|HER WORLD||Sunday, September 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
I feel strongly
Do not weight and
Indian women have progressed but film scripts have remained the same in terms of the portrayal of the heroine, says
AN internationally trained fashion designer meets a truck company owner and marries him, then spends her time putting his shoes in their proper place and bonding with the dhobi — Chalte Chalte. A teenybopper fasts on Karva Chauth for her boyfriend, to entice him away from the career-oriented independent 'other woman' in Ishq Vishq.
In Bollywood, the more things change the more they remain the same. In most films produced in Mumbai, the outward gloss has changed—costumes are more glamorous, songs are glitzier, locations are foreign—but the women are the same as in the early days of Indian cinema. In some films, they are worse off. The eternal debate on whether films reflect life or life imitates films can be resolved by looking at the current portrayal of urban Indian women in Bollywood films. Despite the fact that about 26 per cent women in urban and rural India work (India Census 2001), the films ignore this reality. For years, Indian women have made their mark as bureaucrats, surgeons, writers, pilots, businesswomen, bankers and astronauts. But none of these achievements are reflected in Hindi films.
Instead, our films are increasingly depicting heroines only as homemakers, albeit educated ones. At the most, they are 'allowed' professions like doctors, teachers and journalists. But in general, the heroines are college-going teenyboppers who settle down to matrimony by the end of the film. Why is the career woman missing from Hindi films today? Where are the women who want to reach the top? Where are the strong women in Hindi cinema? In the 1950s, rebel filmmakers like K.A. Abbas, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt did portray strong women characters in their films. Their women (even if illiterate and homebound) had a voice of their own and were shown striving to establish their identity.
Of course, they were by no means typical of the Bollywood of the '50s. During this time, Professor A. B. Bose of Lucknow University did a content analysis of 60 Hindi feature films, at a time when films like Aag, Awara, Baazi, Daag, Jaal, Anarkali, Devdas, Insaniyat, Kala Pani and Sadhana were produced. He found that most films dealt with the unmarried and educated young men and women of the upper and middle classes living in cities. In roughly half the films, the hero had no occupation; in almost two-thirds of the films, the heroine had no occupation. If a similar analysis were to be done of films in the last decade, the results would be very different. In most of the films, the hero has an occupation (usually a dynamic one) while the heroines have almost none or their work is not important to them once they meet their hero.
In the 1960s, more heroines started appearing as doctors, dedicated teachers or social workers. In the 1970s, more Hindi films started portraying working women from the lower and middle classes.
Several leading actresses essayed a variety of professions—Jaya Bachchan was a knife sharpener in Zanjeer and a singer in Abhimaan. Hema Malini was a village tonga driver in Sholay and the general manager of a company in Trishul. Rakhee played corporate secretary in Trishul and a doctor in Kala Pathar. One of the successful directors of this time, Basu Chatterji, often portrayed his heroines as working women—as in Chhoti Si Baat.
In the 1980s, Bollywood actresses displayed a penchant to play cops, Rekha in Phool Bane Angare, Hema Malini in Andha Kanoon and Dimple Kapadia in Zakhmi Aurat. These roles were not played in a vacuum. This was the time when more women reported instances of sexual abuse and violence across the country. By the late '70s and early '80s, heroines were not only shown as working women—often as sole breadwinners in the family—but also as women who fought several social battles through their work.
In the 1990s, however, women appeared to lose the space they had created for themselves. As films became glossier and more hi-tech, the heroes took centrestage and the heroines became mere appendages they were there mainly to provide the glamour. Their presence did nothing to move the story forward.
The more India became global, the more our films regressed. Some of the hits of the last few years (post-liberalisation) show a decided nostalgia for a traditional way of life when women kept the home and men earned the bread. While Madhuri Dixit stole hearts in one of the biggest hits of the '90s, Hum Apke Hai Koun, she also established the trend of heroines who would never put their own dreams ahead of the aspirations and desires of their family or men. The caring homemaker was back.
Recent films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dil To Pagal Hai, Biwi No.1, all have women as decorative pieces and docile homemakers. In none of these films made by contemporary young filmmakers do the women have a career—though the ones who lose in love do. In Dil To Pagal Hai, Karisma Kapoor is a dancer who loses out to Madhuri Dixit, whose main aim in life is to look for her life partner. Sushmita Sen is a model in Biwi No.1 but then she is also a homebreaker, and the forgiving homemaker wife, Karisma Kapoor, 'wins' back her man.
Even Dil Chahta Hai, a cult film for Generation X, made by a young director, has stuck to the traditional role for its female leads. While the three male characters have identities apart from their romantic ones, the females don't seem to. Only one character (Dimple Kapadia) is shown to have a career but then she does not have a happy ending while the man who loves her (Akshay Khanna) finds a 'normal' girlfriend.
Among the directors of these films, there are several who have studied abroad and whose lifestyle is influenced by the West. They have imbibed the gloss and glitter of Hollywood films but consciously tried to preach a return to traditional Indian values and conservatism, and they have done this through their women characters.
Kareena Kapoor says of her character in the recently released Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon: "She is a girl of today, like me. She knows her mind and knows what she wants. At the same time, she has traditional values. She is a modern desi (typically Indian) girl. She is the kind of girl every man would want as his wife."
