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Unveiling The Question: Women's Representation In Hindi Cinema

Image Credits: Shequality

Keywords: Women Representation, Hindi Cinema, Objectification, Patriarchy, Dehumanisation, Gender



Has anyone watched the recent Animal movie? How was the experience? For anyone who has not yet watched it, I would recommend anyone with an interest in gender and women’s issues to watch it.


This movie has sparked debates on the diminutive portrayal of women in society. It has sparked concern among the public and prompted the question: "Is the normalization of misogyny in Hindi cinema acceptable?"


Since immemorial times, men are believed to have coerced their wives to stand up to a pedestal in the patriarchal setup. Their family acts as a microcosm of this sheer stereotype. 

What’s more shocking is the validation of such a behaviour rooted in misogyny by the audience. Whistles in the hall tend to celebrate the victory of such a portrayal. Being a hit, men indirectly mirror social reality and see it as a true representation of their lives.


This isn’t a single instance of vehement masculinity and the objectification of women. Rather, there exists an era of cinematic celebration of this stereotype in movies.


Women's Representation In Society

Gender is a social construct, whereas sex is a biological concept. However, society misaligns the ideas of gender and sex. Stereotypes emerge as a consequence. Men and women become distinct at every level. A man becomes the central figure in a woman’s life. She is subjugated, protected, revered, and mistreated under the wishes of her man.  A woman is often perceived as vulnerable and someone who needs assistance. This hapless portrayal thus becomes the governing narrative of her life. Whereas men, on the other hand, are rendered superior to their female counterparts.


Women's Representation In Movies

In today’s era, movies have become a social window for people to interact and form opinions. Whatever goes unnoticed by the naked eye is captured through the lens of an artist. Art is a source of awakening. A movie is no exception. It is meant to drive change in society by pinpointing the embedded unseen loopholes. However, what happens when an artist introduces a concept that in turn perpetuates the conventional stigma? Does it create fervour in the audience against the misrepresentation, or does it validate their actions in the name of heroic valour?


Most people watch movies for entertainment. But does one notice a recurring phenomenon in them? The phenomenon of ‘Women Objectification’. One usually encounters films celebrating aggressive behaviour in men towards women, demeaning their existence. Women are diminished to the status of objects serving men. 


The ‘Otherisation’ of women happens as someone lacking their own thoughts and mental capacity, characterizing them as objects. Whether it be an object of revenge or an object for taking revenge. They are portrayed as mere instruments for waging wars and their sanctity governs the main spot within the story plot.


Beauty standards are another issue that creates discrimination. A woman’s beauty is rendered proportionate to her honour and role. The higher the beauty, the higher the prestige. 


Another feminine archetype that gets underscored is the idea of ‘piety’ in women. Women are believed to be chaste mothers, daughters, and wives. They become a mark of man’s heroism and a symbol of family honour. Their sanctity as opposed to men is questioned now and then. Equality fails to bring parity to this treatment. Grace and soft power become other tools to gauge the character of a woman. In the name of vulnerability, she is often muted or, at her best, silenced within the course of the movie.


Movies today have become bombarded with sexual innuendos about women. The latter becomes a mere outlet for men to vent their anger. Men are shown as driven and passionate. A similar act in a movie has different connotations for a man or woman. Any mistake on the part of the male counterpart is seen as a consequence of a woman’s act for attention. On the other hand, a woman is condemned.


A male gaze governs the narrative of the cinematic panorama. At their inception, females are rendered subordinate to their male counterparts. The plot builds around the dignity of their subordinate role, i.e., objects of male gratification. If a woman does not stand up to this expectation, she is again ‘de-womanised’ or at her best ‘dehumanised’. What’s more agonising is the audience’s opinion, which makes these films a hit. 


Item songs have become a part and parcel of films, perpetuating the stigma time and again. One can frequently view scenic dance performances of women entertaining men. It’s a prerequisite for a good box office collection. Gaining validation from such scenes, film watchers find it normal to sexualise women. Millions put their trust in the actors; they imitate their favourites. Therefore, it’s quite evident that movies do propagate a certain type of behavior. It can bring rationale to the irrational and vice versa. It can impart, extend, and nullify an existing norm, thanks to its wider reach of audience than other print media.


A Pause To It

This generational irrational dogma of ‘A Woman Objectified’ needs to be curtailed. One has to ask whether a woman’s portraiture in a certain movie adds to or abrogates the patriarchal paradigm.


The Censor Board in place (Central Board of Film Certification) is the responsible authority for truncating such discriminatory images in movies. So why does this go uncut? Is this form of violent representation valid? Does it cater to people's needs, and if it does, then to what extent is this progressive?


Ways to a Better Representation

Despite the diminutive representation of women, one cannot dilute its positive side. Breaking the shackles of society movies, for example, Darling, Thappad, and Dangal are termed as ‘revolutionary’. The women here are not mere honour, rather they bring honour, thereby setting the standard for an equal representation of women. Women take autonomy in their own lives, making their decisions independently, a human right. Cinematic movies like these can elevate the deprived conditions of women and alleviate their misrepresentation. However, it is a stark reality that movies, where women socialise and change, are infringed upon. These movies propagate change and question the belief system, which is prevalent and watertight at present.


Media can be a transformative element in society. What’s more despondent than an instrument that can transform this narrative of patriarchy, becomes an instrument to instigate patriarchy?


So the next time one goes to watch a movie, question the imagery; question the idea of such a representation. Maybe not the makers, but ONE as a vigilant consumer can interject the level of misogynist consumption poured into one’s cup by the industry.


Edited By: Georgiana Madalina Jureschi

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