Unreal Women In The Reel World

Image courtesy : www.caricature.com.sg

The last smash hit Dabbang had a 44 year old Salman serenading a 20 something potter girl in impeccably styled backless cholis. Three Idiots considered an epic by many had a 45 year old Amir playing the college genius cum wannabe gynae with a vacuum cleaner. Shahrukh at 45 has yet to outgrow his cutesy expressions. And at 52, a haggard looking Sanjay Dutt is still playing the male lead and fancies himself as a rock star. Good for them!

Strangely when it comes to age, Bollywood is not as forgiving when it comes to its leading ladies. The moment the heroine touches her 30’s she is considered over the hill and has to earn her living endorsing hair oils and mosquito mats. And actresses in their forties are mostly relegated to maternal martyrdom. Yes, we do have an Aishwarya who at 38 still manages to rule the box office with élan but she is an aberration. Look at Rekha! At 56 she looks gorgeous beyond words, but is mostly seen at award functions in her bridal Kanjeevarams, (somebody gift her a sari) air-kissing her ex colleagues. She is beautiful, talented, so why is it that we don’t see her in movies?

Because in the 21st century, where we talk of women seeking an identity of their own and making a mark in this world - the cine world, unfortunately is still stuck in the dark ages. And women are stuck with stereotypes. She is mostly scantily clad, hot and the object of desire for many a Pappu, Sonu and Rocky. No wonder the leading lady has such a short shelf life. Her midriff evokes more interest than her acting skills. Her weight loss becomes the subject of a national debate. She is not expected to cover up, even in freezing cold locales. So what if she is going blue in the face and almost dying of hypothermia, the audience must get its paisa vasool !

When was the last time you related to a woman’s character in a movie? She is either a femme fatale, conveniently working with a fashion house, in her itsy bitsy wardrobe to show off her wash board abs. The nasty corporate climber, who needs a man to bring her to her senses. The airhead, played to perfection by Sonam Kapoor, living her designer dream. The ever sacrificing mother, the conniving sis-in-law... Too many females on screen are just pleasurable distractions: looking pretty, helpless, waiting for her waxed-chest hero on his Harley Davidson, dancing vigorously and baring flesh.

And television is much worse. The women are decked up in psychedelic horrors, spend many a happy hour indulging in kitchen politics and have the unenviable distinction of deep freezing their expressions when in distress. If they are livid, they are so livid that they press the pause button, wait for the camera to capture that epic expression from all angles (remember that feeling when you discovered your brother had pilfered your entire box of Swiss Chocolates) and press the start button for a headache inducing background score. Jhinggg Jhingggg Jhangggg… I have a sinking suspicion that most of these soaps are produced by pharmaceutical companies. The ad world treats women as mere props. Does any anyone recall the JK cement which showed a woman in a bikini, the sea as the backdrop with the tag line – Vishwas hain, is mein kuck khaas hain. Is the brand implying that all they add to their cement is sand and you are better off living on the beach?

So why should men taken women seriously? All he sees is a babe who is meant to be ogled at. Even the animation flicks he watched while growing up, portrayed women with waists so small that the organs had to be outsourced and a rack so big that it defied all rules of gravity. And if she was being brave and saving the world, she had to look like a supermodel with no bad hair days. And young impressionable girls, what are we teaching them? That it’s ok to be on the sidelines? All she needs to do is look pretty, eat less and wait to latch on to a loaded, good looking guy who will take care of her and her shopping frenzies? Imagine my shock when my daughter told me, that all that her girlfriends talk about in school is boyfriends and getting married. And mind you she goes to one the most progressive schools of Delhi.

We need to see more real women on screen, not caricatures and certainly not Hissterical creatures whose butt shot gets more coverage than the movie itself! Agreed there is a new breed of filmmakers who are more clued in to changing times. But they are too few and far in between. Show us women who throw temper tantrums, yet are capable of loving unconditionally. Who demand a cup of tea from their husband when they get back home tired. That it is possible to have a successful career without sacrificing your family. That it’s okay to grow old and life doesn’t end at 40 but gets a new lease. Show us women, who inspire us despite their ordinariness. And please, please show us men romancing women their age.
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  1. :) agree with you.
    will happen when we stop seeing those movies and serials. till then good material for blog posts!
    now i know why i dont enjoy seeing movies and serials :)

    you must write a nice woman oriented story and spark a debate. will be wonderful!

  2. Well written. Agree with what you have written. Watching TV and movies it would seem that women only play dumb, bitch or flirt around for personal gains. And all the TV women ever do is plot against each other.

