Patriarchy and Male Chauvinism; A Curse to Indian Film Industry-Part 1.

Patriarchy and Male Chauvinism; A Curse to Indian Film Industry.

In a letter denying permission to screen the award-winning film Lipstick Under My Burkha in India earlier this year, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) wrote that the film was a “lady-oriented film… with a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society”. The letter sent to the filmmakers sparked outrage. Eventually, the Bombay high court overruled the CBFC.

Patriarchy and Male Chauvinism

The image shown below is the letter from the CBFC;



Cinemas are medium for social reforms. It is not only a piece of art but a tool for expressing human feelings and idea of the contemporary society. With a value of over 180 billion Indian rupees and producing more than 1500 films per year, Indian Film Industry is one of the largest. Even sustaining the high position, the industry’s distribution of the opportunity in a gender-equal mannerism is a question mark!

why gender inequality and discriminations high among women in the film industry??? What are the situation of the women filmmakers and women-centric characters?? Why are filmmakers thinking from a male audience perspective for making and marketing films?? Why male chauvinism is high in Bollywood?? How Kerala women filmmakers won the battle against patriarchy??

Even when women shines gloriously in various fields like science, space, business and writings by marking their breakthrough achievements, the film industry still showcase male chauvinism and patriarchy in various forms.

Gender Inequality in Indian Films…

Before Independence…A Period of High Patriarchy.

  • In the initial stages of history, the media was handled largely by men and the media images of men and women were tailored according to the preference of men.
  • Being an extremely patriarchal society where the male has a dominant role and women being subordinate of men, highly reflected in Indian Cinema.
  • Inspired by ‘Manusmriti’– an age-old Dharmashastra written by Manu for followers of Hindu faith – a female actor is never allowed to transgresses the scriptural paradigm that mediates women’s role as always in obedience and servitude to man, like Sita – the scriptural paradigm of femininity.
  • In the beginning, the role of women in Indian cinema was always subjected to be an obedient daughter, taking care of her sibling, helping mother in the kitchen and marrying a man of her fathers choice.
  • Another role include as a self-sacrificing mother who don’t have any desires in her life.
  • The third and most abused image of a woman presented onscreen is the role of an ideal wife. Wife who sacrificed everything for her husband. Thus, the wife is expected to be immensely devoted to her husband at the cost of her own pleasures, desires, and ambitions. This ideal wife has to be sexually pure, taking care of the children and live faithfully under the dominance of her husband and once she becomes a widow should lead her life embracing the husband’s memories.
  • Later in Films, there were differences showcased between good women and bad women. The bad women who usually is against the values and beliefs of the society. The dichotomy between good-bad women were popular in films, which distinguish between the heroine and the negative women. whereas men always remain centre character and control other characters and was always pure…
  • Apart from the patriarchal system, the caste system was also a curse to the Indian film industry before independence and portraying a heroic character from the untouchable will certainly lead to failure of the film.

The portrayal of women in the film reflected the societies thoughts before independence where women were considered as impotent, defenceless, low and dependent on the males. In such a situation introducing a role change in films may disturb the patriarchy system and the film would be a fail.

The first Malayalam movie Vikadakumaran directed by J C Daniel in 1930s out of his passion for making a film was stopped screening by the upper caste men as the film portrays a low caste woman as the heroine ( well depicted in the film Celluloid, directed by Kamal).

Indian film post Independence…The Curse of a patrilineal System!

The Indian Film Industry gained more colour after independence. The women gained more freedom from the husbands and four-cornered walls to an open workforce society after feministic movements in India.

  • The representation of women in Indian Cinema has increased after independence but since a patrilineal system( where descent and inheritance are traced through the male line and men are generally in control of the distribution of family resources.) governs the society, the characters given to the female actress were of the same kind.
  • 1980 saw the beginning of the action era in Indian Film Industry where the men were highly worshipped by the audience for the extraordinary superpower he had to fight bunches (12*n) of enemies in the air.
  • The heroines lost their strength and space to the hero. She was reduced to a glamorous component of the films. She danced around trees, kidnapped, raped or get killed.
  • It was the time when the people start to believe the superpowers of the actor is real, started to get admired by their romance, fight and saving poor people from crooked villains. The fan power for such heroes raised in such a way that the incidents of people electing film stars as the chief ministers and leaders are evident in a few states.
  • In such a high time for men in cinemas, the roles of women were less accepted by the common people and female-centric films saw a failure in common people as it showcases the struggles of women rather than thrillers and actions.

Thus in post Independence, the contribution of women in Indian film has increased but always stayed down the line of the patriarchal society. The film gained colour, high sound system, more clarity and high technology but the women still get biased due to highly existing gender discrimination in the society.

#Challenge 1

Hey, have you ever watched these movies????

Well, Good, you may have watched a few( great, if you have watched all) of those movies.

