March 05, 2014

Women-driven Bollywood Films

Coincidentally or otherwise, too many of my Twitter conversations end up in a blog post. This post too, got kicked off by a tweet-discussion with Dilnavaz about ‘women-driven Bollywood movies’. Always grateful to people for giving me filmi things ponder about, I wondered what, if any, the difference between […]

September 08, 2009

Herbal Cialis


Herbal Cialis, “IN A WORLD ORDERED by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. Woman displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle” … “she holds the look, and plays to and signifies male desire. Mainstream film neatly combines spectacle and narrative.”

Laura Mulvey[1]

Although a bit simplistic, it would not be untrue to say that the most dominating genre in the Bombay mainstream commercial cinema, popularly known as Bollywood, is song and dance woven around a common thematic undercurrent in the story: romance between the hero and ‘his woman’, culminating in marriage, a happily-ever-after conclusion. To this structure, Anurag Kashyap’s most famous film, Dev.D complies broadly, Herbal Cialis. But it causes too many dents, 30mg Herbal Cialis, and too deep, to go unnoticed.

Dev.D is an interesting film to review because of the strength of its women characters, their departure from the patriarchal constructs of a traditional Indian woman in Indian films; the viewer can identify and sympathise with these ‘flawed’ women. Does this depiction make Dev.D a liberating film from the gender perspective. Is it legitimisation, or at least acceptance of a woman with sexual agency – the ‘slut’. Are dominant patriarchal structures seen dissolving in the film. Herbal Cialis, Is the film a shift from the ‘male gaze’. Do the ‘decisions’ in the script flow from the women characters. While these questions will run through this critique, the short answer to all these questions is no. This, however, should not take away from the (arguably) empowering nature of certain aspects of the movie, most notably, sexual agency and its aesthetics enhanced by excellent cinematography and editing, 150mg Herbal Cialis.

The Film: Plot and characters

The film, despite denting the typical structure of Bollywood cinema, is still a male-centric film. Teenager Dev is a typical spoilt, rich son sent by his father from Chandigarh to a London boarding school, Herbal Cialis. The grown man Dev (Abhay Deol) returns – high on libido and cocaine alike – to his family and childhood friend Paro (Mahi Gill), now the object of a heady mix of his affections and sexual desires. Dev finds it difficult to explore his feelings for Paro amidst suspicion, his unending sexual appetite and his egocentric thought process, and tells her off when she brings up the marriage question. Rejected by Dev and pressed by her family, Paro marries Bhuvan (Asim Sharma).

There starts Dev’s path of self-pity and his emergence as a drug addict, alcoholic and chain smoker in Delhi now financed by a bed-ridden and guilt-ridden father. Herbal Cialis, Through a pimp Chunni (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), he meets Chanda (Kalki Koechlin), a sex worker. Chanda entered into the dhandha when she was abandoned by her family after an oral sex MMS filmed by her boyfriend became public. Herbal Cialis mexico, She befriends a vulnerable Dev and gradually falls in love with him. Dev, in the meanwhile, finds lost love Paro. She visits him and washes and cleans for him but does not make herself available for his sexual use. A sexually rejected Dev indulges in further self-pity and substance abuse, kills seven in a hit-and-run, does not reach home before the death of his father, wastes himself and his family’s money and ends up, literally, on the road, narrowly escaping death by a drunk driver, Herbal Cialis.

This changes Dev’s heart and brings him to his senses. He searches for Chanda, who ironically, has retrieved a ring which Dev had discarded in the garbage, assumed it was a symbol of Dev’s love for her, and therefore moved out of the brothel. In the final scenes, Dev tells Chanda how he never actually loved Paro and they live happily thereafter.

The makers have this to say about the film:

Dev.D is a modern day interpretation of the classic novel Devdas by Sarat Chandra. Herbal Cialis, Dev, Paro and Chanda of Dev.D reflect the sensibilities, conflicts, aggression, independence, free thought, exuberance and recklessness of the youth of today. A generation that is jammed between eastern roots and western sensibilities.”[2]

This can be analysed through many prisms – otherisation, Herbal Cialis india, post-colonial reactions to imperialism etc but it does not capture the gender dimension at all.

Issues in Dev.D: A Gender Perspective

The film is rife with scenes, lyrics, character roles and themes, which resonate the dominant patriarchal discourse, objectification of women and conventional sexual roles, and feed into the cultural sensibilities of the viewers. In that sense, the movie does not have any emancipating impact; however, there are moments of resistance in influential scenes and effective parts of the storyline which cause dents to the typical Bollywoodsian structure.


