The status of women in many countries has increased post-globalization. They started to represent in different organisations, the gender gap in the payment system decreased and legislation were made to stand for their rights. In India, even though the impact of globalization has strengthened the women movements and their rights, the patriarchal values existing in the society discriminate women in different ways. This discrimination is very high in the film industry as Films are the reflection of the society and vice versa.
Film is a reflection of society, both present and past. I think the film and it’s innovations sometimes has to catch up to society but sometimes it leads society too. Movies are stories, movies are people who come out with ideas about something they want to say, something they want to tell someone. Movies are a form of communication and that communication, those stories, come from societies- not just where society is presently and what it’s doing now- but where society has been. It’s been that way for as long as movies have been around!Tom Sherak
Before getting to the blog :
- This Blog is the Continuation of: https://mavelysdiary.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/patriarchy-in-indian-cinema/
- The survey discussed below was done through a virtual platform.
- There were 364 respondents, 241 women and 123 men.
- To compare the data, 123 women were selected through sampling method.
- The majority of respondents of the survey belongs to Kerala State.
Indian Cinema & the Society
- The societal beliefs and value system influence the film industry and vice versa. Cinema is one of the medium which brings new trends and lifestyles in the society.
- From its birth, the Indian film industry has brought out new trends and revolutions through powerful films.
- From the old style of MGR to the coeval actors, there were numerous adaptation of styles by the common people.
- For Instance, The Malayalam movie Honey Bee, a trend changing movie in Mollywood which depicts the story of youth and film have brought a new wave among the youth with new slangs like “bro”, “freak”, “machan” along with new generation dressing. Like this, each film has an impact in the society.
- On the other hand, the impact of the society in the film also plays a large part. Thus the society and film are interrelated.
- Even being one of the largest film industry, Indian film Industry still reflects patriarchy and male chauvinism.
- The patriarchy that exists in the society reflects on the screen. The societal value system which treats women as a divine or good homemaker still exist all over the community.
- A film depend on the power structure of the society, which in India is male-is dominated. The Directors take preferences of taking film that go in hand with the societal mores and norms. Since the Indian society is made up of patriarchal values and beliefs, the same get reflected in the big screen.
The Religious aspects affecting the Film.
- Indians are entangled by high beliefs and value system through religion and religious scriptures. Most of the religions consider women to be a divine home maker and to be the subordinate of men.
- They give the men complete power to be dominant in the society. The evil practices of Sati, Child marriage and fate of a widow were all brought to the society by religion.
- Empowering women through the medium of cinema is tough for the filmmakers as they will have to face consequences from the majority of people who belief in the power system.
- Deepa Mehtas Fire and water were one among them, as both film shows the freedom of women but were denied by the society. The telecasting of the films were stopped by the RSS, saying that those were against Manusmrithi.
The Marketing Strategy of films upholding the Patriarchy
Marketing and publicity, initially represent about five to ten per cent of a film’s success at the box office but today it determines up to fifty per cent of a film’s success.
Economic liberalisation created a new wave in the marketing strategy of the Indian film Industry. Traditionally, Hindi films were screened in large single-screen theatres with separate seating sections that catered to people from a wide range of social classes and demographics.
- Thus, a filmmaker could not make a niche film if he expected to make profits as a theatre owner needed to sell a thousand seat hall. The goal was to make a “super hit” film that would appeal to everyone.
- While traditional notions of masculinity are still at play, mass media also influences the constructions of gender identity. Cinema halls in India are an extremely gendered space, primarily occupied by young men.
- Indian male filmgoers enjoy watching male stars, making them objects of their affection. These on-screen images of male stars are objects of the filmgoers’ gaze, while also promoting a strong identification that leads male audience members to view themselves as “framed by the looks of others.”
- This is manifested in imitation of the stars’ style and swagger. Young men in particular copy the clothes, hairstyles and mannerisms of both heroes and villains, often memorizing whole chunks of dialogues.
- The largest film audiences come from poor lower caste and lower class urban males. This group numbers around 165 million. They have low levels of disposable income and, as men have much higher status than women, women are more likely to be confined to the home than men, though they still attend the cinema, in lesser numbers.
