The Breakthrough Voice 21st October, 2019

Tarikh Pe Tarikh: Gender Justice Inside Bollywood’s Courtroom.

Why is the essence of ambition and a struggle to claim justice judged on the basis of gender identity? 

Pop culture is quite an appropriate index to gauge the existing flavour of society. The contextual basis of what is projected in the movies, ads, songs, etc., is derived from the lens of societal notions in real-time. 

A much-talked-about film Section 375 turned the debate of women empowerment into one of male victimization as a by-product of harsher and stringent legislations and protests by women in cases of sexual crime. The strong feminist character, Richa Chadha, who played the role of an advocate for the prosecutor in a rape case was remarkable as an actor.

As the film progressed, it became easy to understand that she was indeed the protagonist in the movie and spearheaded the feminist ideology. However, while heading towards the climax, her feminist advocacy and ideology were overshadowed by her incompetence as a lawyer. This dilution in the strength of her character was really the turning point of the film and tilted the film in favour of Akshaye Khanna, who played a perceptive, level-headed lawyer and proved to be the competent one eventually.

The film exhibited women empowerment in a negative lens by showing women protestors as a mob. Richa Chadha’s character – a strong, independent and intelligent women – was projected as being under a spell of sorts. The spell of the ‘feminazi’, which according to the storyline is a dangerous thought process to have. A consequence of which entailed the conviction of an innocent man and harassment of a competent lawyer by ‘feminazi’ mob lynchers. 

A much-talked-about film Section 375 turned the debate of women empowerment into one of male victimization

Emphasis on the point – WHEN have feminists EVER lynched anybody or done anything to deserve this demonisation?

Going back a decade and a half, we have the film Aitraaz – the Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar starrer surmised on the stereotypical notions of an ambitious woman. It portrayed Priyanka Chopra as a ‘dangerously ambitious’ and conniving woman with the my-way-or-the-highway thought process. It also implied that a woman who chose motherhood and being a wife in the stereotypical sense over her career (Kareena Kapoor) would always stand up for what is right.

While someone who was ambitious would not and would only indulge in negative acts, one after another, such as marrying an older man for his status and money, be the ‘other woman’ in a happy and healthy marriage and would even go so far as to file false rape charges against an innocent man if she didn’t get her way. While we do not endorse the fact that Chopra’s character sexually assaulted Kumar’s character – her being a perpetrator was attributed as the downside of women stepping outside the home and being ambitious. Ugly stereotypes were predominant in this 2004 blockbuster.

Heading down memory lane, another decade ago, was Damini – which was that rare film with feminist credibility. The strength of Damini’s character was shown with immense gusto. She remained a protagonist from beginning to end and stood up to heinous perpetrators of sexual assault at the cost of losing everything. Her personality remained unperturbed in her quest for justice and embodied a backbone of steel.

Damini was that rare film with feminist credibility.

After almost 30 years, the projection of strong female leads in the media remains a distant dream. Besides Damini, women in pursuit of justice on-screen continue to be derailed. Media projects what it is fed and represents what is rampant in society. But who is really to blame? 

 The question to ask ourselves is, are we really running backwards as a society? Why are we so hell-bent on diluting feminism and designating terms such as “feminazi”, “bra-burning feminists” or “mob lynchers” to it? Why is the essence of ambition and a struggle to claim justice judged on the basis of gender identity? 

Indeed, these projections and terms conveniently seek to delegitimize the agitation for women’s rights by associating them with extremism and that is what society, in cahoots with pop culture, is projecting predominantly. 

Running backwards in full gusto.

Also Read: How Has Bollywood Dealt With Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Featured image used for representational purpose. Image sources: Twitter, Radio City and The National

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