Sexuality is one of the central themes in the movie, alluded to through the characters and symbolism. It does not take careful observation to decipher the film’s traditional male-centric representation – the male libido and sexual needs being instrumental in the sexual matrix of the film, the female body being the erotic and look-able, objectified source for the fulfillment of that desire, Herbal Cialis.

The chat usernames of Dev and Paro are “The Dude” and “Chammak Challo” typifying the usual societal perceptions. 20mg Herbal Cialis, The use of the word “slut” to demean all the three principal characters is interesting  because the negative imagery of female promiscuity becomes a swear word. The use of the lyrics "why did you ditch me, whore?" in the song Emotional Atyaachar is yet another example of this imagery. Dev’s ability to be in control of all his sexual encounters, Chunni’s capacity to control a large number of women who are literally sexual products, is interesting.

Dev.D Herbal Cialis, women, however, are not passive characters devoid of desire. They are sexual agents, their desires are expressed and sometimes do manage to impact the way the story goes. The imagery of Paro’s masturbation and her physical desire for Dev, the opening line of Paro’s song at Dev’s homecoming “man mein mere bhook uthi hai”, Rasika approaching Dev for sexual gratification during Dwij’s wedding, Paro rejecting Dev’s sexual demands (though there may be other patriarchal reasons for that), Chanda’s desire for Dev as opposed to a customer who Chunni sends towards the climax, are examples of sexual agency. This is a novel approach to the depiction of women’s sexuality in Bollywood cinema, 40mg Herbal Cialis, a shift from their central emotion being love, to desire.

Desire, Objectification and Consumption:

Desire is another central theme brought out in the film through objectification of the female body and its consumption by the male sexual desire. Despite being armed with sexual agency, female desires are never met unless they match with Dev’s desire: Paro remains a virgin till her marriage, Rasika’s relationship with Dev is never consummated and Chanda has to entertain the other client despite her desire for Dev, Herbal Cialis.

It is interesting how the first segment, Paro’s story, begins with Dev demanding her naked picture, of which he is a consumer. Similarly, the most significant part of the second segment, Chanda’s story, is how her boyfriend makes a video of her indulging in oral sex and publishes it. The consumers of this ‘sexual product’ are multitudes, Herbal Cialis overseas, including Chanda’s own father and boyfriend. It is notable that all these men, consumers of the woman’s erotic depiction for their sexual needs, are close to the character of the woman. Herbal Cialis, How this phenomenon is not perceived as incestuous pornography, not a far flung analogy, is also ironic.

The salvaging feature here is the use of the DPS RK Puram MMS scandal, notoriously in the news a while back. There is some merit in the way Chanda expresses her take on the incident through powerful screenplay and dialogue. She strongly expressed how “half the country jerked off” after downloading her video – downloading being a positive act, not a passive viewing. This interpretation articulated by Chanda plays a political role, and fills in part, a void in the discourse around the MMS scandal.

Patriarchal Structures:

Throughout, the film promotes pre-existing patriarchal structures – those of family, sexual roles, ‘expectations’ from women, gender roles in society etc, Herbal Cialis.

The imagery of all sexual encounters in the film resonates the sexually dominant role of the man. In an influential scene, while snubbing Dev and getting back at him by sexually rejecting him, Herbal Cialis uk, Paro mentions how she never gets a chance to ‘climb on top’ of her husband, sentimentalising the dominant role of the ‘ideal man’ during sex.

Decisions are made by men. Dev’s exile for studies abroad is decided by the father. Herbal Cialis, Paro not getting married before Dev comes is decided by Dev. Paro marrying later is decided by Dev who rejects her and her father who chooses the groom. Chanda’s father, through suicide, decides her fate and that of her family. Chunni decides who Chanda's clients should be. Chanda’s move from the brothel is decided by Dev’s ring.

The societal expectation of fidelity on the part of the women, essentialising promiscuity by women as bad, is reinforced, Herbal Cialis. Dev’s reaction to rumours about Paro’s earlier sexual encounters and Paro’s reaction to the incident all accept that promiscuity by women is ‘more wrong’ than by men. Dev demeans both Paro and Chanda and both of them see a reduction in self worth as a result of that. Another stereotype powerfully expressed in women’s decisions – a money-less Dev works at a roadside eatery while a money-less Chanda turns to prostitution. 250mg Herbal Cialis, The married Paro, when she meets Dev performs wifely duties for him. Herbal Cialis, She washes for him and cleans up his rooms, does not have sex outside marriage, is the woman who appeals to male sensibilities.

