While the world is celebrating womanhood, admiring and saluting the power of gender, Bollywood has a long way to go when it comes to empowering women at large. Bollywood has a long history of sexism as many leading ladies have admitted on being advised to only look ‘sexy’ on screen or threatened to get replaced according to the whims of a male star.
While there are movies like Pink, Queen, Piku, Kahaani, Dirty Picture and Pad Man which have a strong female character or talk about issues faced by them…mainstream Hindi film industry still is no where close to showing its leading ladies as equals to their male counterparts. Pertinent issues like unequal wage gap continue to go unaddressed and sadly, a female’s character in the movie still revolves around her hero. Following are the films where there was a scope for the filmmaker to write the role of its female protagonist. We feel that the women in the following movies played by A-listers like Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, Katrina Kaif, among others did a disservice to women at large.
Jab Harry Met Sejal
Imtiaz Ali is one filmmaker who has given us amazing women characters through Highway, Socha Na Tha and Tamasha, so it was a bit disappointing to see him portraying Anushka Sharma’s Sejal character revolving completely around Shah Rukh Khan’s Harry. It was heartbreaking to see him reduce Sejal to someone who was desperate to get SRK’s validation for her looks!
Anushka Sharma is one of the ‘woke’ actors we have today. Her off line persona has always portrayed her to be someone who believes in equality as she always has held her own ground and has taken a stand for herself. Her film choices too reflect this psyche most times but it was a bit disturbing to see her otherwise empowered character leave her dream to have a child. While the actress argued that it was her choice to do the same, the explanation was a bit off because the film started off with her wanting to win the Olympics medal in boxing and the narrative built on her character but then it became all about ‘Sultan’ Salman Khan and all Aarfa did was wait in the shadows.
We admire Homi Adajania for giving us the unforgettable Veronica through this film. Cocktail was a turning point in Deepika Padukone’s career as she was a total surprise package as an unconventional Bollywood heroine in this outing. Though the filmmaker broke stereotypes while showcasing his leading lady, the climax ruined it for us. It came off as bad girls do not land ‘good’ boys and only sanskaari women are the ones worthy of a ‘happy ending’, which translates to marriage.
Sooraj Barjatya has is own brand of movies revolving around joint families and subsequent sanskaars which come with it, but we are not criticizing that here. In his 2006 release, Vivah, he has shown Amrita Rao’s Poonam as a ‘fair and therefore beautiful’ demure woman raised only to one day get married to a worthy suitor. The film only revolved around a man’s ambition to get his daughter married and celebrated society’s pressure of binding a woman into matrimony.
Despite all the commercial success, one would not disagree that Sonakshi Sinha’s role in the flick was barely ornamental. Sleazy songs and objectification were the film’s claims to fame. A detractor called her a ‘Bihari Barbie’ in the movie and we sadly cannot deny that.