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GENDER BIAS, Thy Name Is Indian Cinema

Katrina-KaifTheme: Bollywood Actresses. Women in Indian Cinema.

Cinema is the most powerful medium. It can pack the worst things into the best packing and sell them to the eyes of viewers. The messages conveyed through the films remains live on viewers’ mental spaces for long. After seeing a film when a viewer goes home, he/she carries with him/her a message the filmmakers overtly or covertly had communicated through the visual effects.

Katrina Kaif, Indian Actress

A viewer returning from a theatre filters all the images seen and tries to sort out the elements of pleasure the crowd had adored. Coupled with the message of ‘be a conformist and remain happy forever’, they arrive on a premise that if they want to be happy, they need to be followers of the old traditions. Thus the cinema overtly or covertly professes for the orthodoxy.

The Traditional Films: The term ‘orthodoxy’ has several meanings. But in general it refers to the observance of the beliefs of older generations, without testifying them under the lenses of reason. These beliefs which are not rationally justified but are imposed by some overseeing body. Somemes this phenominon is known as dogma, too. The term dogam refer to the incidences of intellectual bancraptcy wherein we deny reason to be taken as primary basis of authority In this age of enlightenment everywhere, it is irony of our entertainment industry that the films having unconventional ideas go bankrupt. On ticket windows these films, made by keeping true modernity in focus, have measurably failed to get attention of the people.

The New Wave Cinema: However some innovative souls had stepped out of the main road and had produced films with a different perspective. The films like ‘Arth’, ‘Mirch Masala’, and ‘God Mother’ were among them. These films depicted, especially, the women’s unusual responses to the challenges they face in life. In ‘Arth’ the woman protagonist denies to remarry after an unhappy ending of her first marriage. In a novel production ‘Mirch Masala’, the collective strength of women fights with the dominant forces present in our society. In ‘God Mother’, the woman protagonist acts with an altered vision. She resorts to reciprocal violence after her husband is murdered.

These films have successfully indexed some of the challenges the present day women flock face in Indian society. They have also tried to show the genuine responses given by women to the various challenges they were subjected to face. But these films are too small in number to create any impact. Whereas to suppress any innovative ideas, there are crowd of ‘Hum Apke Hai Kaun’ and hundreds of other films like that. In this film a modern gilr is requred to sacrifice her love for keeping the old values alive. And the people adorn her while she agrees to marry a widower. Such concepts, when presented through cinema, throttles the voice of genuine responses. It silences the emerging voices. For that reason, perhaps, no one dares to be unconventional.

The Visionary Film Directors: In past the film directors having a transformed vision in their eyes, courage to deviate from the safe roads, and of course having rich pockets, have tried their hands on issues truely relevant to the society. They tried making society modern and thinking one. While becoming honest to the depicted themes of the social issues, they had shown new ideas like women's participation in major happenings on the screen. the depicted the importance of rural life, too.

The film like ‘Mother India’ can be named as representative of such a trend. Film actor and director Raj Kapoor tried to connect the films with people’s life and ideas. He took a trial walk on a social street, adjacent to a communist main road. Though some of his films had revolutionary looks, but he could not help much. In his films the protagonist always remained a male character, ultimately succumbing to the old and acceptable traditions. They may argue that the cinema is the mirror of a society. But this argument fails on a premise that the art is to enhance the thinking of people and not leading them to surrender to the age-old orthodoxy.

Were we to show the elements of emerging freedom, we should show the changes in social attitudes and the challenges the men and women encounter in everyday life. Reform is the mantra of the day. By reforming the traditions we can cultivate the power of adaptation among citizens. And once equipped with adaptability, the people of India can be led to new and refined political structure. And this new structure, the true democratic structure, would lead to economic prosperity, too. The makers of cinemas in India should take these factors in consideration while undertaking any new project. God Bless India. (Image courtesy By www.bollywoodhungama.com ([1]) [CC-BY-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons)
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