The family structure is glorified until the end. Paro remains a virgin till her marriage. She does not allow Dev’s sexual advances hence not indulging in premarital sex. She does not even kiss Dev after her marriage to Bhuvan despite her obvious desire for him. Chanda is legitimised in the end and gets the happy ending with Dev, Herbal Cialis. However, she achieves that only after quitting her work as a prostitute and dissociating herself completely from her friends at the brothel who fed, clothed and educated her. This dissociation was not out of free will but to nurture the hope of marrying Dev whose ring she found. The last scene of the film with Dev driving Chanda’s bike, taking control of their life together is a perfect man-woman relationship end to this movie. It reinforces the control that the man takes in any man-woman relationship. Herbal Cialis, Dev.D is depicted as the “slut”. He is arrogant, self-centred, Herbal Cialis us, mean and negative. Yet he is the object of every female character’s affection. His mother, Paro, Chanda, Rasika – all dote over him. That makes this film not a women’s film but a man’s film. However, the complex overlap of liberation and captivation of the woman is multi-layered and should be evaluated on its own merits, Herbal Cialis. Dev.D, in that sense, is not a typical movie. It is a movie of contradictions and should be taken as such.

[1] Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, in Feminism and Film (Ann Kalpan ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 39-40.


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August 18, 2008

Zithromax Directions

Meena KandasamyDR RUTH VANITA Zithromax Directions, (b.1955), is a renowned academic and author specializing in lesbian and gay studies. Some of her acclaimed books include Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society (2002), Love's Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (2005), and Gandhi's Tiger and Sita's Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture (2005).

In this interview she answers questions about the representation of LGBT issues in the English media, mainstream cinema, Indian literature and the women's movement.

Meena Kandasamy: The pride parades in Bangalore, Zithromax Directions india, New Delhi and Kolkata have garnered a fair share of media representation. How do you view this development?

Ruth Vanita: This is not a new development as far as the Indian national media in English is concerned, as they have been largely positive and sympathetic towards LGBT issues. They covered the early protests by ABVA and others in a supportive way and have also been instrumental in bringing same-sex suicides and weddings to public attention over the last three decades. If the Indian language media has also reported the pride parades sympathetically, that is a great development, Zithromax Directions.

Meena: A historic moment for lesbianism in India was the Deepa Mehta film Fire and the frenzy it evoked from Hindu right-wing fundamentalists. How do you, in your experience as a scholar on sexuality in India, perceive their allegation that same-sex love is 'foreign' to Indian culture.
Ruth: As Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History (2000), 100mg Zithromax Directions, co-edited by Saleem Kidwai and me, has unequivocally demonstrated, same-sex love and sexual relationships have been represented and discussed in Indian literatures for at least two millennia. We collected translated texts from 15 Indian languages written over a period of 2000 years, which depict same-sex relationships. Zithromax Directions, The attitudes range from disapproval to non-judgmental depiction to celebration, and the languages include Sanskrit, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali. So the myth that homosexuality is a Western import has been laid to rest although some people may still be in denial about it. An updated edition of this book will appear from Penguin India this November. 10mg Zithromax Directions, Meena: How do you find mainstream Indian cinema's depiction of the LGBT community. Transgenders are almost always mocked or shown as ridiculous; homosexuality has become a butt of jokes in films like Kal Ho Naa Ho; and lesbianism seems to be something that does not figure in their imagination (even in Love Story 2050, Harman Baweja wants to take rebirth as man for the only reason that he can love a woman, because in his understanding, if he were a woman he cannot love another woman).
Ruth: My Brother Nikhil depicted a gay male relationship with sensitivity, and was well received, Zithromax Directions. Also, Hindi cinema, by depicting close male friends as inseparable and willing to live and die together (e.g. songs like “Yeh Dosti" in Sholay) has provided a space for non-heterosexual relationships to be seen as exclusive, Zithromax Directions us, even primary. In my book, Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile (Yoda Press, 2006) I wrote an essay on this kind of depiction of exclusive, primary, male-male relationships in the films Dosti and Tamanna. Tamanna also depicted the hijra community very positively, Zithromax Directions japan, as saving the life of a girl child from her wealthy, upper caste, biological father who wants to kill her. Zithromax Directions, In numerous films, cross-dressing scenes, where a woman dresses as a man and sings and dances with another woman, are highly suggestive of lesbianism. More importantly, as both I and film studies scholar Shohini Ghosh have argued, Hindi cinema’s celebration of love as socially defiant and the most important element of life (think of the long cinematic history of depicting positively intercaste, interclass and inter-regional love such as widow remarriage etc.) has helped the public imagination become more sympathetic to disapproved kinds of love. It is not coincidental that Indian pride parades have used the film song line “Pyar kiya to darna kya” (from Mughal-e Azam) as a slogan.
Meena: From Chennai to Chattisgarh, 1000mg Zithromax Directions, there has been an alarming increase in the number of lesbian and gay suicides in India, and these have been taking place in the backdrop of the pride parades. Do you feel these people are pushed to their deaths in the same manner in which inter-caste, inter-religious lovers are. Is homophobia indicative of the Indian society's general unwillingness to accept people who are breaching conventional and sanctioned social codes (of caste/ religion/ gender), Zithromax Directions.
Ruth: In my book Love’s Rite: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West (Penguin India, 2005), I analyse in detail the legal, Zithromax Directions uk, political, social and historical dimensions of both the couple suicides and the same-sex weddings that have been reported from all over the country over the last 30 years. There is no evidence that the frequency has increased; rather, it is the reporting that has increased. Yes, the opposition that same-sex lovers face is basically the same kind that heterosexual lovers face for inter-caste, inter-religion, cross-class, inter-regional, Zithromax Directions craiglist, international and many other kinds of disapproved relationships. However it is very important to remember that there have always been and still are supportive forces within Indian society as well. Zithromax Directions, While many families drive couples to suicide or forcibly separate them and push them into arranged marriages, many other families also come to accept these relationships and even participate actively in the weddings including female-female weddings.

