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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Womanhood in Hindi Films: Different Mediums, Different Voices

Womanhood has played an integral role in Hindi cinema since its establishment and rightly so.

Whether it is films like Mother India, Khoobsoorat, Aandhi or Mirch Masala, several works have always started powerful conversations about the role of women in Indian society.

Plus, we’ve also had ventures like also empower females – Lajja, Kahaani, English Vinglish, Dangal and Mardaani, in which the protagonists rise above suppression and patriarchy.

In the time-frame of International Women’s Day 2020, we have seen three distinguished works which revolve around womanhood.

Feature film Thappad, Netflix Original Guilty and short-film Devil focus on feminism albeit from different perspectives and distinguished platforms.

Thappad: Feature Film

Thappad is a societal slap to alert the women and ‘homemakers’ who continue to labour under injustices by hiding under some justification either self-made or dictated by society.

It is their wakeup call as the fight is rarely between a man and a woman, the fight is mostly between one and oneself and that’s the fight that the film hopes to demonstrate.

Amrita (Taapsee Pannu), a quintessential and dedicated housewife is happily married to Vikram (Pavail Gulati), an ambitious, but appears to retain positive qualities man

She believes that this is a choice that she has made for herself and is happily willing to put herself second to him… She also believes that Vikram loves her dearly and her happiness means as much to him.

But one day, Vikram hits his loving wife in front of their whole world, one hard slap across her face, when his ambition is threatened and his position questioned. 

Amrita feels betrayed and shocked but what shocks her more is that almost no one else, including Vikram, believes that what he did is a serious act of betrayal towards her.

Unafraid of what others will believe, Amrita fights for her case and takes a courageous stand against domestic violence, rising above suppression… Even with the support of her understanding father.

Devi: Short-Film

Niranjan Iyengar’s Devi might be a short-film but the impact it has is beyond the length.

A group of women from different walks of life seemingly living together in a small room. They are all busy with their own errands until a mute girl (Yashaswini Dayama) turns on the news channel.

Breaking news of a horrific case which has “shaken up the conscience of the country” is getting broadcast but before the details of the case are revealed, the TV loses signal.

A few moments later, the doorbell rings which leads to arguments among the women about the room being too small to take any more people.

However, Jyoti (Kajol) manages to convince them to adjust and make room for the person outside.

Jyoti goes to open the door and the identity of the person outside leaves them all shocked and teary-eyed.

From my interpretation, this project makes a hard-hitting and stark commentary on the rampancy of rape and the physical/mental trauma it has on a survivor.

It morally shakes the viewer and is a visual representation of how stories of rape should not be reduced to a news segment, but a case to serve justice.

Guilty: Digital Feature Film

With the #MeToo movement sparking a revolution and an opportunity to seek justice for sexual assault and rape survivors, Guilty is set amidst this backdrop.

The film explores themes such as sexual consent, victim-blaming and rape. It chronicles Kiara Advani as Nanki.

It tells the story of a girl whose boyfriend (Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) has been accused of rape by a girl in their college, played by Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor.

Plus, the movie is the college band’s lead and his songwriter-girlfriend who are at the focus.

Despite it being headlined by a female actor, the movie does not revolve around ’empowerment’ or women rising above patriarchy.

But it also exhibits how people become entrapped by the power manipulating the judicial system, causing their morality to be blurred.

On the contrary, it endeavours to provide a balanced account of sexual assault and how class divide has an influence on this… Including gender bias and hypocrisy.

Furthermore, there is also an impetus on women supporting each other during such circumstances rather disgracing them.

The movie sincerely tries to showcase the for and against of #TimesUp – especially the public opinion.

Final Word

Thappad, Devi and Guilty are narrated through different perspectives but they all share the common theme of females attempting to rise above their traumas due to patriarchal crimes.

Having said that though, neither of the films are ‘male-bashing’. In fact, there is more onus of representing both genders in a fair-way and distinguished way.

Whilst Devi is more implicit, the other two movies are quite nonchalant in encouraging women to raise their voices against brutality… They start conversations which would’ve otherwise been a newspaper headline.

This strong theme of womanhood is even prominent in Indian television. Through current series like Patiala Babes and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, we are seeing more stories about women speaking against abuse.

Even though it’s progressive and applaudable to see such storylines form the landscape of Hindi entertainment, but it begs the question as to why do Indian women still suffer ferocity in today’s day and age?

For how long will we keep celebrating such ‘female-centric’ stories on celluloid and yet turn a blind eye from it in reality?

Cinema is awakening and evolving. It’s high time we do too.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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