We love these women. Don’t curb their personalities Bollywood!
At MBRB, we spend a lot of time scouring Bollywood and Hollywood news on the Internet. We’d like to say it’s for research, but really it’s because we are terribly addicted gossip junkies. But one of the things that drives us completely mad, is the discussion around the womenfolk. And no, we aren’t just talking Deepika vs ToI, but also the absolute absence of roles (and role models) for women with any kind of personality.
We’ve had discussions on Twitter on the futility of wasting someone as talented as Sonakshi Sinha in absolute drivel like Action Jackson. Now I’m not one of those people who dismisses the entire aesthetic of masala over moony indie offerings, but I do think that typical masala can do better by its women. Sonakshi can play a kickass cop, or even someone haughty in a Taming-of-the-Shrew way ala Asha Parekh and Saira Banu. She can dance up a storm with Akshay Kumar, and carry dhamakedaar dialogues with the same winking panache as a Salman Khan. So why reduce her to arm candy?
Or take another House favourite Parineeti Chopra, who leapt into our screens with explosive comic timing and a devil-may-care attitude in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl. But of late , almost all interviews with her focus on how she’s trying to become as thin and good looking as her cousin and competitors. And a woman who can stop a press reporter with a stern rejoinder, is being forced into doing frankly despicable stunts for promoting a film on a horrible show like Bigg Boss (Seriously, sexual harassment as a way to garner TRPs?). It saddens us to see a budding feminist reduced to one of Aditya Chopra’s ‘girls’ – and one who doesn’t have any films on hand at the moment!
And then there is the case of lovely Lisa Haydon- she is funny and luminous and confident in her sexuality. But when it comes to Cinema (apart from the notable exception of Queen), she has been reduced to a woman in tiny shorts fending off the advances of older men- be it Sanjay Dutt or Anupam Kher. Does masala have any place for a sexually confident woman as anything more than an objection of lust?
Let’s go back a generation or two. Do you remember how supremely talented Jaya Bachchan was in her earlier films? If it isn’t bad enough that she hasn’t found movies worthy of her talents, it’s worse that she is being dragged through the coals for dissing Happy New Year. I am NOT a fan of her recent curmudgeon avatar but in this case, to expect that she owes the movie something for saving her son’s career, is doing a disservice to her role as a mother AND as an artist with freedom of speech.
So how do we change this? I hesitate to suggest this- but Bollywood needs Ekta Kapoorization. By that, I don’t mean interminable films with slow pans and gaudy jewellery, but powerful woman producers who encourage and mentor woman talent. Women writers, women directors and movies targeted towards women. Hollywood has its comic book movies, and Bollywood has its Khans (and may their tribe increase!). But both need to look at movies that appeal to the other quadrants if they are to come out of the Dark Ages.
And the change may just begin with us smart women refusing to let them to change the women with personality and chutzpah on screen into living dolls. Don’t watch the films which reduce your favourite actresses to a clothes hanger, don’t ask any of them to become ‘thinner’ or look good in a Bikini. Call out on the men who act with women 25 years their junior. And give your business to the films which appreciate their women.