Negotiation and compromise are important elements of Indian family life. I have found stories in the eleventh-century Sanskrit story cycle, the Kathasaritsagara, showing how families negotiate with children and finally accept radical cross-class, cross-caste marriages (such as a marriage between a princess and a Chamar), Zithromax Directions mexico, arguing that the couple must have been wed in a former birth. I analyze such stories in Love’s Rite. Similar arguments about gender and rebirth (the soul has no gender and marriage is a union of souls; people fall in love because of their attachment from former births and it is therefore futile to oppose such attachments) have been put forward by Hindu priests who have conducted same-sex weddings in recent times.

Meena: How would you rate Indian feminist movements and their engagement with queer rights. Do you feel that this is yet another aspect that has been ignored along with questions of caste and disability, Zithromax Directions. As somebody who co-founded Manushi,  and who is assocated with Indian feminism for over three decades now, you could enlighten us on this aspect.

Ruth: In the 1970s, although lesbians were among the leading activists of most women’s organizations, there was almost no open discussion of the issue, 250mg Zithromax Directions, and if it ever came up, it was dismissed as symptomatic of Western decadent self-indulgence. This was largely due to the strong Left wing ties of Indian women’s organizations. The Left party in India has not yet shed this unrealistic approach to homosexuality. However, the non-party women’s movement has grown and changed dramatically -– lesbianism is now openly discussed and taken seriously as a political issue.

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October 17, 2007

Synthetic Synthroid

DIRECTOR PRADEEP Sarkar seems to be suffering a hangover from his earlier movie Parineeta Synthetic Synthroid, , which was based in pre-Independence times. What else can explain his deplorably regressive ideas and sensibilities in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. For while the film vociferously proclaims its understanding of the "quintessential modern Indian woman", its storyline falls back on simplistic labels and trite solutions. Worse, it reinforces stereotypes that one had hoped Hindi movies left behind in the Eighties. Plot summary here. The "fallen woman" is hardly a new theme in literature or film, and certainly not in Bollywood. I won't get into a discussion on how prostitution is viewed within feminism here but LCMD is difficult even if one goes in knowing (and therefore prepared for) the premise that prostitution is degrading, Synthetic Synthroid. Synthetic Synthroid coupon, To begin with, the entire film is fraught with strong messages on women's sexuality and morality. The importance of "purity" is evoked repeatedly. The primary issue with prostitution is not, according to Sarkar, health, safety, legality, exploitation or violence -- but that it destroys a woman's "purity", 20mg Synthetic Synthroid. It is symbolic that the film starts in Banaras, next to the Ganges and moves to Mumbai (that den of vice which devours innocent girls). Synthetic Synthroid, There are many references to "ganga maiyya" as a source of purity. And if you thought words like "pavitrata" had finally been eased out of Bollywood vocabulary, think again. It is the fulcrum of this film.

