How should Indian women be portrayed in Indian movies and television?
As an Indian woman and a female author, I can confidently say that Indian women can and should be portrayed as they really are, especially in Bollywood and other regional movies. I’ve nothing against Indian movies. In fact, I grew up on a steady diet of Hindi movies, some of which I still love to watch when I want to take a trip down memory lane. Over the years, there have been a handful of truly female-oriented movies that have shown Indian women as they really are. Strong, despite the invisible shackles of a patriarchal society. Real and resplendent, neither the epitome of all that is virtuous nor mere sex symbols. Not that there is anything wrong in being either of these. However, in a country where a vast majority of the population consider movies (especially the ones made in the Mumbai film industry) to be their primary avenue of entertainment, (and in a way, their learning too) the Indian film Industry cannot shirk the responsibility of conveying the right messages through the movies it sanctions.
Remember what Spiderman had said? ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ Needless to say, the Indian media, particularly Indian cinema and television wield supreme power over the masses, perhaps even more than another great entertainer for the Indian people—- the game of cricket.
Strong & Independent~ Truth be told, not all Bollywood movies have portrayed women as weaklings and damsels in distress, waiting for their knight in shining armor while weeping buckets of tears and miraculously retaining their flawless make-up. I can name a few Hindi movies (and am sure some from other regional languages too) where the female protagonist shows grit, passion, and the ability to deal with difficult situations on her own. There have been female leads who have portrayed such character traits as manipulation, faulty decision-making and infidelity. Well, they were only human; which brings me to my second point.
Keep us real~ We were not born and raised as pale, wax dolls with plastic smiles on our faces. We are real flesh and blood and so are our desires, dreams, joys and heartbreaks. We ogle at handsome men, (sometimes discreetly) love to drink to embrace oblivion (many of us do), boast about our not-so-virtuous escapades to friends and want a firm career in place before we say ‘yes’ to marriage. Of course, there are always exceptions and that is perfectly fine. All I say is that in matters that concern us~ our bodies, our sexualities, our education and career, our marriage and childbirth, the choice is ours to make. No one makes it for us; neither families, nor society or even age-old customs. We decided to stop playing by the old rulebook a long time ago. Show us in a light that makes our truth shine.
We gladly accept our looks and bodies~ so should you~ Be it dusky brown, dark, rich brown or pale-skinned, our beauty lies in our eyes, our smiles, our values. Just like chocolate, we are different but that does not make our attractiveness any less. I salute movies where women protagonists are ‘bigger’ than what is considered the ‘accepted or normal’ standards for women’s beauty in Indian society. We love to eat all those delicious ‘chaats’, sweets and snacks. We eat everything. ( Most of us, I’d hope) To the stalwarts of Indian cinema and TV, please portray the lead female characters in all shapes, sizes and skin tones. Spread the message that we are beautiful as we are. We are not perfect (who wants to be, anyway!) because perfection is boring.
We cherish our depiction as mothers and caregivers, but we play several other roles too.~~
We are warm-hearted and genuine friends. We do not become jealous and cry ‘murder’ when another woman beats us to the top or the man we love chooses someone else instead of us. Yes, it does hurt, but we prefer to rise from the ashes than mope or scheme revenge. We are responsible daughters and sisters who share equal responsibilities with the men folk in taking care of elderly parents. More often than not, we excel in whatever role we decide to take on~ we are happy being moms and happy being childless, we are happy in marriage and happy being single, we are happy loving men and also women. Don’t define us by dogmas, we don’t follow them anymore. We can choose to be great bosses and employees, skilled home-makers and chefs, upright police officers, world-famous astronauts, compassionate teachers or stylish supermodels. Portray us as all of these, and more.
Times are changing and so is Indian media. However, cinema and television alone cannot bring the required changes in society’s perception of women. Having said that, the television, which is present in abodes spanning all economic strata of the Indian society, has to play a definitive role. Tele-serials should take into account the dangers of creating poorly-researched, superstition-based dramas which could plunge a large section of the Indian population into ignorance. Instead of never-ending soaps depicting family politics and jewelry-bedecked women who do not have much to do, the makers of Indian TV shows should come up with stories that portray women as we want to be portrayed. Instead of TRPs, do focus on a better society.