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From Nargis to Kangana EQUALITISM

The changing face of Bollywood: How much has really changed though?

Men in most societies were seen as breadwinners while the role of women was restricted to being good homemakers and good mothers. This applies to women in the highly patriarchal society of India. As societies entered the world of modernization, the role of women changed dramatically. Cinema has always reflected the ethos and ideology of the society at a point of time. Indian Cinema termed as Bollywood is the visual portrayal of Indian society presented through films to the audience across globe. The mediums to accentuate this reflection vary from costumes to music to objects of luxury; but the most crucial medium are the characters. Which brings us to the question how women have been portrayed in Indian Cinema? Research facts released by the Geena Davis Institute on Women in Media supported by UN Women and The Rockefeller Foundation, which claimed Indian films top the list in objectifying women on screen. Beginning from 1913 with a silent feature movie “Raja Harishchandra” each decade of Bollywood has presented its own brand of women in Hindi Cinema. Mother India, a film set in 1957, is a strong political statement depicted by a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha (Nargis) who, in the absence of her husband, struggles to raise her sons and survive against a cunning money-lender amidst many troubles. Despite her hardship, she sets a goddess-like moral example of an ideal Indian woman. In 1970s women were portrayed as an “Abla Naari”, pleading “Bhagwaan ke liye mujhe chhod do” to a menacing villain with ignoble intent. Ironically, Heroes sister remained the perfect example of a helpless woman, as in Amitabh Bachchan’s Akhree Raasta, Raj Babbar’s Aaj ki Awaz and Sunil Shetty’s Aaghaz,. In Indian cinema, an ordinary woman has hardly been visible. During the time of actresses such as Meena Kumari and Madhubala cameras primarily focused upon the face of the female protagonist than on the entire body. However this trend underwent considerable change in 1990s, when body of the woman also gained similar importance as that of the face. The Sati-savitri image portrayed in 1980s by almost every actress from Hema Malini and Rekha to Moushumi Chatterjee and Vidya Sinha radically underwent a makeover in 90s with Nutan who made a powerful presentation in roles such as Seema and Bandini. In 1990s the role been given to actresses began to change. They no more played an eye candy but a more substantial role.Movies such as Kora Kagaz, Jawani Diwani, Guddi, Sholay stripped glamour off the female leads character and allowed the female leads to play roles equally important as of the male lead.One such popular trend of Bollywood movies is “Badle ki Aag”. This particular trend has continued for more than a decade. The Scorned Woman took the center stage in the 1980s in films such as Rekha's Khoon Bhari Maang and Phool Bane Angarey, Sridevi's Sherni or Dimple's Zakhmi Aurat, which continues till date in movies like Hate Story 2, Ek thi Dayaan and others. With the beginning of 21st century the roles awarded to women in films changed drastically. The female protagonist were no more an “Abla Naari” or “Sati-Savitri” rather they given roles of an item girl, a sex worker, a bad girl (in Bollywood a bad girl is one who lives according to her own rules). Films such as Cocktail, Saat Khoon Maaf, Jism and others are perfect examples of such roles. Women were not just allotted roles of equal importance to the leading male but sometimes even superior. A lot of movies during this time were women centric such as Fashion, Queen, Page 3 where in the woman was a protagonist and men in the movie played a supporting role.In the present decade portrayal of women in Indian Cinema as compared to the portrayal in previous decade is very strong and powerful. Women are depicted to be successful in every field of their lives. Certain films are also the biopic of some of the renowned sportsperson and fighters of our country such as Mary Kom, Dangal, Neerja and Sarabjeet. Bollywood also took a stance by conflicting the commonly perceived notion of a Patriarchal society in the movie “Ki and Ka” wherein Female protagonist is the breadwinner and the male protagonist is the homemaker. Even after more than a century of its existence Bollywood continues to retain its place in global cinema, with a huge amount of Bollywood fans across world. Despite of such popularity, Bollywood continues its main purpose of portraying different phases of our society, which in turn led to different roles allocated to women in different time periods. Film stars are taken to be as role models by their viewers, therefore it remains important for the producers and directors to make sure that the role they allocate to the actors remain intact with the ongoing in the society, so that it allows the viewers to relate themselves. Thus, the change in portrayal of women in Bollywood from beginning to current date depicts either the present status of the society or the way the society is required to be molded.