I watched I am Kalam
this Sunday. The movie was excellent, heart warming, raising the right questions about child labour and deprivation of children from economically weak backgrounds, but it made me think why it is always boys who are represented. Taare Zameen Par
was about a boy, Stanley ka Dabba
was about a boy. Not only are all these movies about boys they even happen in boys schools so there are practically no girls in the picture.
Don’t get me wrong! I love children and I have worked with children throughout my professional life and I loved all these movies for what they stand for. But after the third movie in the recent past about a boy, I am beginning to wonder if there is any particular reason there are no girls.
It is evident in India (and in many other developing countries) girls are more likely to not go to school or dropout from school than boys and girls from economically weak families are more stigmatized than the boys (because of dowry and the whole ‘the girl belongs to her husband’s house
‘ story) and have lesser opportunities. Watch TED talk
on this topic by Sheryl Wudunn
(I emphasize more girls in comparison to the boys, I am not denying the stigma and marginalisation boys face too.) Isn’t all of this all the more reason to project happy images of school going girls as well? Movies in India are a powerful medium for social awareness, Indians love movies, shouldn’t we be using it to project gender equality.
I was telling a dear friend about it and we realised that it was not only movies with children of course. We were talking about how Zindagi na Milegi Dubaara
was said to be like Dil Chahta Hai
and we realised together that Hindi movies about friendship also mainly feature male bonds. What happened to the magical bond of girlfriends, of sisterhood? Movies often glorify Mother – son relationships, what about mother – daughter relationships? Brother to brother relationships are portrayed or brother to sister relationships sometimes (Thank God!) but what about sister to sister relationships?
My relationships with my sisters, my girlfriends and my mother are the most important relationships in my life, they have pulled me through the worst of times and have contributed in important ways to the construction of my adult personality, to my feminist personality. The subject of men has come and gone out of our conversations but has never been the theme of our relationship. Yet in a majority of movies if there are important woman characters at all, they mostly exist because of their relationship to some man in the movie.
Evidently it is not just Bollywood movies. Fatal Feminist
(a delightful new discovery on the blogosphere for me) writes about Women and Friendship being powerful feminist acts
and their under representation in cinema.
See Feminist Frequency
‘s video on the popularly called Bechdel Test for representation of women in movies
, such few Hollywood movies actually pass the test. I think the same goes for Bollywood movies.
The Bechdel Test
is simple :
1. Are there at least two women with names in the movie?
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. Do they talk to each other about anything other than men?
This test first appeared
in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to watch out for
Try applying it to Bollywood movies and let me know your verdict!
Do also read Sayantani’s heart warming article about her mother, their relationship and Feminism on her blog Stories are good medicine.
If girlfriends, women to women relationships and sisterhood are such important aspects of women’s lives why aren’t more movies being made about them? If we are fighting, the cause of the girl child in India, everyday why aren’t there more movies about girls?
Fire by Deepa Mehta is one of the movies that came to my mind instantly and the tele-serial Aap ki Antara about a girl child with Autism.
I want to leave you with this song I love, sung by a daughter to her mother, here is Ma – Sagarika
Tell me what you think and DO tell me of any Indian movies about strong female bonds. I don’t know much about regional movies (not all regions in any case) and TV serials, tell me about those that you find interesting.