Indian Film Post- globalisation…Liberated but Controlled! 

Globalisation has shifted society to another dimension where liberalisation plays an important role in bringing gender rights. The second feminist wave evolved in America get reflected in India and gender equality in the Indian film industry has stepped up.

  • Still, there were criticisms and patriarchial symptoms which supported mass male-dominant films, where women were considered as an “adding beauty character”. The advancement in film technology rarely supported the women audience and looked from a men perspective way.

Vast differences between the male and female characters also occur in their respective occupations onscreen. While men are shown in their workplaces, in meetings with their colleagues or even in uniforms and hence ‘on duty’, women are largely shown within the domestic sphere—their labour within the home rendered invisible by its marked absence.

Sexism in Indian Film
  • The studies shows that Bollywood stands high in male chauvinism in films. In 1995, it was a leather jacket-clad Raj from Aditya Chopra’s debut, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, who found no issues with ‘flirting’ with a woman travelling with her friends, even after she has asked him to back off. The study takes an expansive look at the next couple of decades as well. Whether it is Rahul in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Rancho in 3 Idiots (2009) or Barfi in Barfi! (2012), a woman’s personal or professional space is often taken for granted.

A recent analysis which shows about sexism in Bollywood;


  • Sexism is not new to Tamil and Malayalam cinemas, the industry has long been an example of stereotyping, misogyny as ‘macho’ (and macho is always a man!). The whistles, that heroes receive when they berate a woman, chastise her or do moral policing explains the embedded ‘chauvinism’ in Tamil audiences. While these stereotypes flourish under ‘creative freedom’, the glorification of ‘male chauvinism’ has become a genre by its own right.

Characters and dialogue

Male characters account for nearly twice as many as female characters (Graph 2) in the credits. Try looking at the number of dialogues between the male and female protagonists and the latter only manages to cross one-third of the total figure.

Dialogue Distribution among men and women in films

Controversies surrounding Women in Cinemas…

The Post-modern society after globalisation and its impact on liberalisation leads to advancement of high technologies in films. There were may female directors contributing to the Indian Film Industry and most of them have women-centric characters in their films.

Deepa Mehta’s  Fire and Water

  • Women centred films, where women have tried to break the conventions have stirred immense conflicts and controversies in the Indian society. Films like Fire, directed by Deepa Mehta(1998), became the recipient of several international awards when it was released in the US and Europe in 1996.
  • This movie depicted a romantic relationship between two sisters in law in an urban, middle-class household of North India. The film when released in India gained extensive criticisms, especially the rigid Hindu families.
  • The Shiv Sena an extreme right-wing of Hindu organization led by Bal Thackery, violently opposed the screening of this movie leading to riots. According to them, this film’s story attempted to degrade Indian women, and it encouraged the collapse of marriage and family.
  • Another film of her, Water (2005) which showcased a plot supporting the right for women. There were large criticisms and riots all over by the same group which destroyed her fame in her last film.

The main reason of this riot was not due to the portrayal of women like her previous film Fire, but it was because a women director was daring enough to make a period film that divulged the dark side of Hindu religion, especially to the Western audience.

  • The various religious and political groups anticipated that this was an attempt
    to make an anti-Hindu unit for the West. It was further believed that there was political doctrine and plan behind organizing a nuisance even before the shooting of the film.

Aandhi (1975)


  • This political drama centres around a woman politician whose appearance was uncannily similar to that of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • This led the film to face allegations that it was based on her, especially Gandhi’s relationship with her estranged husband.
  • However, the filmmakers had only borrowed the protagonist’s look from the Prime Minister and the rest had nothing to do with her life.
  • Even after its release, the director was asked to remove scenes which showed the lead actress smoking and drinking during an election campaign and the film was completely banned during the national Emergency later that year.

Bandit Queen (1994)


  • The biographical film is based on the life of Phoolan Devi, a feared woman dacoit who led a gang of bandits in northern India.
  • Phoolan belonged to a poor low caste family and was married to a man three times her age. She later took to a life of crime.
  • The film, directed by Bafta-winner Shekhar Kapur, was criticised for its excessive use of abusive language, sexual content and nudity.
  • Despite the backlash, Bandit Queen went on to win the National Film Award for Best Feature Film.

The Pink Mirror (2006)


  • The Pink Mirror is the first mainstream film to have two transsexuals as protagonists.

  • While it was a groundbreaking moment in Indian cinema, the Central Board of Film Certification had other opinions, calling the film “’ vulgar and offensive”.
  • The Pink Mirror remains banned in India but it went on to win the Jury Award for Best Feature at the New York LGBT Film Festival and the Best Film of the Festival at Question de Genre in Lille, France. You can catch the film on Netflix now.