  3. wonderfully expressed!
    Gimme Erin Brockovich or Godmother anyday!

  4. magiceye...I love Bolly tamasha but regressive characters make my blood boil.

    Prateek...And strangely such serials are popular!

    Varsha...The problem is we do not have enough female scriptwriters and Directors! The day that happens, we will get to watch characters we relate to.

  5. Bollywood has perfected the art of men getting older and the women getting younger..and as i get older i do notice that women indeed are getting younger..so for me at least, sadly, it is reel life reflecting real life.

  6. Wether its movies, television or advertisements, we are yet to see real women..not the ones who titillate audiences in movies, not the bedazzled, plotting, pan cake laced regressive leads of daily soaps and definitely not the skimpily clad ones in ads who drool over men with axe effect...

  7. he he nice write up...

    if u want to c those femme fatal roles watch old hindi movies ,

    all nirupama roy's :P

  8. From the pic I thought this is going to be a satirical piece.
    What you mentioned is real fact. Women in our society is taken as a secnd class citizen.

    I was watching Aisha. I thought this one was going to be different. But after a first few minutes, I felt like thrashing Sonam Kapoor.
    But then I wouldn't want our heroines do a macho role too!! cos I love to see them in those itsy-bitsy clothes

  9. nice post.
    A girl can marry at her 18th age. but men only at their 21....from there the difference starts...am I right?


  10. Madhusudhan...You don't mind the young ones do you?

    Alka...We need people who understand the art of movie making rather than business men in the industry.

    Happy...She was either blind or cried non-stop and she played these roles to perfection.

  11. Jon....That movie was made to showcase Sonam Kapoor's designer wardrobe. And sadly the director was a woman!

    Jidhu...Yes... the provider and nurturer. The roles society has assigned the either sex to play.

  12. amidst all such stuff we have still had a zubeida , a certain mrs iyer , parineeta ,lagaa chunri mein daag or the very recent ishqiya and many more ....
    nice post !!

  13. well ya i am going thru DOg's blues :P

  14. In Chicago, Dove did a campaign on real women. Bus stops were plastered with these huge posters of women of all shapes,age, color, sizes in white t and blue jeans looking ravishing. Their skin glowed- even through the crow's feet lines around their eyes. It was a beautiful, empowering campaign. I wonder if we are ready for it. If we ever will be. The size 0 debates drive me up the wall.

  15. Vicious...Thank god for this new breed of film makers who have moved beyond hackneyed plots and think out of the box.


    CurrySpice...It all stems from self esteem and whether we care what others think about us.

  16. It doesn't work that way in hollywood. There are women older than 50 and yet playing lead roles in movies.
    The problem lies within us. I'm still 23 and all my mom talks about is getting me married. I had to even give up my career to keep myself away from marriage. :( We should understand that marriage isn't everything for a woman and she too have a life other than taking care of her husband. Ain't it? Well, television serials should air such stories than portraying woman as only a homemaker.

  17. remembering the times they used to make mother india, saheb bibi aur ghulam, guide, amar prem...

  18. Super.. i especially loved the last paragraph.
    You said "Because in the 21st century, where we talk of women seeking an identity of their own and making a mark in this world - the cine world, unfortunately is still stuck in the dark ages."

    -- these kind of women who are seeking identity are very rare and are only few in number. The reason that these kinds of movies and soaps are great hits can explain that people showcased on movies and tele are still dominating to a large extent to those women who are seeking identity.
    I think, until and unless girls start to think for themselves and do not care what others think about them, they will be looked upon by men and soceity as "things" to be ogled at and for this, she has to get support from her parents too!

  19. Talking about the soaps on TV, there was one show called mahi way about an obese girl who manages to put her foot down and prove her point.

    That show slowly dribbled to a close. Thats the only kind of serial I'm remotely proud of.

    Women on my hitlist
    1. Pratigya - Must kill entire barbaric family.
    2. Those Utharan sisters
    3. The old lady villains, who want to kill their daughter in laws (so much for "real" soaps)

  20. Aaaah society in transition. A-musing, horrifying, outrageous, hilarious. Especially on screen. xD

  21. you should take a look at the south indian cinema ... where the horribly hideous men don't care even if they look indistinguishable in any orientation but yet demand bimbettes who fall in love with their bad ass personas ... It is utterly lamentable that the formulaic production pervading the entertainment industry has left us with insipid, unreal roles for women penned by a salivating writer after two shots of dope to combat his writer's block ...