So, why have the sensibilities remained the same even though the approach has been modernised? According to such filmmakers, it is the audience that continues to demand such stereotyping. Obviously, the audience here is largely male. In an interview, top actor Shah Rukh Khan says: "It is pointless to compare our films with those of the West because our society has its own limitations. Certain ideas will be unacceptable to our audience.... We don't see women as powerful entities. Even today, most heroes will tell you "I want a homely wife who will take care of my kids and look after the house. Only when the women progress will the scripts progress too."
I feel strongly about...
YET again Ms Malhotra is an hour late for the office and her boss' blood pressure has risen. He thinks of giving her a good scolding but as soon as she entered the office her bewitching smile helped to evaporate his anger. Women usually tend to arrive late at their workplace. At times a vague explanation like "I have got guests at my place" or "My child was crying" is given, thereby presenting a thoroughly unprofessional attitude. It is very difficult for women to maintain a balance between their office and family life. As a result, both the aspects suffer. Young girls are efficient at their work but as soon as they settle down, their attention gets diverted and they are not able to concentrate. Long leave is taken by women for minor and major reasons. Due to the increased work load at home, official duties are not performed with enthusiasm. There are special facilities of long maternity leave and the boss tends to develop a soft corner and an understanding attitude for women workers which they may never possess as far as men are concerned.
Till the World War II, women were not so privileged and were not independent. It was after the war that women decided to take up jobs in the European countries and became independent. Hence it was in the second half of the 20th century that women’s liberation actually came about. Women displaced men in many fields. Hence, jobs opportunities for men decreased and there was a greater degree of competition in every field.
It is a compulsion for men to have a career. Women tend to shape their careers and later leave their jobs for the sake of their families. For example, if a girl appears for engineering entrance and after clearing her entrance she completes her degree and later does not pursue her career, she will have wasted one seat which could have gone to a deserving boy.
Basically, women pursue a career for their self-respect and ego. Once they have proved themselves most try settling in their families and ignore their careers. Others, who continue working, tend to ignore their family and children. In families where both husband and wife work, the younger generation or the children are ignored. Many a times, children are deprived of a carefree childhood and youngsters are influenced by peer pressure. Thus, negligence on the part of parents, especially mothers, leads to creation of maladjusted citizens.
I feel it is very difficult to maintain
a balance between family and work-related pressure. Very few women are
able to maintain the equilibrium. God has made men and women differently
and assigned different functions to them, which should be performed by
each one of them. There is nothing wrong in liberation of women but that
doesn’t mean that it amounts to becoming a working woman just for the
sake of being labelled as one.
Do not weight and watch, act!
HERE are few tips to remain trim and fit: a guideline on the causes, prevention and cure of obesity.
A fat surplus of 8 to 15 per cent over the ideal weight of an individual is considered as over-weight. Excess weight beyond this percentage is called obesity. Women should be cautious when: Fat starts over-hanging the hips and the waist. Buttocks get enlarged. The neck thickens and loses its normal contour. A double chin makes its appearance. The skin loses its firmness and is no longer taut and becomes puffy. Also, when breasts start sagging down to the stomach and the pubis swelling modestly over the genital organs and the stomach drooping over the pubis. Obesity does not only affect one’s looks and figure but also damages one’s health.
Being over-weight causes:
Circulation problem: Obese persons, with even a slight exertion, get palpitations and experience pain in the heart. The heart gets tired because of being burdened by the surrounding fat. This often results in heart troubles, possibility of high blood pressure and diabetes or gout.
Psychological and nervous troubles: These are common afflictions among obese people. They have an irritable, tired, nervous, apathetic and lethargic attitude.
Digestive problems: Obesity causes dilation of the stomach, inflammation, spasm of the intestines, congestion of the liver, fatty degeneration and digestive upsets.
Genital disorders: The infiltration of fat into the nervous and glandular tissues which controls sexual appetite causes temporary impotence. However, if left too long the cells may mortify.
Causes of over-weight
Some of the causes of excess weight are:
To treat obesity, apart from exercising, reducing one’s food intake is the cure. Dieting is the essential part of the treatment. What is needed is a quantity diet on the one hand and a quality diet on the other. Lower the number of calories taken daily. Cut out on fat and alcohol. Reduce carbohydrates to the minimum, but retain a sufficient amount of protein for your own needs.
Normally, a healthy body digests the food within 15 to 20 minutes and converts it into energy. Your food should contain a balanced quantity of proteins and carbohydrates. A young woman of average height, who is not pregnant, or who is not engaged in strenuous physical labour, requires 2300 calories a day. One gm protein gives 4 calories, whereas one gm carbohydrates also gives 4 calories and 1 gm of fat gives 9 calories. Protein is found in abundance in milk, eggs, meat, fish, soyabean, almond, coconut, groundnut etc. It gives strength.
Carbohydrates is found in vegetables, fruits and cereals. It helps in digestion and in other foods in generating calories. Remember, deficiency in carbohydrates leads to weakness. Fat provides calcium to the tissues and is important for one’s growth.
