The Two-Faceted Feminism of Bollywood

Feminism is a movement that advocates for equal rights for men and women. It is not something which is a current fad, it has been going on since the time women demanded the right to vote and is still an ongoing struggle. With changing times, the meaning has been lost and feminism is viewed as something negative instead of the strong message of equality it carries, the credit of which can be given to some extremists. The current issue is media's portrayal of women, which in turn, mirrors people's perception of this gender. Some advancement has been made with actors standing up for their female leads like the Avenger's cast answering sexist questions directed at Scarlett Johansson or closer home, Shah Rukh Khan insists on the female lead's name preceding his in the credits roll. These are only some minor advances that are canceled out with step-backs in the form of sexist advertisements and years of conditioning, which make eve-teasing a show of affection and the popular belief that 'a girl's no is a yes'. But even then it cannot be said that a sincere effort is not being made.

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Bollywood movies have undergone a transformation when it comes to portrayal of female leads. With movies like Queen, Kahaani, English Vinglish and Nil Battey Sannata where a female lead was trusted to handle the film on her shoulders changed the perception of the urban woman. There were also movies like Pink and Dangal which carried forward the message but they are still criticized because they needed a male popular celebrity to deliver the message. There were also surprises found in movies like Dear Zindagi and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil where the message was subtly sent across. Alia Bhatt played a woman with a career who faced the occasional sexism and the pressure to "settle down" but she braved all that and with a little bit of therapy came out as a stronger woman. ADHM had two strong women who were practical in their approach to life and yet not afraid to commit to the folly of loving the wrong person. The way these women handled the folly is what speaks volumes about their inner strength. Standing against these movies are also movies like the Kya Kool Hai Hum series and other ones in the genre of 'Adult Comedy' which give a mighty blow to the difference pro-equal rights.

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There are also some movies which show a misguided approach to feminism with movie like Ki and Ka which had the roles reversed and yet the issue was not superbly handled as it did not spread the message of equality. If the meaning of feminism still eludes you, this below scene from Dil Dhadakne Do should clear your doubts.

The movies are not the only ones to be blamed here. The ad world manages to do all the damage by itself. There are angels falling because of a certain deodorant and skimpily clad women sell almost anything in the ad world. It will be wrong to say that with changing times there have been some improvements with Dove ads, which focus on the inner beauty and the new range of Titan and Tanishq ads which are trying to break the stereotypes associated with women. Last year, stand-up comedian and actor Vir Das released a video trashing all the sexist ads and how with a bit of gender change becomes irrelevant. 

There are Bollywood actresses who refuse to be called feminists and yet stand up for women rights when the need calls. The fear of being labeled is due to the earlier mentions of extremists who have given a bad name to the term and all that is associated with it. Time and again stars like Huma Qureshi, Rani Mukherjee and Katrina Kaif have advocated passionately for women rights.

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With the changing times, the goal of feminism movement hasn't changed. It still demands equal rights and while the two-faceted approach towards it by the media might confuse some and even scare some, there is still a long way to go before the day comes when this movement can be disbanded. 

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