    NAILED IT in one line ... "So why should men taken women seriously? All he sees is a babe who is meant to be ogled at. Even the animation flicks he watched while growing up, portrayed women with waists so small that the organs had to be outsourced and a rack so big that it defied all rules of gravity. "

    (i disagree with the comment on the animated characters ... to be fair, men look ridiculous in that universe ... so .. chill !!! )

  22. I know a lot of my friends and cousins who can think of only marriage and nothin else...i agree the image hasto change...they should have a goal in life...

  23. Nethra....The television world used to much better in the 90's, it aired serials that we loved watching and discussing. Now they air trash masquerading as entertainment.

    Harish...These were classics. But I believe we are in an exciting phase where filmmakers are daring to experiment. And we should go and watch their movies in theaters to applaud their efforts.

    Bhawna...Isn't the mindset changing? Look at the CWG medallists, most of them were from small towns with their family backing them up. Wrestlers Anita, Babita had their Dad coaching them defying the village elders.
    Krishna Poonia, the discus throw champion, had been away from her 9 yr old son for the last two years training for the games. And she had the full support of her husband and family.

    Things are looking up Bhawna :)

  24. Priyanka...I stopped watch Hindi soaps long time back. Two minutes and it seems like torture :) And Regional serials I believe are no better.

    Ujjwal...Larger than life stories that nobody relates to.

    Flawsophy...And we he can't get his ganja he simply watches a couple of Hollywood DVD"S for inspiration.

    Shahid...Yes, they need to tell their kids, till you land a good job you will not be getting married :)

  25. I just wonder how many of our actresses can pull off an 'Erin Brockovich' convincingly. The modern crop of actresses look far too plastic and feable.

  26. Like any other business, entertainment too is business of returns on investment.So long as such TV serials get TRPs and tickets sell at the box office, nothing will change.

  27. Joshi...The audience prefers a good pair of legs over acting prowess. Konkana and Shahana are good.

    BK...We can put our foot down and stop watching such movies and serials!

  28. Counter-point: Why is it the responsibility of Bollywood producers and directors to produce ethically and morally correct, progressive movies and TV shows?

    Corrective me if I'm wrong, but mainstream movies and television shows are all about the money. Maximum profits require maximum viewership. ie, majority rule. The film industry was, and never will be, a democratic setup! [I'm not saying "men are a majority", I'm just saying that a majority of the viewership wants this!]

    If we have to steer away from objectifying women on film, we need to introduce an economic penalty to it! No amount of persuasion can counter valid economic sense.

    Just a few thoughts :)

  29. when i read this i thought that i m reading some editorial from some news paper...u know all those data nd facts..i thought some repoter has prepared for this article really nd put all into it...it was rerally impressive i wud say..nd i wud appreciate the cause too :)

  30. First things first-Hilarious piece of writing.

    Well, the problem comes art and business. Take music for example-every song these days are ONLY for that particular movie and are not timeless. Paisa vasool hogaya toh bhool jao! Check out Ilayaraja's or md. Rafi's or R.D.Burman/s songs...They do the music as art not business. Same with movies... try watching any Super Hit movie second time and you wont like it in all probability because there is no novelty in them. They are being made only for the spur of the moment..to make it hit, collections, box office and all that crap! When will things change?

  31. ^Sorry for my ultra bad grammar. Too sleepy to write a proper comment.

  32. I rarely use Bollywood products and I avoid 'soaps', 'reality shows' and '365X24X7 news' like bubonic plague but I plead guilty of paying regular extortion money to all of these! And to that extent, I plead guilty of encouraging pipe-visioned lecherous (Bollywood) and treacherous (television)fantasies.

  33. Kartikay...Hollywood doesn't survive on charity. Yet they have characters you can relate too. The top female stars are in their 40's(Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Monica Belluci, Julianne Moore) Scripts are still written for Helen Miren and Judie Dench and they are definitely not relegated to sidey roles.

    And we do have a "Wake Up Sid" "Kaminey" "Udaan" doing well and no brainers like "Chandni Chowk To China" getting a firm thumbs down. The audience is ready for a change.

  34. blindedlocations...Thank you for your appreciation.

    Aditya...The audience has matured and it's high time the filmmakers did.

    And thanks for the comment. When are you getting back to blogging??

    Yea the soaps are garish almost like the old version of Lifebuoy!!

    And reality shows are injurious to your mental well being, but have inspired many a Blog :))

  35. why blame the movies and serials?...they just show a dramatized version of what happens in real life.
    a woman is looked down at and is not an equal in a marriage or in the eyes of the man on the street...she is there to serve and please at home and on the streets...unless we change that reality, not much change will be seen on the screens.
    the beautiful women of the reel world have to spend their days in a very unreal way...they can't eat nor can they love/have sex without it being talked about, they can't go for an evening walk or a morning jog unguarded...they can't let go and eat the gulab jamun they get money to endorse...and we envy them for their beauty?...beauty comes with a price.
    and all those who are on our screens are there not with the love for acting(most can't act!) but coz they love to be the center of attraction...a syndrome which we fan!

