Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do women settle for less on the screen?



  “Sir, you’re a genius,” exclaims the mindless secretary and the boss says, “shut up”. This is supposed to be funny! I tend to agree with him though – she is stupid – working for a man who has such a poor opinion of her capabilities! It’s a pity that women agree to do such roles and even write them! Should a first class detective be saddled with a stupid secretary at all, in the first place? Should his success be contrasted so blatantly with the fluttering of eyelashes and a hero-worshipping look in her eyes? Should comic relief be provided to a racy whodunit, by a vacuous girl? These are some of the questions I’d like to ask those concerned with debasing the female sex so shamelessly in TV shows
But that’s the trend despite women’s organizations screaming hoarse. On the one hand, you have films like ‘Umbartha’ which wake up women from their slumber of subservience and on the other; you have hoardings showing a pretty actress touching the feet of a male star who is supposed to be playing the role of a husband!
Plague has been eradicated and so has smallpox, but our producers haven’t done away with the coy bride who waits like a sheep to be slaughtered on her wedding night and dives to touch the feet of the groom when he comes in – sometimes even drunk! How  many women  are there, who have the nerve to refuse to marry a guy just to please their parents? In a scenario crowded with women portrayed as puppets, one who does comes in as a pleasant surprise. I remember how moved the audience were, when they saw the dark, dusky, untouchable Sujata being accepted by a high-caste man!  Has there even been a movie showing the situation reversed – a low caste man being accepted by a generous ‘upper-caste woman?

What’s surprising is the willingness of women to do these roles without a whimper. Surely they can refuse them. They should form an association and pass a resolution to boycott roles that demean their status. If all of them co-operate, then the producers have little choice but to think up sensible roles. The female stars should demand the same price as the male star, read the script to see how it places them in the larger context and only then, sign on the dotted line. In the name of making a movie on a woman’s exploitation, a producer weaves in rape scenes that stink and then shows the victim hanging from the ceiling. This is supposed to show how helpless women are! On the other hand, it gives bright ideas to prowling wolves because the rape scenes are executed with such perverse pleasure.

It’s high time the media – especially screen – depicts a woman in better light. One of the most commendable efforts in this direction was the portrayal of a wife in a Tamil film ‘Achamillai Achamillai’ (Shameless, Shameless) screened on TV some years ago. She was disillusioned by the unscrupulous ways of her politician – husband and refused to be his wife in the bedroom till he mends his ways. He arrogantly brings in another woman to fulfill his needs and the wife gracefully walks out – refusing any monetary help and determined to fend for herself and her children. Her valiant efforts to survive show the tenacity of a woman with self-respect. When she finds the activities of her estranged husband too shocking, she kills him – when he expects her to surrender to him! There is a smile of achievement as the police march her away. She does not mind for she has sacrificed herself to rid the world of menace who had no respect for women. We want more like her – not grinning, decorative dolls that lick their boss’s shoes!