Women in films are an integral part of cinematic construction, yet when it comes to sharing screen space or equal pay, designation, everything comes with a lot of hesitation and restriction. Barriers before a career have been a common practice women in India has faced for years. Their idea of independence has been either treated as a part-time hobby or 'unsanskaari'. On Women's Day, most restaurants offer free food, free drinks, or subsidy for Women. In various places, they are greeted with flowers.
But Women's Day is not about availing the opportunity to get the subsidy, nor is it about receiving special treatment for being a woman. What women needs are equal rights, and not just when it comes to voting, but when it comes to choices which may vary from cloth items to the age when women decide when they wish to get married? But sadly, even in 2020, these goals have not been met by all. Here are a few films which explore the pain and agony of being a woman.
Devi introduces us to women from all walks of life who have faced sexual harassment during their days on Earth. There's a woman in doctor's attire representing the horrific Nirbhaya event, there's a woman in shorts, a woman in formals, a few women in saree, and a deaf and mute woman. Each time the bell rings these ladies quarrel whether or not they should allow the next person to enter. We are unable to realise what is this space until the film ends with an eight-year-old making her entrance reminding us of the Kathua incident which had hurt the conscience of the nation. Without using religion, within 13 minutes Devi explores the trauma of being a woman without security. Rape doesn't happen based on a woman's clothes and Priyanka Banerjee's short film managed to make its point effectively within 13 minutes.
Rani gets heart-broken when Vijay suddenly informs her a day before her wedding that he wants to cancel the idea of them getting married. This humiliating break-up makes her suicidal, but instead, she chooses to go on the Honeymoon trip without her husband. Rani is unable to get over the humiliation, but this trip becomes a journey for her. Literally and emotionally. She gets to see a different reality she was unable to witness under the clutches of Vijay who claimed all his rights on her for being her boyfriend and later her fiance.
The trip empowered her. She experiences her first trip, her first job as an entrepreneur, dances with bartenders, and experiences life with no restraints. In the usual Bollywood film, the woman would get eventually get back to Vijay once he apologises but Queen sets new standards of forgiving but not forgetting. In the end, she embraces Vijay as her past mistake and moves on.
Lipstick Under My Burkha
To even think that Pahlaj Nilhalni, then CBFC chief chose to stop the release of the film for being too women-centric actually reflected that we are not yet in the modern age we believe we live in. A huge relief was felt nationally when the central government had finally decided to cut-off Pahlaj from the board, over cutting off creatively enacted scenes.
Lipstick Under My Burkha explores the lives of women from different walks of life in one neighbourhood. A married woman who's husband won't stop treating her like a baby-producing factory, an old woman who develops sexual urges for a young swimmer, a young college-going adult who just wants to mix and mingle with her peers and not be under the barriers of a burkha and another woman who is stuck in between a past lover and a soon-to-be husband who has been arranged for her to tie the knot. These women just want to escape from their miserable monotonous lives. But they can't!
English Vinglish had marked Sridevi's comeback in the Hindi film industry. This was a film again where a non-English speaking housewife was constantly shamed for not knowing a foreign language. In fact, shaming her became such a common practice that members of the family didn't felt that there was something wrong in their approach towards the lady who takes care of the entire household.
She may be a mother, but she is not entitled to listen to every passing comment that you throw at her. There's even a moment when Sashi tells her niece that she wants to escape from motherhood. The film, however, ends on a pleasant note where Sashi wins the battle without abusing any of those members who once abused her.
De De Pyaar De
Although De De Pyaar De is generally based on the age gap between a man and a young adult who fall in love, the film also explores the troubled side of being a divorced woman. An enchanting Tabu constantly feels the need to make her presence felt in front of a young Rakulpreet Singh. Each of the women fails to understand each other's insecurity and thereby fight amongst themselves. While the film started on a comical note, through the voice of Tabu an important aspect of the society got reflected. Maybe the only reason, Ashish Mehra's family was unable to accept Ayesha was not because they loved Manju more, but because of her age. But would they have accepted Ayesha had she been of the same age as Manju? That reflects a completely biased perception of the society.
Dil Dhadakne Do
Even in the highest of societies where people expect families to bring out the most modern behaviour, women have their life dictated by the whims of men. Ayesha Mehra, who is a successful businesswoman is unable to remain happy in her married life with Manav, which was arranged by her parents.
Neelam, played by Shefali Shah has troubles of her own; her husband is a casanova and that bothers her. Yet she keeps her happy face alive so her peers won't gossip about her. Or worse, pity her. The only woman who is free from all sorts of mess is Farah Ali, who has no parents or family and although she may not have the same kind of fortune as Ayesha and Kabir, she is still in a luckier position since she is not tied by society, who expects her to behave in a certain manner.
Kya Kehna starring Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan was a film way ahead of its time. It was made in an era where using the word pregnant was forbidden unless you are a married woman. Kya Kehna deals with teenage pregnancy. Although there were two people involved in the girl being pregnant, only one person was shamed; the woman who carried the child.
Everyone in town boycotts the woman's family and even enacts a play where they suggest that Priya should kill herself for choosing to get pregnant and not aborting the child. A cruel world was reflected right in front of us and we weren't sure if the society back then was ready to face it.