  36. It is true that Hollywood still scripts roles for older women who are not expected to be just bimbos. The movies made here, even those 'new wave' ones that are women oriented largely glorify the sexual liberation of women and ignore the other facets of her personality, as if that is all that matters to a woman.
    Why can't a woman who is just interested in her career (not an aggressive bitchy woman), a woman who creates and keeps her identity (without making her look like selfish),or even someone who is not the door-mat type wife/mother be shown? Because that is how the educated young and older women are in real life today.
    About the world of serials, the less said, the better. For the record, I have not seen a single soap all my life.:)

  37. Nalini...It starts with education, with awareness, with understanding. Like I said in one of my earlier comments, the CWG medalists are a pointer to our changing mindsets. Wrestlers Anita, Babita had their Dad coaching them defying the village elders.
    Krishna Poonia, the discus throw champion, had been away from her 9 yr old son for the last two years training for the games.

    We are evolving as a society and our movies need to reflect that too.

    Zephyr...You should try catching some of the sitcoms on Star World and AXN. Think you"ll enjoy them.

  38. In reply to your comment some multiple comments above (gosh you get too many!), I certainly agree with you on the fact that some Hollywood movies have portrayed women in better light.

    Hmm .. you pointed out that some recent movies have shown your point of view. Just thinking about it, possibly the viewers are changing themselves! More and more viewers are demanding better films.

    I guess it's the smart directors and producers who have caught onto this change, and are making movies reflecting this change. It's just that the ones lagging behind are turning out the trash that we see today!

    *Humble Bow*

  39. more than the movies its the portrayal in serials that scare me... brilliant post.

  40. Kartikay...Don't we all love comments :))

    Exactly we need more smart filmmakers and not some Lala running the show!

    Rajlakshmi...I seriously thought, I'd watch a couple of Hindi serials for my post. Just couldn't get myself to do it.

    And thank you so much, sweetheart :)

  41. ok i know you mustve heard this to death but you have an awesome style

    i didn't pick on howlarious cos it basically was subtle in the humour element n ye made me smirk quite a few times...

    any how as 4 the write up i kinda disagree with you..i mean yes the role of women in the entertainment industry is horrid to say the least..but sumwhere sumhow there has been change...that u mentioned right at the end...yes its far in between but its there...thats the important thing...

    i am not touching upon television for the trash shown there is unbearable...how the hell people go through watching such shows is just plain shocking...

    hmm damn i went out 4 sumthing n cnt seem 2 connct with wat i was typing..

    nehow gr8 job dun..


  42. He Purba, I have linked this post to my latest.

  43. Could not agree more with everything you have said. Our reel women are so different from reality. If anything television seems to be in a race to get as regressive as possible. Makes one wonder how this impacts the young girls who watch all this.

    I so wish our media/movies would reflect the true Indian woman, who is far more progressive than the ones portrayed on reel.

  44. Aashi...Oh thank you so much (blush, blush)

    Of course Aashi there is a change, but we need to see more of them.
    Look what Farhan Akhtar did with Dimple's character in Dil Chahta Hai!!

    Agree... how can people watch such trash on television!!!

    Smitha...For many girls it's an easy way out. Looking pretty is far easier than slogging for exams.

  45. Zephry...Thanks...will look at it when I get back. Off to the Dastakar Mela!!

  46. This is the exact reason I chose to become a writer :-/

  47. Sex sells and Bollywood knows that only too well. But sleaze doesn't entice the intellectual populace. Very few filmmakers realise that, it seems!

  48. Giribala....To set things right?

    D2...And we end up watching Hollywood flicks. Hate it when filmakers do a Hollywood rehash-please be original!!!!

  49. Nothing new and much to say... but completely agree with what u have said here.

  50. I completely agree with your blog post! Its damn annoying to see women portrayed like this. It creates or rather reinforces stereotypes.
    Nicely written article!

  51. That's just sad (and awesome at the same time :P)!

  52. Hmm..so true...I guess the women r so responsible for there condition ,After all money rules the world.

  53. Hmm..so true...I guess the women r so responsible for their condition ,After all money rules the world

  54. This image belongs to www.caricature.com.sg (which is my blog), not caricature.com
    Appreciate if you can amend it. Thanks!


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