These actresses said ‘NO’ to stereotype to alter the lenses of Bollywood
 Source : News Bharati English  Date : 23-Mar-2016

The idol Indian women in Hindi cinema are changing to suite the changes in the society. Slowly and silently, the character or role given to woman is changing in popular cinema. They are now shown as real and contemporary characters. They have stopped cribbing and staying in the ‘good women’ suite and are experimenting with grey. The woman in today’s cinema is more as an entertainer than like a prop. Now the women has found a balance between being traditional and hard working, not like earlier times when a modern women would only wear good cloths but wasn’t never shown in a kitchen or cleaning floor. 

The women in Bollywood cinema is lacking its balance, as in after some crime if the criminal turns out to be a woman the whole society becomes negative towards her. It is expected that she should maintain the dilemma of Indian womanhood because that is her soul identity. Regional cinema plays the main role in reinforcement of such role in media. The impact of these teachings is that accept marital violence as something acceptable and normal.  

However, as India is more inclined towards a masculine and a conservative culture, the major commercial hits are always the ones with men in lead roles and if a woman is the main protagonist, the movies are not commercially successful even though they are critically acclaimed.

Characterization of Women in Indian Cinema

A factor common to all regional industries and Bollywood is the unrealistic and stereotyped portrayal of women. New and contemporary storywriters are trying also the times are changing and the barriers or limitations of role zone are pushed. In addition, the women in Bollywood is open about experimenting new challenging roles, which is making them crowd puller as well. 

Fundamental forces at home try to erase spaces of difference and possible interventions and construct a monolithic representation of gender equality. The process of globalization simplifies image making and isolating it from social context.  
The kind of impact Bollywood has on Indian audience, it continuously threatens the efforts and intervene with a difference, which is the only survival strategy in the end.

The flesh business of heroin in Indian cinema is unnecessary including the item number plot for crowd puller giving women stereotype roles. The irrelevant item songs in between movies not just annoyed the story line but also gave a negative image of women.  

Audience adopts the idea and saw heroin just for sheer sexual pleasure giving more importance to hero. This negative image building also hampers the reel life of the actor as they are created with same ‘item girl’ ideology.  

There were other grounds also found have an impact on the audiences mind, which in turn manipulates their thinking towards the item girls, this was found by grasping the study with Cultivation theory by Gerbner.

Women go through many changes throughout the life, biological and physiological but the movies play with the minds of women’s desirable body image.  Socio-cultural factors change due to presentation of perfectly toned bodies in movies, as they are shown only way to be a desirable partner. Hence, some women in India feel demined and some strive hard to get that toned body. Women go through crash diets to get into shapes of famous heroin, ignoring the fact that those heroins have well trained experts to guide through the tunnel. The outer beauty is given more importance than the inner goodness.  

The restricted role zones

Although there is a shift of role given to female actors in Bollywood, still Directors like Sooraj Barjatya strive and retain the Indian value by sticking to traditional customs and life of women in his direction.  With Bollywood being a big successful industry, the female characters played in their movies allow Indian women to relate themselves easily with these female characters.  

It is thus possible to view the cinema as a genuine symbol for society and this perception helps to understand the society in a better way. Movies and society share synergy of political philosophies, social values, group behaviors, speeches and dresses. The role played by women in Indian cinema serves as a role model for their viewers that give fewer opportunities to initiate changes.

The dance and violence is a trump card in Hindi cinema. Like in movie, Mohra where a character named Rita’s rape scene is shoot in the most sensual way. Her rapist is chasing her into a bathroom. On the wall behind her, we see a number of pin-ups of semi-nude women. She falls to her knees in front of the Jacuzzi thereby providing another pin-up image and then slips into the water providing the ultimate wet-clothing schoolboy fantasy.

An item song in Bollywood movies is a distraction point from the plot, wherein the female actor is total stranger and is absolutely for show business. She is not even remotely related to story line, but it is a primary source for the generation of publicity and generally regarded as a marketing apparatus.  

The revealing clothes, loud music and obscene dance movements that sexually objectify female body is to attract audience and demine the gender. From “choli ke peeche kya hai” to latest “Chipka le saiyyan Fevicol se”, lyrics, these item numbers represent women as objects. Surely, this is an example of creativity, but a song and dance sequence showing a woman being haunted and wooed by a group of men is ironical.  

Hugo Munsterberg’s ‘Inner-Outer’ reality 

There are two aspects to cinema, the outer and inner aspects. These are relational aspects and when they relate to each other cinema happens.

So, ultimately what you take with you after seeing a film is experience. That is what Hugo Munsterberg is saying. Cinema is in the mind than physical. Cinema creates an alternate reality through photo play. And that photo play is the game of light and shadow.
Munsterberg's history of film is divided cleanly between what he calls film's "outer" and "inner" developments, between the technological history of the medium and the evolution of society's uses of that medium.

