comment It’s high time commercial Hindi cinema did some introspection on the messages sent out by its depiction of women.

In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that culminated in the death of the unfortunate girl in a Singapore hospital, it has become imperative to take a hard look at the various influences corrupting our society. Since time immemorial, women have been treated with insensitivity across all cultures and continents, yet the manner in which they have been rendered commodities of lust in the past few decades is due to the irresponsible behaviour of the media. Every arm of the media, be it print, television, the internet or films, is guilty of unpardonable presentation of the female form.

The media seems to take a high moral ground but it is responsible for the steady decline in reverence for females with its constant barrage of indecent publications. Irrespective of the need and content, the media thrusts a female body into the viewers’ face, but nowhere is this trend of grotesque titillation more visible than in cinema which, in the name of love, romance and requirements of a story, does incalculable harm to women’s dignity. From Hollywood to India, irresponsible filmmakers have been using the female form to lure audiences into theatres for their box office revenues. Even a miniscule analysis of modern Hindi cinema would reveal that its presentation of a basic emotion like love these days is highly distorted and offensive to say the least.

While nobody advocates Victorian prudishness, yet what can justify the necessity of a “Chikni Chameli” ( Agneepath ) or “Munni Badnaam Hui” ( Dabbang ) in the flow of a story? Conceded, we had a mujra or a dance sequence in the 1960s but there the script clearly had a character linked to the environment to justify an insertion, unlike now when every film has an item song for no plausible reason! If Mujhe Jeene Do , Saheb, Biwi aur Ghulaam or Adalat had a nautch girl singing, the mellifluous song would not just be a treat for the ears but also aesthetically and intricately woven into the story, without any blatant show of flesh! Even when films did have such intrusions, the character portraying a cabaret or a mujra would be unfolded as morally flawed or under distress, unlike the modern era when stars from Kareena Kapoor to Katrina Kaif and Bipasha Basu to Priyanka Chopra indulge in lewd gestures to the accompaniment of vulgar lyrics.

Such lascivious interactions on screen in modern-day movies are in complete contrast to real life situations as well as the finely crafted scenes of romance in earlier days. No more do you witness a graceful scene of warmth like Dilip Kumar-Vyajantimala enacted in Madhumati , nor do lovers mouth sweet nothings like Sunil Dutt does to express his affinity for Nutan in Sujata and neither do you see anything faintly similar to a charming Sadhana soothing the wrinkles of a worried Dev Anand, despite the fact that life still remains largely the same within the private domain of an ordinary citizen.

Granted, Shammi Kapoor started the ‘body contact’ in romantic interludes but his actions were mostly in playful zest, extremely subdued in comparison to what an Akshay Kumar or a Shah Rukh Khan does today to his ladylove on screen! The roughening up of the female protagonist and the subsequent willing submission to their ‘molesters’ was a trend started by Amitabh Bachchan ( Namak Halal ) and is still being glorified on screen by many actors.

Obviously, such behavioural traits need to be discouraged by any civil society but when these are portrayed by superstars adulated by millions, they send distorted signals about male superiority and motivate many to abuse women at will. None can deny the enormous power of the cinema to distort or influence the popular opinion, and most Americans are normally apologetic about the manner in which their country is exhibited by Hollywood. Clearly, the time has come when Indian movie makers must sit down and ponder whether what they do to drive audiences is justifiable. That movies have hit an abysmal low in terms of inanity is visible from the fact that even Mahesh Bhatt, the master creator of sleaze in Bollywood, is today advocating a need for restraint and reflection.

deepak mahaan