- As the reach of media is much narrower in rural areas than in urban centres, the rural counterparts of the urban poor are a less accessible but much larger group. Both urban and rural poor have low levels of disposable income and film choices are made carefully.
Since males are the major theatre visitors, the filmmakers look deeply to the male audience perspective to market films.
To understand this, (the number of times a female/male visit the theatre) a survey was conducted equally between the male and female.
From the graph certain conclusions can be analysed:
- From the survey, it is clear that men go to the theatre more than women
- The percentage of male, always going to the theatre is more than that of the female. It was found that out of 123 respondents of males twenty-three of them visit the theatre most of the times and around 13 females visit the theatre in the same manner. The positive element that we get from this analysis is that the females going to the theatre is increasing.
- It’s evident from the graph that most people visit the theatre, not in a regular basis and the men going to the theatre is far more than the females.
- Looking closely, it is found that women, number in visiting the theatre rarely is more than the males. The females who rarely visit the theatre is far more than those who went to the theatre. Whereas men who go to the theatre always is more in number than who rarely goes to the theatre. In another study, where the respondents were only women, out of 241 respondents female who goes to theatre rarely is greater in number.
- We could infer from the graph that the men going to the theatre is far more than women and hence our understanding of the male dominance in the theatre could be traced.
- Thus to get the profit for the filmmakers, they always think from the male-dominant perspective, as most viewers are men. Majority of the respondents of this survey are from Kerala, one of the developed state in India. But if this is the situation of a literate state like Kerala, what would be the situation of all those other states where patriarchy is high?
Item Dance and The Marketing Strategy Behind it.
- Item dance is one of the major evil, discriminating women in the film industry. Majority of them are thrilled by the Item dances, while watching Indian films.
- The term “item” is used as a slang word for an attractive and promiscuous woman in the film industry and so does in the society, consequently viewing a woman as a possessive piece of property that is subject to being owned and objectified by a man. From this slang word came the term “item number” or “item song” referring to a catchy and upbeat song featuring an attractive woman who is dancing for the pleasure and entertainment of her dominantly male audience
- For an Indian woman in the spotlight, it seems near impossible to escape the male gaze. Female protagonists are often depicted as objects of desire: sexy, playful, coy, flirty, and decidedly feminine. Many a time they are arm candy, or props to the narratives of men
- The concept of item dance in many films are logic-less and is not justified according to the demanded situation. For instance, In certain films after the introduction or after a fight, The hero get into a bar. There will be few beautiful girls in the bar who gets admired by the hero’s masculinity glamour, try to seduce him through dance and at last there will be more women and hero dancing with all of them~ Item dance end and hero go to love another girl and fight villains.
- Item Dances in the films are a marketing strategy for the promotion of the film.
To know more about the opinion of the people on the topic whether item dance in films is a way of discriminating women, an online survey was conducted among 123 males and 123 females. The response were stunning.
- From the graph, it is understood that the majority of the male respondents think, item dance is not discriminating women and in a way it convey the thoughts of promoting/supporting item dances in films.
- Whereas the women consider the item dance as a discrimination against them. The majority of them support for removing item dance from movies.
- We have described the item dance just being the marketing strategy to promote films and from the samples, it is clear that males look forward for item dances. So once again it’s clear that the filmmakers look toward a male perspective while making a film to make a profit.
- Most commercial movies have item dances in it, especially Bollywood showcases high number of item dances. Apart from discriminating the women, item dances has fewer or no logic.
- Majority of the female respondents are against to item dance as they feel offended by seeing it. The society has to realise that the women are no more the pleasure elements for the satisfaction of man and they have equal rights similar to that of men.
- Most of the respondent in the survey are from Kerala. Unlike Bollywood, there are only less films with item dances in the second decade of twenty-first century, but the item dances from the film Madhuraraja, 916, Lucifer where all topics of debate in many social platforms.
Sexism and Misogyny in the Film Industry
- It is true that the support and cheers given by the audience to the sexism and misogynist dialogues, further lead the film makers to bring more such dialogues to the films.