The outer reality is your brain, your physical reality, what you see on the screen, the light and shadow. The inner reality is your own life, your own reality and how do you relate this reality with the outer reality. That is cinema.  

The movie ‘Piku’ hit lots of heart because the portrayal of the leading lady was not dramatized like other bollywood character. The way Piku was irritated with his father because his continuous cribbing nature and yet she couldn’t neglect her feeling for his father and so the dilemma of her irritation and her parental duty created a drama which connected people and the female audience could relate with it.

Especially today when every woman is into working culture and their life is divided into work pressure and their personal life, something like this would definitely create stress and the balance is lost. So the inner reality and the cinema walked in parallel rotes which easily convinced the audience.

Society and Cinema’s love affair

It is society’s craving for information, education and entertainment that allows cinema to exist at all. When Anushka Sharma made her maiden production venture NH10, she said that during her review after the movie launched the production team when to rural areas to see how the audience reacted. “The male audience started clapping and whistling the moment the lady protagonist took the rod and hit the goons who killed her husband”

We always hear Bollywood directors’ saying that we adapt from the society and we see some Physiatrists say that most of the offences happen when people get inspirited from the wrong doings that is been shown in dark movies.

In a vain society where a well-rounded, curvaceous figure is regarded as a supreme embodiment of female beauty, where her bust line holds more value than her brain and her emotions, this hard-hitting film questions the projection of women as sex objects in Indian society.

The launch of ‘Women Oriented’ roles

Everyone is applauding the change of in depiction of female protagonist in Bollywood today, but its seeds were sown in 80’ with release of ‘Paroma’ acted by Aparna Sen. Today, directors like Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair and Meghna Gulzar are upright enough to depict ‘taboo topics’ like lesbianism, polygamy and even surrogate motherhood, where its woman who takes the lead role in proposing, making love and even in deciding to “lease” her womb without the permission of her husband-to-be!   

Roles where mainly categorized as submissive wives, mother, sister, a vamp, sexy girlfriend who is overall polite and caters male partner‘s desires of what a perfect women should be. “Epic prototypes like Sita, Draupati and Savitri, who cater to the patriarchal fantasy of what a women, should be like, overrule the feminist character traits of Goddesses Kali and Durga, translating that to popular culture in general and mainstream Indian cinema”, says Researcher Richa Agarwal.  

Cinema is meant to help people escape from their daily grind of life and entertain for those few hours. Indian cinema has been successful in portraying Indian women of different shades but based on the patriarchal values. Cinema is believed to relax people and splurge in the lights and sound of few well performing actors, which means there is a considerable attention. This attention of people influences them and when there is a stereotype character of women they then to believe it to be reality.  

Although many Indian movies are influenced by Hollywood adoptions, still they have to blend the story according to Indian taste. In this process the women roles gets disturbed because the western culture is different from that of India and the essence of character is changed. Therefore, the movie of same movie in west is differently portrayed than that of India’s release.

But it was the films released in the first decade of the 21st century that redefined the Indian woman in the world of cinema. From movies like Astitva, Lajja, Chandani Bar and Page 3 in the early years to Dor, Turning 30, Fashion and No One Killed Jessica in the latter half of the Noughties, their characters were as strong as that of the male protagonists. Although, there is no particular way of portraying the Indian woman onscreen in Indian cinema, it is very evident that their roles run parallel to the roles women get to play in the society at particular points in time. 

Movies that played stepping stone:- 

Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

“Emperor Akbar was so enamoured of her ravishing beauty that he named her “Anarkali”, meaning “pomegranate blossom”, for her flushing red complexion.”  

The rebel that we see on silver screen is not of today; Madhubala had portrayed the ‘rebel’ way back in 1960 when she played the moonlit gorgeous lady ‘Anarkali’. Love is about cast creed and dynasty is what we learnt from brace hearted lover that Anarkali was.

Emperor Akbar’s eldest and heir apparent, Prince Salim, fell in love with Anarkali, but his father did not approve of the relations between the two. The dancer was of low birth and not fit to be the queen of the future emperor of Hindustan. The lovers ignored Emperor Akbar’s disapproval and continued to meet clandestinely. Unable to punish his own son, Akbar took his wrath out on Anarkali and sentenced her to death by being bricked alive in a wall.  

Guide (1965)

Waheeda Rehman was really nervous when she was offered Guide, because that time her competitors where doing hits and dancing, romancing in beautiful love story. She felt that society was not ready for such grey character. 

"When I signed 'Guide', my colleagues in the industry said that I was doing a big mistake. They even said that this might be my last film because that was the phase when actresses in the industry were portrayed as submissive women. We used to do love stories or family dramas where women were ideal in every role”, she said.

