Caution: This post is a rant about the humiliating portrayal of women in Indian cinema.
‘Caution’ because you probably let a horrible interpretation of ‘love’ go in the much-hyped ‘Baahubali’.
Yes. It’s a spectacular movie. But this one scene where Shiva (Prabhas) demonstrates his love for Avantika (Tamannah) is so twisted. It had me fuming.
So Avantika is an accomplished archer, among the most capable of her warrior tribe. She wears sensible war clothes, has her hair tied, no accessories, no make up. She’s brave, intelligent, and everything else a warrior should be. Shiva is strong to the extent that you will consider him super human. He’s the perfect combination of brawns and brains. Ah! Now we have the perfect warrior couple! Or so it seemed, until he decides to make her aware of his presence. She has no clue this dude exists. He paints her wrist when she’s asleep, and almost makes her lose her chance at fighting for her tribe in doing so. He paints her arm next, and she’s so enraged she tracks him down and confronts him. What’s wrong? What’s wrong is what comes next.
She’s so furious she wants to kill him. Okay… But isn’t our hero super strong? He could have taken the sword from her and defended himself. But no. He decides to sweet-talk. He asks her what she is at heart. He goes on to explain that she’s a ‘woman’. Like saying, a woman doesn’t get to be brave, and fight for what she believes in. I expected Avantika, busy woman that she is, to snap at the moment he delivers the “you’re a woman” line, and if not slit his throat, at least walk away. But this is our typical Indian movie. Our hero realises he can’t talk her into it and decides to show his strength finally. But how? He loosens her hair, strips her, turns her attire into a skirt (you see, its ‘feminine’), crushes berries to paint her eyelids and lips. To put it in a nutshell, he was forcing his notion of femininity on her. “This is what a woman should look/dress/act like”, the act screams. Now, any girl would fight hard to escape such a beast. If this isn’t molestation, what is? And how did the makers even think of calling this romance?
To her credit, Avantika puts up a fight. But after the barbarian is done abusing her, she catches her reflection in a water body, is mesmerized by the transformation, and turns bashful. He snatches the moment and professes his love for her, and she doesn’t pause to think before lapsing into a romantic duet with him.
Some of you might think I’m making a big deal out of a trivial thing. That the movie is so amazing and that I should let go of this bit. But, just think. India is a movie-crazy country. It is also a country where most of the men feel a sense of entitlement towards their womenfolk. And we have a loooottt of impressionable minds. Young things that mindlessly imitate their on-screen heroes. Shouldn’t our film makers be more responsible? The message that scene was sending across as it unfolded, according to me, is that women enjoy being harassed. That when a woman says ‘no’, it means ‘yes’. Or, molesting her wins you brownie points. In short, the scene says, if the girl doesn’t see what a badass alpha male you are, force yourself on her and make her submit. No, no, no, no, no!!!
It’s high time we educate our boys that when a girl says no, it’s a no. That she has her own mind and can think for herself, just like him. And movies are a good place to start.
EDIT (5th Sept, 2015):
A lot of men who read this are upset. One even went so far as to call me a misandrist. My, my, my…
“You underestimate Indian males’ intelligence!” one angry (I had no clue that people apart from the ones who know it exists, actually read this blog. Score? :P) soul commented.
For the record, I do NOT underestimate “Indian males’ intelligence”. Am all for equality. If Tamannah and Prabhas were to switch roles in that “romantic” scene, I’d still find it voyeuristic. I’d still be enraged.
And for those of you who think my view about the maturity of Indian film goers is baseless, take a moment to read this article that appeared in The Hindu.