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How real is reel?

We are set to find out if Bollywood's portrayal of woman truly reflects aspirations of the middle-class Indian woman. Does the reel diva truly inspire? Read on...

india Updated: Mar 09, 2004 14:50 IST

When we decided to do a special for International Women's Day on March 8, we wondered how we could make a difference. We knew there'd be a zillion web sites on the subject. So we decided to touch the topic obliquely. What if we looked at how Bollywood treated its women? That way we'd hit the bull's eye.

We set out to find if Bollywood's interpretation of woman reflected the aspirations of the middle-class Indian woman. That Indian woman who strives to carve a spot for herself under the sun, who wants, just for once, to live her life her own way. But between the real and reel diva, the difference seems more than a slip between the cup and lip. The on-screen divas throw images of a woman far removed from reality.

Manushi editor Madhu Kishwar says: "I pity the Indian male. At home, he gets to see a wife dressed conservatively in a sari and on screen he is bombarded with images of the skimpily dressed, come hither woman and drools over them. In a repressive society as in India, that is the only outlet he gets perhaps."

Yet, she adds: "...young girls dressed in mini skirts are a common sight today. Even in rural areas, women dress more openly than they did earlier. From where have these influences crept in?

I would say that the Bollywood heroine has contributed to a greater acceptance of the way a woman dares to dress; there is more openness in accepting a generously exposed female body.

But to say that heroines who are sexually aggressive on screen are also being able to essay more evolved roles is incorrect. Their brash skin show does not mean parity with the man in other more important aspects of life."

First Published: Mar 09, 2004 14:50 IST