It Is Easier To Make Slightly Misogynistic Film, The Word Feminism Is Taboo In Movies: Ekta Kapoor

New Delhi: Hindi cinema has travelled miles from the stereotypical depiction of women either as long-suffering wives and mothers or as the unidimensional love interest but it’s a battle not yet won. And 2023 is a case in point with even the success of a progressive “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” being drowned in the roar of an “Animal”.

While Karan Johar’s “Rocky Aur Rani…”, which many said was his career’s most gender realised film, did well, Ranbir Kapoor starrer “Animal” did three times its business with box office collections of around Rs 900 crore — notwithstanding criticism that it was misogynist and glorified toxic masculinity.

The other two films, which did blockbuster business last year, were Shah Rukh Khan’s “Pathaan” and “Jawan”, both action entertainers, which, despite having a male protagonist at the helm, gave enough space for women characters to shine.

Though the road ahead is long, there is much to be thankful for.

“Earlier, we never saw the heroine as more than an appendage to the hero but today they are shown as working women and people in their own right. There are also many more girls in the crew leading to a healthy ecosystem,” Shabana Azmi, who played the role of a progressive grandmother with a past romance in “Rocky Aur Rani…”, told PTI.

The film, starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, is a story of modern relationships but also about gender dynamics in families that need to evolve with time.

Azmi said female roles have become “more substantial”.

She admitted there is “room for improvement” and that can only happen when mainstream heroes start accepting roles where women are protagonists.

“The budget of a female-oriented film will always be lower than a film with a successful hero at the helm. But all in all, this is a much better era for women in Hindi cinema where scripts written by women are also being welcomed,” said Azmi, a parallel cinema star who made a career out of playing women of substance in the 70s. “Pathaan” had two principal female characters played by Deepika Padukone, a Pakistani spy with a conscience, and Dimple Kapadia, who essayed the no-nonsense commanding officer of the titular character.

In his second release of 2023, the plot of “Jawan” was propelled by stories of six women, who help Shah Rukh’s character in his mission to achieve justice.   “Animal”, which released later in the year, featured Bhatt’s husband, Ranbir Kapoor in the role of a violent man seeking validation from his father. It was amongst the most divisive and hotly debated movies of the year with its depiction of women as submissive wives or mistresses.  

Commenting on the representation of women in recent films, actor Richa Chadha cited films like “Animal” and Sukumar’s “Pushpa: The Rise”, both starring Rashmika Mandanna as a heroine depicted through a problematic male gaze. Society, like cinema, goes through phases, said Chadha, who has seen “Pushpa…” but not “Animal”.

“There are some films that give space for some kind of anger, I look at it that way. I feel if society is getting more and more angry, it goes in a certain direction (and) we have phases like this,” said Chadha, who made her production debut with “Girls Will Be Girls”.

Speaking at a recent FICCI Frames session, renowned producer Ektaa R Kapoor spoke about the post-pandemic challenges that stories woven around women face. Last year, Kapoor backed “Kathal”, with Sanya Malhotra as a cop probing the case of two missing jackfruits, and Bhumi Pednekar’s “Thank You For Coming”, a movie on female pleasure.

“It has become tougher since COVID-19 because it is easier to make a slightly misogynistic film, or a more machismo kind of film than celebrating womanhood or feminism. The word feminism is taboo in movies,” Kapoor said.

“Thank You For Coming” may not have done well at the ticket window, but Chadha praised Kapoor for taking a chance on a bold narrative revolving around women’s sexuality. She is also looking forward to the producer’s next film “Crew”, a heist comedy featuring Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon as air hostesses.

“I think representation shifts, but then there are people like Ekta Kapoor, making a film called ‘Crew’, then we have had films like ‘Thank You for Coming’ that were high on sexuality. You are not able to discuss these things openly, it’s stifling certainly for both men and women. It is not about how the film did eventually,” Chadha added.

And 2024 has got a promising start with “Laapataa Ladies”, directed by Kiran Rao. A story of two brides Phool (Nitanshi Goel) and Pushpa (Pratibha Ranta) who accidentally get swapped on a train, the film opened to glowing reviews upon its release on March 1. It has raised around Rs 8 crore worldwide in gross box office collection, a decent figure for a low-budget film.

Writer Sneha Desai, who penned the screenplay and dialogues of “Laapataa Ladies”, said the makers wanted the audience to introspect about social conditioning through the characters of Phool and Pushpa.

“We wanted people to unlearn societal conditioning and learn that things always change for the better. If you have the gumption to take that first step, you are just one step away from the life that you want to live,” Desai said.

“Characters like Phool and Pushpa, who are victims of their situation of their upbringing, or the strata in which they live, if they can have the audacity to dream and aspire for a life, all of us are way too privileged to be complaining. So, going for your dreams is what we wanted (to talk about)” the screenwriter added.

Coming up this year are “Crew”, “Ae Watan Mere Watan” starring Sara Ali Khan, Kangana Ranaut’s “Emergency”, “Stree 2” with Shradha Kapoor, and “Jigra” featuring Alia Bhatt. The hope is that they will forward the woman agenda. 

(This report has been published as part of an auto-generated syndicated wire feed. Except for the headline, the content has not been modified or edited by ABP LIVE.)

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