An open letter to bollywood

Dear Bollywood

Customary conversational etiquette requires me to address you as ‘Dear’ , though this letter is going to be anything but friendly. It shall address a lot of antediluvian issues and a thorough critique of your malfunctioning , of all those things which are at fault and which you very conveniently choose to obliviate. I will talk loud and clear about what one of the most stupendous industries of the world is offering us and what we , as audiences need to question and ponder over. If you are a viewer like me , who spends large amounts of money and seeks abode for three hours in that movie theatre , only to be appalled at your 5 year old crooning the new chartbuster item song , this letter should gravely concern you too. Therefore, stay until the very end.

Sexism comes very naturally to you , isn’t it? In a country where patriarchal tendencies are so deeply rooted , we can atleast expect the cinema to show us an alternative way of life , an alternative way of the world. It is generally said that in India , people blindly trail 3 things — Cricket, Cinema and Politics. I hope you are well aware of the massive amount of impact you have on a general viewer’s life. When was the last time you portrayed ‘the lesser sex’ in a strong and unyielding character ? Sure , we have had movies like ‘ Mardani ‘ , ‘Pink’ and ‘ Kahani’ which all assert women in a forceful character, but let’s accept how less are such movies. It’s 2017 going on and all you show us over and over again ( with different pretty faces and different production houses , ofcourse) is a man wooing ( read : stalking ) a woman , some goons posing a multitude of obstacles in between and a happy ending that culminates in the marriage of the couple. A major problem I have with you is the way not even you , with all your well educated and elite writers and directors, seem to have any problem whatsoever with how women who are subjected to barbaric crimes such as rape/molestation are treated in the society. Her ‘izzat ‘seems to have been passed into nothingness, as if once a woman is subjected to a demonish crime such as rape, her honor passes away too. Does it , now ? Or you can set a different example by bringing home the notion that it’s the rapist who loses all his honor and not the other way round. As a woman of this country , yes I definitely have a problem with the notions of feminity portrayed by you.

There always is the idea of what constitutes an ideal female. Let us take a walk down the memory lane and visit one of the highest grossing films ever made , ‘ Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. Does it not strike as odd to you that SRK ‘s character does not fall in love with Kajol’s character when she is all funky and tomboyish in college but when a few years elapse and we meet a different Kajol, with long hair , wearing Saree and fulfilling the criteria of a perfect woman, Rahul leaves no stone unturned in explaining his undying love for Anjali. Is it only the cessation of the other woman in his life or is there a subtle hint of quintessential female traits ? A tomboyish girl isn’t entitled to a man ‘s love ? Come on , Mr Johar ,we expected better!

Music , unquestionably is your soul. When was a successful movie ever made without creating some buzz beforehand with its chartbusters ? And therein lies my next problem, the objectification of women in ‘item songs ‘. First things first , the very nomenclature of this genre of songs is very problematic to me. In times when women are sweating it out across the world for gender equality, these songs render women to the position of an ‘item’ , an object and nothing else.There is a blatant objectification of women in movies. All this is justified on the grounds of commercial cinema and monetary needs. The lyrics are such that they render a woman into a mere sex symbol, even though sex is an act which calls for the participation of two adults. The song ‘ gandi baat’ from R Rajkumar was heavily criticised for the vulgarity of its lyrics and profaneness. The worst part is that since people tend to follow their superstars in all they do , such lewd songs become an excuse when a woman is stalked because the man can always get away by saying that it was just a song. The apparent glorious act of stalking becomes the crime of Eve teasing in the actual world. Unfortunately, misogyny and objectification sells and reaps benefits and you contribute to it.

While filmmaking is the collaborative effort of an array of people, the fact that it’s the male actor always who walks away with accolades worries me. Ofcourse, the Khans are homologous to your name today and more than anything else, it’s their name that sells. Not the story , not the script , not the direction, simply their name. A movie with absolutely no script whatsoever like ‘ Bodyguard ‘ smoothly enters into the 100 crore club, while a movie like ‘ Lunch Box ‘ doesn’t, due to the lack of stars. Will this hierarchy ever end ? When it comes to the actors’ pay , we all know well enough how the gender hierarchy takes the forefront , again. Female actors are always paid considerably low than their male counterparts. Why ?

I recently finished reading ‘ An Unsuitable Boy’s by Karan Johar and it made this point clearer. For the uninitiated, Johar mentions an instance back during the filming of ‘ Kal Ho Na Ho’ . Kareena Kapoor was initially asked to play the role which later fell in the lap of Preity Zinta. Kareena demanded the same amount of money as SRK was being offered, and Johar , in his own words ,’ was hurt by this demand ‘. A woman demanding a reasonable amount for her hard work is sure to hurt patriarchy and This is not the case with anyone in particular, but the fraternity in general. The day male and female actors are paid the same amount is far , far away.You , with all your power and influence can alter this trend , if you want to.

We are reaching the conclusion of this letter and I hope I have been able to make my point clear to you. Within the 100 years of your inception, there have been probably only a few instances where you have radically took a stance on challenging patriarchy per se. We all too well remember what ‘Bhai’ said about raped women. Comparing his fatigue after a day at the wrestling ring , he ‘ used to feel like a raped woman ‘. As a person who is alwsys under the public eye and has such a devoted amount of stans , it is too appalling to listen to him making this illogical comparison. What’s more contemptible is the fact that nobody could raise their voice against this obnoxious remark. Perhaps , we are all well aware of what Bhai is capable of.When Sona Mohapatra actually did say something against him , she was threatened with rape on social media and nobody out of your fraternity came out to support her.

I hope this letter has conveyed what I sought to, from the lustful remarks on women on the big screen to the various hierarchies. Times are changing and you have proved your potential with promising movies lately such as ‘ ‘Pink’, ‘ Dangal’ and ofcourse, SS Rajamouli ‘s magnum opus , ‘ Bahubali’. I will put the pen away with the belief that women don’t remain merely ‘ damsels in distress ‘ and ‘ eye candies’ on screen and the next time I write a letter to you , it is about your appraisal and not about another grievance which may have sprung up due to a stereotypical representative of a class or community. Au Revoir, Bollywood!

Yours

A vigilant viewer
 — Isha

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