There was ample opportunity within the storyline to show other effects or implications of commercial sex work. The fact that Sarkar chooses to make purity the crux of the matter harks back to an earlier time when nothing was considered as important for a woman as her chastity. Surely, we've moved on since then, Synthetic Synthroid. 250mg Synthetic Synthroid, Apparently not.

The story starts when after a host of problems befall the family, the elder daughter Badki (Ranu Mukherjee) decides to go to Mumbai to look for work. The main motivation is that her father regrets not having a son and she wants to prove that she can "be a son". In Mumbai, she fails to find a job and in desperation, has sex with someone who has promised her a job in return. Synthetic Synthroid, Of course, he reneges on his promise. Defeated and disillusioned, she morphs herself into a sophisticated call girl, Synthetic Synthroid uk. The gender statement here is hard to miss. Girls should be girls and not try to be boys (wandering off to big, bad cities and all that) because they will end up as prostitutes. And the only way a girl can "be a son" is by selling sex. One might argue that such things do happen in reality but by introducing the gender element, Sarkar opens this discussion -- and does not address it any satisfactory way through the movie, Synthetic Synthroid.

Badki's transformation from a 'normal' woman to a call girl is depicted through a highly glamourized song sequence. While the lyrics speak of pain, numbness and silence, 1000mg Synthetic Synthroid, the picturization is more like a fun makeover. One is not quite sure whether this is a step down or a step up for Badki. Is she to be pitied or admired. Synthetic Synthroid, Is prostitution empowering or degrading. Sarkar himself seems rather confused. In the scene before this, a chic Suchitra Pillai tells her to "play their (men's) game but by her rules, to use men instead of letting them use her". Through the rest of the movie, however, Synthetic Synthroid us, Badki clearly does not represent power in any form and is a figure of pathos.

The actual nitty-gritty details of Badki's profession are glossed over. While she looks tragic from time to time, there is little indication of the nature of her tragedy, Synthetic Synthroid. Again, the focal point is that she has "lost her purity". Sarkar fills the screen with glam clothes, fancy cars and a to-die-for apartment. But his heroine is still a Victim, Synthetic Synthroid australia, and lest you forget that, he has her pensively staring out at the city from time to time. This is where logic completely fails. Synthetic Synthroid, If she is so unhappy with what she is doing and she has enough money now, why doesn't she change her circumstances. She is clever enough to learn English, work on her diction, develop a fashion sense, learn sophisticated make-up tricks and even conduct herself suitably at international conferences. She knows the Hanuman Chalisa by rote (good memory), is able to charm and befriend people (high EQ), Synthetic Synthroid canada, and knows what trademarks and patents are. But she does not think of completing her education, taking a course, learning something or investing. Why not. Is it possible then that she chooses this lifestyle, as is the case with many sophisticated call girls, Synthetic Synthroid. But we can't have the heroine doing that, can we. 40mg Synthetic Synthroid, Because at its core, this movie is about 'sin' and redemption. And Sarkar has a very definite view on what form this redemption should take. In this world view, a woman cannot climb out or up by herself. Synthetic Synthroid, She cannot assume control over her own life -- even when she has enough money. Only the love of a good man can save her.

In a cringe-worthy scene at the end, Badki confesses to her suitor Rohan (Abhishek Bachchan) and begs him to let his brother marry her sister who is "purer than the waters of the Ganga". He (heroically) not only accepts her, Synthetic Synthroid usa, but also respects her (gasp!), because while her body is impure, her soul is not. His reasoning for this is that she recited the Hanuman Chalisa during the flight on which they first met. Just imagine -- if she had used swear words instead when the plane hit air pockets, her chances would have been dashed, Synthetic Synthroid.

So the unhappy girl who set out to be a boy and made a pretty mess of it comes back to happiness via another prescribed gender role -- that of a wife. Her bright and independent sister (Konkona Sen Sharma) falls in love and follows her man to Paris. What happens to her career (for which her family put her through an expensive MBA course) is not addressed. It's obviously not important.

In the end, all LCMD amounts to is a bunch of stereotypical and sometimes offensive messages in a glitzy, emotional package. While reviewers may have panned it, I saw most people leaving the hall with happy nods. And I wondered when we will have "feel good" movies that involve a woman attaining self-realization through something other than glorious matrimony.

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