Image flicked from here.
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.
“You’re too tall!”, she told me in a rather indignant tone. Like my height offended her or something.
“You shouldn’t wear heels… You’ll look taller!”
“Why are you buying heels? (offended tone again. And I was just admiring this rather beautiful pair of black stilettos.) You are tall already!”
“You shouldn’t wear capris… They don’t look good on tall people.”
“Your parents are going to have a tough time finding a groom for you.”
“Your height is the ideal height for a guy and not for a girl.” (I got that from a guy).
I moved to Bangalore in 2011, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw that wherever I took a rick to in the city, I had to pay only metre fare. For someone who hails from Chennai, this was Paradise!! Little did I know that that was exactly why I had to pay metre fare: I was travelling in the city. After a while I moved into my aunt’s home in Whitefield. And autowalas there seldom used the metre. Outskirts, you see. I had to rely on these opportunists-by-birth more than I was ready to, as my workplace is a good 16 kms away from there and I had to switch three buses to get there. When I later moved to Koramangala, I discovered to my dismay that you had to pay one and a half times the metre fare if you wanted to take an auto rickshaw to anywhere, after 9 PM (until then I had been paying for my rides through my nose anyway, so I didn’t care). And if you happen to be in what is “city” as per the auto fellow’s map of the Garden City, and the time on your watch is far away from 9 PM, there are these other extra charges the auto guy would like you to pay for his esteemed service:
“Ippathu/Hathu rupai extra kodi.”
Translation: “Pay an extra twenty/ten bucks.”
When is this line used? Mornings, when he thinks you are in a hurry to get to wherever you are heading to. You pay an extra 20 bucks just to reach somewhere on time. Or maybe because you don’t speak Kannada, and he is hoping you will mistake “ippathu” which means “twenty” for “hathu” which means “ten” (happens to a friend of mine on a regular basis). Or maybe he’s having a case of severe acidity and the misfortune of not robbing an IT employee of those golden 10 bucks will aggravate his suffering.
“Metre double aagathe… Vaapas kaali barbeku”
Translation: “You will have to pay double the fare.. I won’t get a ride on the way back.”
He essentially means that he won’t get a “savaari” after he has dropped you at your destination. So you get to pay him for the ride he (supposedly) would never get. You pay him double the actual fare (sob, sob) and end up feeling like a saint… Or… A pauper. Oh, and he will get a bakra on the way back. You should just let the guy go. There’s always another auto guy waiting to rob you, and they all have different slab rates. And temperaments. Trust your negotiation skills!
“1000 Rupees kodi… “
That doesn’t require a translation. I swear these people do that. This happens in the wee hours of the morning. And for shorter distances, the minimum fare is 100 rupees. Not convinced? Try this:
- Get down at Madiwala from an early morning Chennai-Bangalore bus
- Talk to them in Hindi/Tamil/anything that is not Kannada
- Tell them you want to go to Race Course Road
- Voila! They will ask you to pay 1000 bucks. Or more!!
“150 kodi… “
If you look shocked at the cruelty…
“U-turn thago baeku…” (the humble, trying-to-reason-with-you tone)
Because taking a U-turn causes physical and psychological stress to the autowala. He actually goes in for a week of therapy with the psychiatrist specifically appointed for such cases by the auto guys’ association. The U-turn charge is always 50 bucks over and above the metre fare.
“Sakkath jam aagidhe… 20 rupees extra kodi…”
Translation: “Too much traffic jam. Pay me an extra 20 bucks.”
Usually brought up mid-journey and obviously when stuck in traffic, this one’s the easiest to shoot down. You need to puff up like an angry owl and glare at him while reproaching him for asking you to pay extra after you got in. Somehow it hits a nerve and almost always they decide to drop the negotiation and stick to the originally agreed-upon fare, albeit looking like a kid whose candy has been snatched away.
“Whitefield ah? :O”
If you get asked this question, know that you are going to pay all the aforesaid charges. Anywhere outside the auto guy’s “city” limits is a nightmare for him. “Ashtu dhoora hogbeku madam” (We have to go so far); please check your wallet and make sure you don’t have to look for an ATM once you get off the auto!
(Image flicked from here.)
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So we had this Fashion Week at the office recently. Each day you had to dress up for work based on a particular theme. Denim Monday, Retro Tuesday, “Back-to-school” Wednesday, Tapori Thursday, and Party Friday. I have never done this before, and I do not believe I will get to do it again, so I grabbed the opportunity. Impulsive, yes I am.