But luckily, she had an open mind and took the project because it was a film and not real life. Her character was an inspiration for as it showed different ways of life in a women’s life after she losses her husband. “When the film became a hit and everyone found my character interesting, I remember those same colleagues sent me telegrams appreciating my performance," 

Ankur (1974)  

Ankur is a film that analyzes human behavior in general and heavily stresses characterization though the story is not fictional. The story revolves around two characters, Lakshmi and Surya. Ankur is also there. There is a servant, Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi), an attractive young woman. She belongs to the untouchable caste so those of other caste never touch or eat the food that she cooks except for Surya, who is attracted to Lakshmi.  

It was the first feature film directed by Shyam Benegal and the debut of Indian actors Shabana Azmi and Anant Nag. Anant Nag was introduced in Ankur by Shyam Benegal after his higher education in Mumbai. The film was shot in Hyderabad. Though Shabana Azmi had acted in other films as well, Ankur was her first release. Like many of Benegal's other films, Ankur belongs to the genre of Indian art films, or more precisely, Indian Parallel cinema.  

Sholay (1975)

This movie has been a milestone in the history of Indian Cinema for many reasons, but the role of Hema Malini as ‘Basanti’ is something worth an appreciation. Basanti becomes the sole earner of her family and also seen fighting with the goons. The movie was way ahead of time in the way women is shown on silver screen.   

Embeded Object

Arth (1982)

Sabhana Azmi has played many women oriented stories but the one in Arth has got several layers in it. How to find meaning in life when every factor takes a reverse turn? She lost her husband, house and the very sole purpose to live, but hardly had she known that life has many more shades. 

Mirch Masala (1987)

The film is set in Colonial India in the early 1940s. The plot begins with an arrogant subedar played by Naseeruddin Shah local tax collector in colonial India and his henchmen rampaging through a village. The subedar has an eye for women and soon spots Sonbai played by Smita Patil on the riverbank. Sonbai is an intelligent, beautiful and strong woman. Her confidence intrigues the subedar.

The subedar orders his soldiers to charge the factory, and they smash down the door. Abu Mian manages to shoot one of the soldiers, but he is shot dead immediately after. The subedar enters the factory and tries to grab Sonbai. The women of the factory mount a sudden and surprising defense. They attack the subedar with fistfuls of mirch masala (fresh ground red chilli powder). The film ends with the subedar on his knees, screaming in pain as the chilli burns his face and eyes.

Khoon Bhari Mang (1988)

After few months of, horribly disfigured attack on Aarti, she decides to return to her city and avenge herself and her family. She exchanges her expensive diamond earrings for a huge amount of money, using the money to pay for extensive plastic surgery, and becomes a stunningly beautiful woman, very different from her earlier self.  

Aarti then changes her name to Jyoti and finds a job as a model in the same agency where Nandini works as well. Now a new person with a new identity, her goal is to conquer Sanjay as a stranger, and kill him in the same way as he had tried to kill her. Aarti, now "reincarnated" as Jyoti, goes on a dangerous journey of murder and revenge, and she will not be satisfied until she regains her home, family and dignity.   

Black (2005)

Sanjay Leela Bansali is a brand of Magnum Opus, his detailing and depth of storytelling is wide spread. A stubborn teacher helps a deaf and blind girl Michelle, explore her potential as she takes on the challenge of becoming a college graduate is the gist of Black.

The film was screened at the Casablanca Film Festival and the International Film Festival of India. It won the Filmfare Award for best film. Time Magazine selected the film as one of the 10 Best Movies of the Year 2005 from around the globe. The movie was positioned at number five. India times Movies ranks the movie amongst the 25 must See Bollywood Films. The film was premiered in the Marché du Film section of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.  

Queen (2013)

Rani is a typical Delhi girl who is studying home-science and works part-time in her father's sweet-shop. She is indulge in her very own fairy-tale where she is about to marry the prince Vijay. But soon her fairy-tale is struck with reality when Vijay rejects her just a day before their wedding.  

Rani is heart-broken and decides that to be out of this whole mess she needs a time of her own. So Rani plans to go on her honeymoon alone in Paris. Then on, whole up-down adventures happening on her trip makes her realize that she is much more than only being a typical house-wife for Vijay and that she can live her life fully and enjoy it without any worries.   

Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Everyone knows Bajirao 1, who fought over 41 major battles and many others, is reputed never to have lost a battle. But the part Mastani played in his life is inevitable as well. Just when u think Deepika cannot get any better she comes up Mastani, the warrior princess. Mastani was outcaste from Bajirao’s home because she was a Muslim Princess, although she used to go for war accompanied with Peshwa.  

But she becomes the nurturer for the son and his husband, demanding nothing and giving everything. From being a beautiful dancer to a warrior and then a mother, Mastani was potryaed just parallel to the warrior himself. These things connect in today’s time when the culture of dual-earner is so prominent, but seeing something like this happening back then is really appealing.