You just have to be free, till someone breaks your heart and then you just have to wait for a man to come and help you fly again. So cute……………. Manic Pixies are rebels. They do everything a man does but also value the family and marry when the family says. She values, She understands but more than anything, she excites!

Manic Pixie Dream Girl is wearing summer clothes in winters, waiting for the hero to give his sweater.

Manic Pixie Dream Girls don’t actually work. They are educated, but they study so that they can become ideal homemakers after marriage. They wear smart, fashionable clothes and walk around speaking fluent English which can alone bring thousands of men an orgasm. I always wanted to be the woman that was written by a man for men. Isn’t that the best way to be? To be an inspiration, to help a man become a rockstar, a CEO, a free soul and then just die of an illness happily ever after?

I see everyone talking about Tara from Tamasha being the best female character ever written in a male protagonist driven film as she was there when no one was. She stood by Ved, made him realize how he is not the person he thinks he is. She was humiliated, but that’s okay. The fact that she didn’t complain about humiliation by a spineless man who needed help more than he needed ‘inspiration’ makes her so special. Every man desires to meet Tara in his life.

Visual representation of manic pixie dream-girl holding on to a toxic man.

Seems like Imtiaz Ali has not met enough women in life as he was busy writing about the hopeless, sad, passionate men. Literally all his films are surreal, literally.

But as I said, Manic Pixie Dream Girls don’t actually work since they don’t really exist. I have substance, I have my own experiences which make me who I am. Not every woman has a caring family, not every woman has a stable financial background. Not every woman is privileged and more than that, women aren’t privileged as compared to men. No other gender is as privileged as men. How can all of us even be Manic Pixie Dream Girls when we can’t even do whatever we want to and the crime rates against women are so high in the world?

Bollywood forgets about this, every time. It is a dream making factory. It makes you fantasize over what you can be and it’s never about capability. It’s about sensuality, of either femininity or masculinity. It’s 2019 and we must realize that Bollywood objectifies. It does because it’s business more than art.

‘Ideal woman’ with eye-catching bright red Sindoor and Mangalsutra

For the longest period, we didn’t talk about women’s sexuality, or we did. We teased the male audience by using women’s sexuality inappropriately. We fetishized Sindoor and Mangalsutra. And now that we do talk about women’s sexuality, we don’t seem to look past it. We only keep talking about orgasms, masturbation, and vaginas amongst a group of 3 or 4 privileged women in every other film or web series. It’s as unusual as not talking about it at all.

The Man

As I grew older, I started to understand that that’s not how women are in reality. I got myself hungover on Chak De India, tried to be athletic and failed poorly but the real essence of women was in being masculine like men. I couldn’t do it alone. I needed a coach like Kabir Khan to tell the men that

humaari hockey mai chhakke nahi hote

and be extremely transphobic while trying to practice feminism like a boss. I had finally understood that in order to be feminist, I’ll need a man to uplift me, someone, who will save me and be the father figure.

Poster of Bhoomi with Bhoomi’s father on it.

The father played by Sanjay Dutt in Bhoomi is unable to ‘save’ his daughter from getting assaulted several times, but even after that, it’s a film about how a father saved the daughter from the goondas and ironically titled as the daughter’s name.

Dangal, a film about ‘father’ of two girls.

In between all this, Bollywood surprisingly produced the female characters which were individual personalities who stood up for themselves, did what they wanted to do and some of them proved that marriage isn’t the solution to every problem in a woman’s life. Tabu’s character in Astitva left her home after her husband disapproved of the illegitimate child. Nothing really masculine there but how realistic and the right kind of inspirational.

In recent times, we saw Piku and her straightforwardness towards how she does not need a man in her life and is capable of taking care of her father alone. Devi, in Masaan, belonged to a rather weaker economic background and we see her deal through trauma, grief, and misery alone and she succeeds beautifully as she gets a government job eventually. Rani, in Queen, grew a spine while getting over heartbreak and learned there is more to see in the world than a man’s face.

So, now what Bollywood?

But the question is, how much have we evolved? Bollywood is way ahead of its Indie films which aren’t watched by everyone. The commercial films that make money, which are about business, how much have those films changed? We still have item numbers. It is 2019 and we still believe in contouring and padding women’s breasts and make them dance on songs about sexuality and as soon as we do that, we don’t miss a moment to tell the viewers that such women only and only exist in brothels.

We don’t have character-driven films for women. That’s why a few which we have are labeled as ‘female-centric’ as if it’s a species. With this, Bollywood itself agrees to the inequality it has.

Still from English Vinglish, the ‘female-centric’ film.

We saw Meeta in Hasee Too Phasee, Aisha in Wake Up Sid, both Dharma commercial films that had strong female characters and that flopped. The audience too has to change. Most filmgoers believe in watching the film without questioning it. Most filmgoers belong to a financially stable class who are able to buy popcorns at multiplexes. They don’t have time to complain. They have jobs to do and most importantly, they are at ease with patriarchy. Not all of them are the ‘feminist types’ and those who are, well those are those ‘feminist types.

Aisha, the ‘feminist-types’

Radhika Madan’s new film Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota is going to release very soon and a very interesting trailer is making rounds where Radhika is seen talking about what her role in the film is like. Her character Supri is a Ninja Warrior and you should really watch her in this trailer.

With Bollywood telling me what and how I should be a woman with every Friday release, I have finally understood that it’s high time I challenge the dream making factory by becoming an interestingly normal individual with capability and substance who doesn’t need Bollywood’s advice.

Pranjal Asha
Pranjal Asha

Pranjal loves to photograph & likes to believe she is in the 80s. Her special qualities include praising A.R. Rahman & Amol Palekar 24x7.

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