- In my last blog, I have mentioned few famous dialogues from movies like Narasimham and The King, where the male protagonist’s offensive and idiotic dialogues showered over the women character were highly appreciated by the audience. To know more get into the link:
- Just think! why are the audience energetic/ enthusiastic to hear such dialogues? Do women like to hear such dialogue presentations?
To understand the stance of Men and women, when they hear sexist/misogynist dialogues in the film, a survey was conducted.
- From the results, it’s clear that the majority (67%) of the women agreed that they get offended when they hear discriminatory dialogues against them.
- 26% of them at times get offended by such dialogue presentation.
- 7% of the respondents do not get offended to such patriarchal dialogues.
Now lets look in to the male responses:
- From the graph, it’s clear that 43% of the male respondents are aware of the discrimination faced by women on the big screen.
- 36 out of 123 (29%) of them get offended when they come across patriarchal dialogues.
- 28% per cent of them have no problem in hearing such dialogues
Comparing the respondent’s views we could see that Majority(67%) of the women get offended while hearing dialogues which contain the element of patriarchy in it whereas only 29% of men get offended to such dialogues. Also it’s visible that, around 28% of men have no offence in hearing sexist/misogynist dialogues. Maximizing the analysis, we could find that majority of the women in the society does not like to hear misogynist dialogues raised in the film industry.
The Choice of Actor/Actress
- To understand the level of admiration, whether is towards male actors or to female actors the survey data were analysed.
- The questionnaires were distributed among two fort six peoples, equally among male and female.
- Out of this two forty-six respondents, one hundred and twenty called out the names of the male actors and only twenty-three called out female names. The mixed names and writing different answers were neglected.
- From the names mentioned, the most called out name among the male actors was Mohanlal and the most called out name among the female actresses was Deepika Padukone.
- This show that the rate of acting influences the audience more than the gender. On the other dimension we could also infer that more the screen appearances, the more are they recognised. Fewer the film appearance the least known.
- To get an idea about the genre of the film viewed by the more audience few films were listed out.
- The list contains both women-centric as well as male-centric movies.
- Narasimham topped the list with the most number of views. (335)
- Uyare is in the second position with 329 viewers.
- Fire(1996) is the film with the least viewers.
Among the top five viewed film list two are women concentric film, which is a good sign of a shift in the thoughts of people. The people start to look at the film making and the content of the film rather than the star acting in it. The attitude of the society toward patriarchy is changing and we could witness this through films like Raazi, padmaavath, 22 FK, Mary Kom, Neerja, English Vinglish, How old Are You..so on.
Women Warriors have raised to fight patriarchy and chauvinism in the Indian film Industry. They marked their signature in the film industry through their mind-blowing works. Things have started to change from then, The films with the women-centric concepts which projected the women oppressions and their feelings, were communicated through films by these women warriors. Two things happened then:
- Society understood the plight of women oppression in a different part of the country and around the globe.
- Even little girls, inspired by the women warriors started to dream about their career in film and film making.
In the next Blog we will look into the subject:
The Women Warriors; a Fight against the Patriarchy and Male Chauvinism in the Indian Film Industry.
Looking forward to your valuable opinions, suggestions and critics…
… Stay Safe and Stay Tuned …
Hi Jose! Great analysis. It was interesting to read your inferences about the data you collected especially the part about how men and women view discrimination in the movies.
A couple of suggestions:
1. You have insightful comments on each of the domains you covered. Support it with author-backed evidence so that the readers are able to understand that what you say is also proved by others. References at the end of the article will also help.
2. The aspects you have covered in this article are research-worthy topics in itself. When it comes to South Indian film industry, we have a limited array of artists who fall under the category of ‘popular’. Perhaps exploring ‘why’ they are popular would help you and us to understand what is it about them that supports/discourages patriarchal socio-cultural norms. Maybe another article on that? 🙂
Well done on a clean analysis of a difficult topic! Looking forward to read more!
Yes, there is one more article under process about the topic ( part III), but the focus will be more from a women-centric perspective. Thank you for the appreciation and critics. Definitely will look to suggestions in the coming articles.