“Dr. Ravi Bapat: Even you have had many flings during your office trips. Didn’t you?
Srikant Pandit: But I am a god damn, man!”
Remember this iconic dialogue from Astitva? The movie might have been two decades old, but has the sentiments changed?
Sometime back I had shared a write up on the perspective of searching for love beyond the wedlock through a few movies and songs, which did not typecast the characters and tried to look deeper into their behaviour and reasons of why they chose the paths beyond the traditional custom. I was highly recommended by patrons to dig deeper and look for more films and songs on the similar subject, so thought why not?
Today the OTT obsessed binge-watching audience are attuned to the polygamy irrespective of gender, however people in the dusk of their youth, probably the last era who changed the channel if anything obscene appeared on television screens, would realize the complexity with which such subjects were dealt with in movies and television back then. As kids, we were not allowed to watch a certain type of movies which spoke about an extra marital affair or a man flirted with a married woman or even two men talking cheaply about another woman. Times seemed to have drastically changed in last decade or so. Today most of the young adults are perfectly comfortable in sitting along with their parents and watching any amount of intricacy, mentally or physically, shown on the screens.
In an industry which is predominantly male oriented, female characters have most of the times been used as ornaments or beautification, however it would be unfair to generalize this statement. In every decade, there has been rebellious leading ladies who took the plunge and shared their side of stories as well. In one of the interviews of Dimple Kapadia she said that once she was known for her bold roles, anytime a director or producer approached her with a ‘female oriented’ role then it would stereotypically mean a rape scene, abandoned by the society and revenge story. And how true was that! For the longest period, a subject with a female protagonist would mean a wronged woman taking on the society for the injustice caused to her. The biggest irony is that statistically these movies never reached the woman in hinterland.
The real women issues were far more intricate and deep sunk. The real women issues were more domestic, more marital and more emotional which for the longest time the film makers either skirted or did not consider titillating enough.
For instance, take the movie Dastak (1970) where a newly married couple from traditional northern India end up coming to the hustle of Bombay and innocently end up living in a kaput area. The husband goes to work while the wife is all alone at home singing to herself. Music is her companion and neither she nor her husband realize in what light were they seen as. The subject was intense and the problem was urbane and real. When Rehana Sultan sings sadly to the lyrics of Majrooh Sultanpuri, Maai ri main kaa se kahoo peer apne jiya ki… even today the audience empathize with the demure character as the onlookers on-screen ogle at her nubile beauty. The movie was a cult success predominantly for its music by legendary Madan Mohan and the movie did receive critical accolades as well. But just to think about it, was the subject too bold for the A-listed actresses of that time that a new comer with a bold image had to be brought in for the leading role? Rehana Sultan did a wonderful job and it would be absolutely unfair to take even an iota of credit away from her.
For long our society has set a manifesto for the code of conduct for women. Cultured and respected women behave in a particular way and even a slight deviation from that might label her wrong. Ironically, the society had always belittled the personality certification to mere physical fidelity. Yes, fidelity is the most important fabric of the institution of marriage. If so, then why the entire responsibility of maintaining that sanctity rests on the sole shoulders of a woman? Only because of progeny? A man cheats and comes back home clean without a trace, but a woman brings back the burden of that moment with her. Let us look at an underrated gem Ek Pal, directed by Kalpana Lajmi. A story of a woman who lets a man in her life, who doesn’t believe in commitment, however later she gets married to another man and again the past tries to come to her present, affecting her entire future. I feel it is more about men than a woman. A woman mostly knows what she wants and even has the courage to be true to her emotions, it the man who chooses loyalty, based on how will it affect his and his relationship’s future.
When it comes to radical portrayals, Rekha has always supported the modern approach from a woman’s point of view. Let us take two instances where in one she plays the accused and in the other plays the victim with equal aplomb. In 1981, when Silsila was released, Rekha’s character was highly criticized for playing the second fiddle to the hero and also in many strange ways being the house breaker. Rekha is an accomplished actor and it was the conviction with which she played the character of Chandni that made everyone hate her. But hate her why? Because she gives in to her emotions? Because she genuinely loved a man who got married to someone else owing to circumstances? And if she is to be blamed, then that is only fifty percent. The man easily gets away in such cases.
Now, the same Rekha played the role of Sudha in 1987 film Ijaazat. A bright and forward looking woman who is well aware of her husband’s relationship outside the wedlock and accepts that relationship wholeheartedly. This time around the whole world stood in solidarity with the character played by her, because she was the victim. Ironical isn’t it?
Well, if you thought that stereotypical men and their portrayals stopped existing in 21st century then let me remind you of one of the musicals of early 2000s. The movie Life in a.. Metro was an ensemble anthology of emotions. The character played by Shilpa Shetty is a middle-class housewife, who feels guilty for getting attracted to a much younger man. She doesn’t cross any boundaries, but it is her conscious and the sheer thought of getting attracted to someone kills her from within and decides to open up to her husband. The husband reacts to her confession with a tight slap and giving her cold shoulder. All this, while he is regularly cheating on her with his office colleague. So, the question that arises is who is stronger? The one who gets carried away and has the courage to admit it or the one who sheepishly and blatantly lies and moves on effortlessly?
Life in a …Metro
I saw a movie Hamari Adhuri Kahani sometime back, Where Vidya Balan is stuck in a toxic marriage and when the husband is gone away, she finally feels loved and desired by a rich and sensitive man. When the husband returns out of nowhere and realizes that his wife is loved and loving someone else, he ploys to make her feel guilty even when he is taken back to jail for his wrong doings. And Vidya’s character constantly feels captivated in her own emotions and guilty for no reason till the end of her life. The movie shook me as a woman and I was left with the same question in mind.
Hamari Adhuri Kahani
Why does a woman have to feel guilty for following her passion? Does she not have the right to follow the path of her heart without supporting it with an explanation and just feeling good about herself?
So while the OTT binge watching generation is wondering what I am talking about, because most of their current heroines do not feel apologetic for being in multiple relationships, I think let us also dive in the wave and enjoy the change. At the end of the day, it is all in the mind.
In the meantime, do share any of the movies with similar subjects, which has impacted you in anyway.