Unfair to fair sex

The female actors, more often than not, are merely treated as sex symbols or fillers in a majority of Hindi films, writes Surendra Miglani

Contrary to the title of the film, Madhuri Dixit in Beta saves her husband from the clutches of his stepmother
Contrary to the title of the film, Madhuri Dixit in Beta saves her husband from the clutches of his stepmother.

Gender bias has been always there in the Hindi film industry. It is all too visible — on the screen as well as off it. The most recent example is Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodhaa Akbar. In a novel publicity campaign, two posters of the film were put up side by side in cinema halls. One of them had Aishwarya Rai who plays Jodhaa and the other Hrithik Roshan who essays the role of Akbar. Logically, Jodhaa’s posters should have been put up first and those of Akbar on its right simply because her name appears first in the title. But what was done was exactly the opposite. So the posters made the film appear as Akbar Jodhaa. Men first, it seems, is our film industry’s motto.

The makers of Chak De! India, too, did not lag behind in exhibiting the supremacy of men over the women. In the climax scene where India and Australia teams are at the penalty shootout stage in the final minutes of the game. Indian goalie and captain (Vidya Malvade) is to defend against the last of the strokes. Shahrukh Khan, the coach for the Indian team, after watching the foot movements of the Australian player, anticipates a straight hit. The goalie looks towards him and he signals his guess to her. Vidya follows his silent guidance and manages to save the goal. Significantly, this was the most important goal of the game as it was to decide the winner of the World Cup.

The moral is that it was Shahrukh Khan who helped the team finally win the championship. Now, why Vidya could not make the judgment which her coach did? The team was coached by Shahrukh Khan for the championship. Is it that the makers of the film were not satisfied with this and they wanted to give him the credit for spoon-feeding the women till the very end?

In Chak De! India, Shahrukh Khan spoon-feeds the women hockey players till the very end.
In Chak De! India, Shahrukh Khan spoon-feeds the women hockey players till the very end.

In another scene from the same film, Shahrukh Khan takes his players to a fast-food joint where the latter end up having a scuffle with some eve-teasers. His woman assistant repeatedly tries to get up and rescue the girls. But the coach stops her as he wants the girls to defend themselves and thereby inculcate team spirit. But when a boy tries to assault one of the girls from behind, Shahrukh gets up and comes to her rescue. What was wrong if the assistant had overpowered the boy and told him that hamaari hockey mein chhakke nahin hotey? Women need men’s help and support everywhere.

Take the case of a film made in 1992. This is the story of a woman (Aruna Irani) who marries a rich widower to grab his property. However, he has penned a will according to which all his property would go to his son after the latter’s marriage. Aruna Irani does not send her stepson to school so that he would not become intelligent to refuse to dance to her tune.

However, thanks to some dramatic circumstances, the son (Anil Kapoor) ends up marrying an educated, intelligent and strong girl (Madhuri Dixit). Madhuri with her efforts, not only saves her husband’s life whom his stepmother wants to kill but also manages to reform her stepmother-in-law. The film’s title, in all fairness, should have been drawn from the character of the bahu. But the makers (Indra Kumar and Ashok Thakeria) called it Beta.

And while on gender bias, who can forget Dushman (1998)? A serial killer (Ashutosh Rana) rapes and murders a young girl Sonia. Neha, her twin sister (Kajol in a double role), takes revenge when she finally shoots the serial killer. But the story is not as simple as that. When she is facing problems from every front, Neha seems to be coming close to accepting her defeat when a former Major, Sanjay Dutt, enters her life. He motivates and even trains her to fight the enemy. In her final confrontation with the serial killer, she is about to meet the fate of her sister when the Major arrives on the scene. He first saves the girl and then snatches the revolver from Ashutosh and passes it to her which she uses to murder the hardcore criminal.

At this point one must mention that this Major is blind. So the moral of the story is that a woman must always look to a man to achieve her goals. Even if the man is blind, he will still be in a position to help her. Are women really so weak? Ironically, the film was produced by a Pooja Bhatt and directed by Tanuja Chandra, both women.

The Indian culture being what it is, it is somewhat difficult for a woman to adjust to the environment of film shoots. It is difficult, for instance, to move out of homes alone, particularly at nights. Yet the remuneration paid to female actors is generally less than even one-third of that paid to male actors of the same status. This despite the fact that female actors have often proved that they can perform as well as can male actors!

And finally, male actors hog the limelight and female actors, more often than not, are merely treated as sex symbols or mere fillers in a majority of Hindi films.