Picture Abhi Baqi Hai, Behena

Picture Abhi Baqi Hai, Behena

1.3 billion Indians have been touched by Bollywood at some point of their existence. The Hindi film industry is significantly connected to the way talent is discovered and promoted both formally and informally in the country. From weddings to devotional songs, films permeate every cultural facet of an Indian’s live. We just can’t get enough of Bollywood’s glitz and glamour. Period!!

Films are a portal into another world, a means of escapism, a fantastic fantasy that breaks the monotony of our mundane lives. For many cinema enthusiasts, it is a peek into a life they wished they had. The problem arises when the alternative peek is a rather narrow one -glorifying the six-pack demigods, their dance moves, their fight sequences. A failsafe movie plot in Bollywood is where the quintessential knight-in-shining armour rescues a damsel in distress. The heroine is a mere glamorous kidekick, with hardly any agency or aspirations of her own, often reduced to her physical attributes. The mixture for a blockbuster hit involves exotic locales, catchy songs laced with innuendos or objectifying the heroine, ridiculous dance moves that will soon become all the rage in wedding parties that year, fancy costumes reserved mostly to make the heroine look dramatic and desirous while the hero sits comfortably in his jeans and jackets, even some dialogues only add to the impression of the other world-view. What is wrong with a nice little Bollywood entertainer? You ask. These films neither take you all the way to a new reality nor do they depict a more realistic present. They somehow seem to limit their mandate on being recreational rather than asking the uncomfortable truth in the society. How many blockbusters have broken the boy-meets-girl formula? Or given a twist to the ‘falling in love’ concept? Or even showing love from a woman’s POV? How many movies show the autonomous woman? Perhaps you can count the odd-ones-out on your fingertips.

Isn’t it time for Bollywood to progress? Why was Lipstick Under My Burkha seen as a path breaker (though not a ‘feminist’ movie as the director herself claims) - a mainstream movie that spoke of the desires of four women. With just a profit of Rs 11.45 crores, the movie became a super hit! Just look at the frenzy its media promotions created. Where are more of these female directors who are shifting the camera from the male gaze? Where are more of the female actors who give the female character an agency? Where are more of the women producers who are ready to fund medium-to-large budget movies from the lens of women? I would beg to differ with anyone claiming that Bollywood does not have any role to play in finding new talent in singing, dancing and comedy, but it does, Bollywood does not have a role to play in nation building, but it does. Why then does it not consider itself in shaping gender aspirations and roles? Or is it that it is just oblivious of the fact that it has the power to alter perspectives?

With the award for Best Film on Gender Equality within the Mumbai Film Festival, Oxfam India wants to showcase to the Bollywood industry that there is an urgent need to re-think Bollywood mainstream movies to show more gendered nuances. It is to invite more people and the audience within this dialogue on challenging the existing norms around which films are made and viewed. We are indeed fortunate that there are many within the Bollywood world who are ready to create an alternative reality.

Let us strive for a more gender equal world.

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