melange Cinema

The male gaze

A still from the documentary   | Photo Credit: 05dmcirfan

Many summers ago, as a kid, one remembers hearing Madonna belt out “Like a Virgin” but failing to understand what virginity typically entails in our society. Growing up, one has often wondered though why words like chastity, purity and virginity are always associated only with women; Why it is a woman who is always being questioned about chastity and purity of her body. Why never men?

One found some answers after watching a documentary film on the subject in New Delhi recently. “My Sacred Glass Bowl” is a film by Delhi-based television journalist Priya Thuvassery. It is her first film, funded and produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT).

Making a film on such a sensitive subject is certainly not easy. A debutant, Priya has done a good job of bringing the subject before us through her film. The idea hit her mind five years ago when she read some reports about chastity and the virginity test. Relates Priya, “I read a report in a newspaper about conducting a virginity test on women to fund their marriage. That time, I was a student of mass communication at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. There, I learned the art and craft of documentary filmmaking and when I got the opportunity to make a film I couldn’t think of any other subject except that.”

In the film, Priya shows how the chastity of a woman is perceived by people; how chastity has become a benchmark of modesty and goodness for women in our society. She travelled from Delhi to Rajasthan to talk about the issue to different people. One of the people featured in the film from Delhi, Rukhsana Talat, a mother of two young girls, underlines an important point, “People always talk about the chastity of girls but they never talk about it for boys.”

This perception of society is not new but Priya makes an attempt to hammer down the point and try and make people aware of the discriminatory behaviour. Today’s women play a very important role in decision making but the male gaze will always linger on the body of women instead of looking at their body of work.

Priya says, “In Jaipur, in some sections of people, the bride on her nuptial night goes through a virginity test. Her hymen is checked. If it is found intact then it is a proof of her chastity, but we do know there are various reasons due to which the hymen can be ruptured.”

The film has been well received in film festivals in India and abroad. In mid-July, it will be screened at the Indian Film Festival, Stuttgart, Germany. Priya says smiling, “We are getting overwhelming response in film festivals. And I am happy that my work has been acknowledged.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 5:10:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/the-male-gaze/article6177229.ece

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