Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Women of Bollywood

Has anybody seen 'Dil To Pagal Hai'? 
Relax, thats a rhetorical question. OF COURSE, everyone has.
I saw the movie almost 14 years ago and yet, I clearly remember this dialogue:
Raj (played by Shahrukh Khan) is dreaming about his perfect muse,
"Uska naam hai...XYZ.." (Her name is..XYZ)
One of his dance troupe asks, "Lekin yeh XYZ karti kya hai?"(What does this girl do?)
"Sapne dekhti hai." (She dreams)

I remember being very annoyed. Is that it? She dreams?Thats, like, her job? And dances on verdant lawns wearing spotless chiffon dresses?

Bollywood has never been known for its deep characters; but its biggest crime is stereotyping women. It is very rare that any of the leading female characters actually has a job or a career, the maximum that they can do designer. 

Lately there has been a spate of movies where the lead female character is; perky, bubbly, empty-headed, quite hot and yet, pure. Classic examples; Kira(played by Priyanka Chopra) in 'Anjaana Anjaani', 'Ayesha' (played by Sonam Kapoor) in Ayesha, Tanu in 'Tanu Weds Manu', Geet in 'Jab We Met'...

To review one movie: I actually started off liking Anjaana Anjaani, I gave full marks to the director to actually put in a character like Kira who was an alcoholic, suicidal, and co-dependent. But as the movie progressed, Kira became more and more annoying. All her problems in life were due to the oldest, most clichéd situation; being dumped by her fiance.  And Akaash(played by Ranbir Kapoor) only needed to meet a girl who was bubbly (yet depressed and needed his shoulder to cry on), did things on the spur of the moment(yaaay, lets go ice-skating in winter), and yet, YET had an air of mystery (the reason for her depression was not revealed for an excruciatingly LONG time). So it turns out that Kira, who was irresponsible, immature, untidy, disorganised and of dubious job-history, was still attractive to Akaash. Akaash on the other hand, is well-educated, has the balls to start his own business, has a bunch of friends who genuinely care for him. And yet...somehow, Kira and Akaash end up together. What's the message out here?

Bollywood shapes a lot of perceptions out there, and is this really the impression we want to make? Of women being decorative dolls? Most the women I know are educated, with good careers, and yet thoughtful, put-together, well-read, and interesting. If movies reflect life, why aren't there more movies which show women to actually have a personality of their own?

Hollywood actually has a term for shallow women whose sole purpose in life is to look pretty, act ridiculous and live on someone else's kindness: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. As I read the article, I realized that this phenomenon is not restricted to Hollywood. Bollywood has its share of MPDGs too. And its gotta stop, seriously.

(Note: This article/rant has been inspired by this one.)


  1. Thank you for your lovely comment - it made my day.
    Really interesting obsevations you make here on how women are portrayed in some Bollywood and Hollywood films. I agree absolutely. I'm saddened that many teens of my generation have little understanding of, or interest in, what feminism actually means in terms of challenging the insidious stereotypes that are still ladled liberally into all areas of media presentation of women.

  2. yes, and unfortunately, many men/women try to base their real life relationships on what they see in movies/soaps...

  3. So agree! It is really time Bollywood showed normal women- women who make sense and the hero should see more than looks and bubbliness / impulsiveness to be attracted to her. That means, the hero needs to be more sensible too! Among recent films, Singham for one was a disgrace in this aspect. (I know, the director and writer never even thought of even thinking about the love relationship except for "Where can we insert songs between the dhishoom dhishoom?" But still....)
    But on a positive note, I liked Konkana Sen's role in Wake Up Sid and also Luck by Chance a lot. It showed a sensible, everyday girl, with dreams and thoughts and focus alongwith all the emotionality of being in love and out of it.