Avoid the use of drugs or medicines for weight-loss. Take foods like non-fatty soups, slightly salted vegetables, eggs (one in a day), fresh/condensed milk (preferably skimmed), green vegetables (cooked or raw), fruit juices and herbal teas. You should avoid bread, biscuits, fried foods, butter, oils, cream and milk foods, dried vegetables and mushrooms and alcohol and sweetened drinks.
Girls between the age of
14 and 18 tend to put on excess weight. It is largely because their
bodies are undergoing natural changes around this time. Young married
women, too, face this problem after their first baby. Nevertheless, a
good figure can be regained with little effort, provided there is no
other physical ailment.
LIFE is very capricious. It has it’s high and low tides. It may be sailing smoothly when suddenly a disease could storm into your life, bringing a sea-change. A few years ago, severe rheumatoid arthritis attacked my hands, wrists, ankles and feet, immobilising me. An auto-immune disorder, very painful, crippling and degenerative disease of bones and joints, it causes swelling,, stiffness and deformities.
My body went stiff, I had to be confined to bed. It was horrifying when my feet, extremely painful, almost refused to lift from the ground. My fingers wouldn't bend and hands lost their grip, making it impossible to hold a spoon or a comb.. I still squeeze out toothpaste from its tube with my elbow! My husband was constantly at my bedside, attending to my needs,, always reassuring me.
My dress code changed. I, who wore mostly saris and trotted on four-inch stilettoes even in the hills, had to switch over to salwar-kameez and be helped into sports shoes, to limp or walk. I remember attending a wedding in such an attire! I carry my purse on my arm, to avoid the weight on hands.
'Keep cosy' doctors dinned in me. I wear woollen socks even in summer. In plains, air conditioning increases pains. Even in Singapore, I wore light woollens as stores and hotels are heavily airconditioned there. Despite my ailment, I travel frequently, well clad, even to snow-covered high mountainous areas like Rohtang, carrying low-calorie food with a flask of clear soup.
I was told to knock off weight as it strains weight-bearing joints of the knees and feet. I go for walks, rather limp, no matter how painful it is, hoping as Emily Coue says, "I am getting better and better everyday, in every way." How scary are numerous monkeys on the road to Viceregal Lodge!
Obviously, I could no longer work. I bid a sad adieu to my 16-year-old wax art unit as it was impossible to carve wax flowers and leaves, paint and arrange them amidst candles, pine cones and wood-roses. The second casualty was my prize-winning garden. My hands could no more repot and dig soil. It is now being tended by my husband. When watering plants, cold water grips my hands with pain. Only work I could return to, was hoteliering.
Indeed, a housewife is the very backbone of her household. My house, which I had been running in a ship-shape manner, was totally thrown out of gear. Luckily, my hotel staff helped me in my domestic kitchen, though temporarily. Later, perched on a chair in the kitchen, I would command my brigade of two boys to chop, clean, polish, et al - even bake cookies and cakes! Lifting pressure cookers, rolling out chappatis, whipping cream, using openers, etc. is out of question. I handle kitchen work with rubber gloves but wear padded ones to open the freezer. Now, I have installed kitchen burners having press-button ignitions instead of conventional lighters which are painful to click.
The stark reality of being dependent on others, stares at me though my supportive family helps me to climb stairs, wear socks, tie laces, open taps and locks, bolt doors, etc. In temples, I use a chair as I can't sit on the floor.
Undeniably, life revolves around visits to allopathic and ayurvedic doctors, being often put on steroids and pain-killers. I familiarised myself with medical terms, learnt to count calories, monitor my diet to avoid high uric acid and shun chilled drinks and ice cream. Occasionally, I pop a pain killer when going to a picnic or a party to feel comfortable.
Despite all care, rheumatoid arthritic activity silently spread to my chest, resulting in a heart attack, pericarditis and pleural effusion, creating the need for surgery. Like common cold, it has no cure, only treatment. Life's ambition is now only good health, indeed a true wealth, for the family.
My house overflows with amarbel, kulje and banne herbals which cab drivers, who ply from my hotel, fetch from Shimla's nearby low altitude villages, for fomentation.
A workaholic, I was sliding into idleness. Well, if opportunities don't knock on your door, you have to build a door. I began pursuing old passions of writing and painting.
Pain still persists. Often, my hands and feet are in wrist-bands and crepe bandages. At times, confined to bed, I touch a low ebb, longing for those carefree childhood days:
Backward, turn backward, O years in your flight;
Make me a child again, just for tonight.'
I shudder to think: will I become bedridden? What will happen to my family, my home? There is no answer. Then a feeling of despondency overcomes me: What is and what could have been.
When walking alone, amongst silent pines and during insomnia, I became retrospective. It is certain: what can't be cured, has to be endured. Weren't there others in greater pain? With determination, my mother faced cancer, living with one eye. Was I not a daughter of a brave army officer? A picture of my heroine Noor Inayat Khan adorns my bookshelf. She was an Indian spy who courageously fought against Nazis in World War II. I have to live to my last breath, even in pain.
Why not look forwards despite hazards? Que sera sera`85.whatever will be, will be.