“Are you even a girl?”“What sort of a girl doesn’t like dressing up?”“You don’t like makeup? Seriously?”“Manufacturing defect!” *smirk*This reaction takes the cake:“You should have been born a guy!”
Why I don’t bother using makeup
All those remarks you read earlier… I’ve been hearing them all my life. Luckily, I grew more determined to stay this way with each such remark. And I do not regret this decision. I never have, I never will. And this is why:
5. Doing the jazzing up only occasionally, helps you appreciate how much you don’t have to do each day!
I hope I haven’t burst your bubble.
I’ll conclude with this beautiful quote:
“Consider the fact that maybe…just maybe…beauty and worth aren’t found in a makeup bottle, or a salon-fresh hairstyle, or a fabulous outfit. Maybe our sparkle comes from somewhere deeper inside, somewhere so pure and authentic and REAL, it doesn’t need gloss or polish or glitter to shine.”― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
“You were so fair as a kid… Whatever did you do to get this dark?!“
“It’s okay…. You may not be fair, you still look pretty!“
“Wait… Take an umbrella… You don’t want a tan, do you?“
Sounds familiar, eh? You are probably on the receiving end of such comments, or people around you are. Any place with huge human gatherings will have this crowd. I call them the “Fairness Metres”. They are mostly old-aged/middle-aged and, it pains me to say this, women. The moment they spot a girl whose parents/grandparents/aunt/uncle/great grandfather they know, they immediately start analysing her looks, with an emphasis on her skin tone. These Fairness Metres love doling out tips to make your skin lighter. They are also, I suspect, the masterminds behind the concept of “Bride-with-wheatish-complexion”. “Wheatish”? Seriously?! To the uninitiated, a bride with “wheatish complexion” will probably mean a bride who has slathered her skin with wheat flour. Initially I was startled, wondering why it is such a wrong thing to not be fair-skinned. But then, you kinda get used to it.
I have always wondered why Indians are obsessed with fairness. Is it because during the British Raj, when we were slaves to the whites (colour again!), people somehow started relating affluence, authority, and superiority with a light skin tone? Is it because worldwide, white has been used as a symbol of purity and goodness, while black has been used to depict evil (even the Indian movies of the ’50s and ’60s would depict the hero’s evil twin as dark-skinned)?
Oh wait…. I think it started with Snow White’s step mum. She had to attempt to murder her step kid because she was a few tones fairer than herself! If only Ponds had come up with their White Beauty back then, Snow White would probably have a step mum who hallucinated that a sickeningly sweet-smelling, pink cream was making her skin lighter with every application.
What I find most amusing is that many of my fair-skinned friends use fairness creams. They smother their faces with these creams as much as my dark-skinned friends. It probably stems from the need to fit in with the peer group. Indians are very complex people, aren’t we? 🙂
We are the only people on Earth who have a problem being comfortable in their own skin. Literally. I mean, look at the money these fairness cream guys are making! Apparently Indians spent more money on fairness creams than on Coca Cola last year!
I have a few questions to all of you out there who use skin products for lighter skin:
- Do these creams really have an effect on the skin? I have seen women using Fair & Lovely for ages with no effect whatsoever
- How difficult is it to comprehend that your skin tone is decided by the melanocytes inside your skin, and not by creams that you apply on the outside?
- Fairness cream ads will tell you you’ll get to marry a guy who rejects you because you are dark-skinned. They will tell you that you need to use their creams to land that dream job, your qualifications and skills be damned. You are probably buying the creams to look fairer, but in effect you are validating the kind of ads they make: Why would you let someone make business out of something they want you to believe is your insecurity?
- Fair & Handsome? Really?! You should take a look at the Mills & Boon heroes. The heroes are invariably tall, dark, and handsome. Dark. Copy that?
- In the ads, Virat Kohli, SRK, and Surya looked better before they used the fairness creams, didn’t they?
All you dark-skinned people out there, if you’re using these fairness products, throw ’em out. Dark is beautiful, too. Imagine how the world would look if these fairness creams actually worked! Your skin, like everything else about you, is a gift of Mother Nature. Revel in it. Go out in the sun. Forget the umbrellas and stoles. Let the sunlight kiss you. If you don’t think that’s a benefit, think about the amount of time it saves when you’re getting ready for work/college, if not anything else 🙂
And hey! Always wear that smile! Happy is the new beautiful/handsome!