It is said that popular culture reflects a society’s norms, especially about sex and relationships. Films constitute a large part of our popular culture and their depiction of sex and relationships seems to have evolved over the last few years.
Pre-marital sex in Indian movies has always been a no-no — until recently. A woman was sure to have a baby should she indulge in pre-marital sex even once. And she would be sure to lose her man even if she got married in the temple the next day. So she would spend the rest of her life as a widow, which, the movies made clear, was a fate worse than death.
These days, there are no compunctions about pre-marital sex. Even star-studded movies like Dhoom 2 indicate pre-marital sex. The film may or may not show anything more than a kiss, but most people understand that when a man and a woman are shown living together, they do more than play rummy in the evenings. And guess what? Even if they live together, now kids do not suddenly appear and the heroine often manages to live happily ever after.
The movies of the Seventies and earlier had always indicated that a single woman’s virginity was most precious — should she lose it and not marry the man she lost it to, then she had to die. This was frequently the fate of good old vamps. Of course, now we all know that vamps or women with doubtful characters no longer exist and it is a good thing too.
But there are still some apparently unchangeable rules. Rule one is that women should ooh and aah when the hero appears. Rule two is that the hero can never be wrong — at least not for long. Rule three is that the hero can never learn anything from a woman. And rule four is that the heroine is still always helpless and the hero is the one who will always guide her. Should any of these rules be broken, then the hero is considered to be useless.
Some rules will live on till eternity. But one hopes that the practice of hitting women on screen will vanish and that roles of heroes and heroines will evolve to reflect a more accurate understanding of men, women and their relationships.