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Filmmakers should stop treating women as sex objects just like we should: Mayank Shekhar

Filmmakers should stop treating women as sex objects just like we should: Mayank Shekhar

Is it time for cinema to introspect on how it portrays women?

Is it time for cinema to introspect on how it portrays women? Film critic Mayank Shekhar shared his perspective in an interaction with IBNLive readers.

Q. Don't you think lyrics like 'main tandoori murgi hoon yaar, gatkaale mujhe alcohol se', which are now exceedingly common in our absurd item songs, should be toned down? Shouldn't music composers and lyricists take some responsibility in this regard? Asked by: Chaitanya

A. The moment these songs start flopping as they did when the '80s/'90s phase of 'choli kee peeche kya hai' type songs stopped finding favour, they will disappear, or reduce anyway. As an audience we have a vast array of choices, there are poor, regressive lyrics and then there's some fine stuff from say Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi, Swanand Kirkire and many others. It's up to us as adults what we decide to gravitate towards. Discussions on this subject is a good start, may help sensitise the public as well. I do cringe looking at little kids gyrating to Sheela Ki Jawani though, but that's a personal opinion, their parents seem to be with it apparently.

Q. Indian public (youngsters in Cities) is going through an evolving phase. They want to be heard whatsoever there views might be. It is good that they are looking up and in time will know what is good/bad for them. Your views. Asked by: gaurav

A. There is a voice, which is great, at least better than apathy. But you also end up hearing too much senseless noise, which is worrying, and not very different from mob justice. You hear words like "revenge", "capital punishment" and "severe censorship", and somehow get uncomfortable too, because those things won't make us a better society overnight either. Somewhere reasoned arguments and public intellectualism needs to give some shape to this din as well.

Q. Not only cinema even the advertisements must take a note of this and they should not treat them as a commodity? Asked by: Prathap

A. Advertising has its own self-regulatory body, and clearly they could exercise restraint on what could be permissible for children to watch. Outside of that, with debate, instead of censorship, one should make their voices heard on things we like, don't like, and why. This is how societies naturally evolve. If censorship alone brought in fairer world-view on women, then Saudi Arabia would've been an ideal society; no?

Q. Yup...dey shld stop treating women as sex objects Asked by: ram

A. They should, only as much as we should. 'They' in this case don't exist outside the spectrum of society. They operate from within us, only reflecting our tastes and preferences.

Q. Usually the filmmakers show what is prevalent in the society or what is popular. Do you think that media and a section of the society needs to decide what is good/bad for Indian cinema? Asked by: gaurav

A. Unlike TV, radio, newspapers and advertising in general, people actually go out and directly pay for films in theatres first. The responsibility of the audience in this case becomes greater, and it has to be said, the Indian audience is far more evolved now that they were in the '80s, though they're hardly as great as the ones that existed back in the '50s, when the films were awesome, while our literacy levels were so low.

Q. Do you see a rural-urban divide to being responsible in women getting typecast as sex objects? Women are more treated as that in movies with rural settings than urban (purely my opinion, what you believe?) Asked by: Pushkar

A. Cinema by and large is an urban medium. Most theatres are in the cities, and districts usually have one or two theatres at best. As for portrayal of women in films, it reflects as much the mind-set of the public as it does the filmmaker's. We would be generalising too much by classifing mindsets as merely rural or urban. There are too many other factors at play as well. And everything in mainstream films is an exaggeration: the night clubs in the cities are nothing like they show in films (in "item songs") and the village belle in ghagra choli is just as over the top a description.

Q. What is the role of Censor. Can't they object to wrong potrayals of women in Cinema? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The role of the Censor Board (whose official name is Central Board of Film Certification) isn't moral policing. It is basically to follow guidelines and rate a film as being fit or unfit for children. And of course they should be strict about what they pass to be viewed by kids. Besides that, adults should be free to watch what they want, in an ideal world: somebody who turns into a murderer or rapist by watching a film was demented to start with.

Q. The indian film industry has been justifying itself as an entertainment industry which has the license to showcase anything under 'entertainment' It certainly does. But like CSR for companies does not it too have a social responsibility? esp given that it caters to a largely illiterate audience who are unable to intelligently sift between real life and what is protrayed and who pick up lessons from these role models (actors)? Films have a much larger social responsibility than profit making cos and if the govt has mandated CSR spending then the same govt must mandate something for ugly depictions in the name of entertainment - all to earn money at the BO. Your views please..... Asked by: c4conscience

A. The debt to society, which is as true for corporates as it is for individuals, are the taxes we pay. The entertainment industry is very heavily taxed across all states in India. I don't think we should expect to turn into philanthropists as well. They do a healthy job of telling us stories, giving us music and entertaining us in general through films, and if they do that honestly enough, that should be good enough. As for good and bad, regressive or progressive, at some level, like with our politicians, we get the movies we deserve. We actually vote for them every weekend at the BO.

Q. Movies do portray good strong feminine characters like Kahani etc..But the jantha decides what to take and what not..The western world has similar pattern on screen, but the respect of women is cultivated from grass root education. Ill blame illiteracy for all the issues against women in India Asked by: Paresh

A. I am not sure if illiteracy alone is the key. A lot of educated people are misogynists, and many unlettered people tend to be more respectful towards women in general. I suppose social conditioning has a larger role to play in matters such as these.

Q. Producers' say we meet the Customer's(audience) demand. Has the audience decided to have a differently potrayed women? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The audience has, with the broadening of choices in the films we get to watch. Back in the '80s, rape scenes for titillation or the loafer hero getting the heroine by stalking her was quite common. They happen much less now in mainstream cinema, if any at all; and perhaps exist only in fringe B-grade movies.

Q. Cinema hall is an entertainment ring - will holding lectures on Moral Science keep the crowd glued there.? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Precisely. Films, music etc are there for entertainment, and cannot be confused with public service or moral science lectures. Though they do send out cryptic codes on how the society views itself, such as in the portrayal of women. The audience ought to reject things that are regressive through debates, instead of demanding censorship, because the latter is an open field up for serious misuse.

first published:January 12, 2013, 14:39 IST