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No woman's land: Why is PM Narendra Modi's Bollywood delegation an all-man gang?

What was Bollywood suggesting by leaving out any woman professional from its high-powered group? That women in cinema don't really matter beyond dancing around trees?

 |  5-minute read |   19-12-2018
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What is Bollywood essentially? No, I am not getting into the deeper connotations, and nor do I expect a politically correct answer. Simply put, Bollywood is the Hindi film industry which is in the business of making movies. People make films, people perform in them, people edit and fine-tune the final product. People release it. People watch it in theatres — and that’s how it makes money, which eventually is invested in making more movies.

So, in that sense, the film industry is no different from the automobile industry.

Naturally then, for a developing nation like India, which wants to make a mark in the global market, wanting to tap into this is but obvious.

Broadly, PM Narendra Modi’s two consecutive meetings with the who’s who of Bollywood indicate just that.

Tuesday, December 18, the Prime Minister met 18 representatives from the Hindi film industry, in Mumbai, during his day-long Maharashtra visit. This was the second meeting, following the first one in October.

This time, the bunch included heavyweights like Akshay Kumar and Bhushan Kumar, Karan Johar and Ritesh Sidhwani, Prasoon Joshi and Rakesh Roshan, among others.

The agenda was clear — the fraternity presented an overview of the potential growth of the media and entertainment industry, and pitched for lower and uniform GST rates.

“It was enlightening to hear the honourable Prime Minsiter @narendramodi share his views on our Industry’s soft power status and the strength of our cinema...he gave our media and entertainment representatives a patient and solid hearing....thank you Sir!!” tweeted Karan Johar, while Bhushan Kumar said, The film industry's contribution to the entertainment sector will see exponential growth in coming years & will put India on the global map.”

The bunch shook hands and posed together at Raj Bhavan. But guess what was missing from the picture?

Women.

To be precise: 18 men — and zero women.

And this is a pattern.

The October meeting saw Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Aanand L Rai, and others ‘represent’ Bollywood in New Delhi. It was speculated back then that the industry stalwarts had decided to meet the Prime Minister about the ongoing #MeToo movement that has stirred the industry. We’re not sure if the topic was even breached — but we did see irony strangle itself when it saw the bench talking about sexual harassment (especially against women but not just restricted to women) at the workplace comprise only of men.

Come December, and we’re now talking about ‘soft power’ and ‘global map’ and Bollywood’s role in it — but again, with a skewed and discriminatory panel of representatives.

It’s really not that Bollywood has a dearth of women worthy of representing the industry on a national or a global level.

In fact, the first name that pops up in my mind — Priyanka Chopra — is someone our Prime Minister would remember from his recent visit to her wedding reception in Delhi.

capture1_121918031842.jpgNot Starring: Guess what's missing from this picture? (Source: Akshay Kumar/Twitter)

If Karan Johar knows how to win at the box office as a producer, so does Ekta Kapoor. In fact, she single-handedly rules the television sector, something that arguably has far greater reach than cinema even. Then there are names like Nandita Das, Alankrita Srivastava, Shabana Azmi, Zoya Akhtar, Meghna Gulzar, Farah Khan, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and others who could have occupied the director’s chair on the panel.

So, why did nothing change from October to December?

Why were there no lessons learned from the previous mistake?

Heck, why wasn’t it even considered a mistake in the first place?

The answer is simple — women are props, even in 2018.

Deck her up like a doll, make her sway lasciviously to erotic numbers that offer enough titillation for one to survive a winter night, use her as a motif to show the man’s strengths — when he protects her — and his weaknesses — when he fails to protect her — show her as the catalyst who can start wars or the evil seductress who brings him to his knees.

Because a woman can be nothing more than sexuality personified.

collage_121918033951.jpgThe women who missed the invite. (Source: AajTak)

The actual work and the business around it?

Let a man do his job, sweetie.

If this is some grand na-rahega-baans type plan to eliminate sexism in Bollywood, and the nation, I am speechless by the perspective. But then, not quite.

Add to that the fact that most moves by the government as well always start and end with 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' — but never move on to Beti ko Equal Opportunities Do. 

But to eliminate women from the narrative completely seems to be something the proverbial ostrich would do by burying its head in the sand.

However, please note, industry men and all others too — just because you don’t 'see' us, doesn’t mean we don’t exist.

All it means is that we just have to scream louder now.

Also read: Because it's fine to splurge! Isha Ambani's wedding releases us from the guilt of riches, and ups India's soft power

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