S… Durga (2017):


  • Initially called Sexy Durga, the film’s name was changed to S Durga by the CBFC while giving clearance with a U/A certificate.
  • The film also received 21 audio mutes but no scene cuts. Directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, the film highlights the patriarchal set up in Kerala through the eyes of an eloping couple and the horrors they endure on the way.
  • The film, which was first included in IFFI Goa, was later removed from the Indian Panorama section at the behest of the Union Ministry (which considered the title to be insulting to Hindu sentiments).
  • The director then approached the Kerala High Court, which in turn ordered the film to be screened at IFFI.

Kasaba (2016):


  • The film was criticised for glorifying misogyny, more so as it showed Mammootty playing a cop who makes sexually explicit remarks to a lady officer and get away with it, accompanied by celebratory BGM.
  • Two years later, actor Parvathy found herself in the eye of a storm when she criticised Mammootty for acting in a film like Kasaba that glorified misogyny. That was enough for his fans to go on a rampage on her FB page, demanding an apology and showering her with every expletive available in the dictionary.
  • Of course, Parvathy did no such thing and issued a counter-attack, with the adage OMKV – or go to hell for all I care (being the kinder translation) – at those who targeted her, like director Jude Antony Joseph. She proudly hashtagged herself as feminichi and resolutely stuck to her guns.

Portrayal of Men and Women in Indian Film…

In most movies its common that the hero who, initiate a fight as the villain( men) catch his shoulder leading to vengeance and revenge and to add beauty to the revenge in the film he falls in love with a girl that he sees from a bus, helping the blinds to cross the road or bargaining with the flower seller(slow motion). Romance, Songs, Rain dance are welcomed as per the wish of the hero and at last the villains Kidnap his girl, threaten the hero through the phone. Hero will reach the place to fight the villains in air and take back her(slow motion)` happy endings…

Another simple way to analyse stereotyping in films is by closely looking at the trailers of the films. The trailers have a major portion of it as male-centric hiding women faces.

Research analysis on 880 Bollywood movies


  • The use of vulgar words on women by the hero boost the audience and waves of claps and whistles echo in theatre.
  • There is a scene in a Malayalam movie where the hero is proposing a woman with a blatantly chauvinistic dialogue. He says he wants a woman whom he can kick around after returning home sozzled and who would deliver his babies and wail when he dies.
  • There are also characters like Jose Alex IAS from the movie king who says a long dialogues suppressing women.



I feel I shouldn’t have written it. When I wrote it, I never thought of belittling women or even degrading the gender, it was just contextual for the film. Those who clapped for those lines have later found it disturbing. If I knew that what I was writing based on a situation will have a different interpretation in the future, I wouldn’t have written that. Definitely, I regret it. If a woman who sits in a crowd finds that my dialogues in the film is degrading her gender or has offended her, I agree that it was a mistake from my side. But I would like to make it very clear that I have never intended to demean anybody.   ¬ Renji Panicker 

Research analysis on the adjectives used on men and women in Indian Films
  • Not surprisingly, gender stereotyping extends to the kind of roles male and female actors enact and the occupations they are shown to be engaged. In most films, it is evident that the males have the roles of doctor, police officers, gangster… and females have the roles of teacher, secretary, student…



It’s evident than even in films which are widely accepted by the audience( both male and female) there are plots and scenes which show misogynist dialogues. Mind it, these are superstars who can profoundly influence the psyche of the average film-going youth. When they glorify such misogynist scenes in their movies passing it off as heroism, it can have disastrous consequences.

Marketing Strategy Of Indian Films…


  • Film marketing and advertising play a key role in the success or failure of films, and films are also sites for advertising.
  • Research shows that in India, The largest film audiences come from poor lower caste and lower class urban males (Ganti, 2004).
  • 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.
  • Key aspects of Indian society that film advertising represents and encapsulates are the preoccupations, tastes and fantasies of the predominantly male mass market that are being targeted. The pulling power of stars, along with the genre of the movie, is the main attraction for audiences.
  • The movies are marketed from the perspective of men as the audience in the theatre is more men than women
  • There is a change in trend in film marketing in states like Kerala in which the audience accept films both artistic as well as entertainment films and the question of whether the film is “suited for the family” is often asked among the audience a yes to the question is a green flag for the family members( men and women) to be in the theatre or else is men who go for watching it.

Gender Discriminations in the Indian Film Industry…

562928-gender-pay-gap-thinkstock-040617 (1)

Equal Pay????

  • Despite the continued efforts of activists and policymakers, in many ways, gender equality is still a pipe dream. Research shows gender discrimination mostly against women and in favour of men in many realms, including the workplace.
  • Even though the overall gender gap in India has reduced slightly from 2104 to 2015, according to Monster Salary Index, women on the whole still make 25% less than men, and as many as 68.5% of women in Indian workforce feel they have experienced wage inequality.
  • The actresses are paid much less than actors in the  Indian industry even though they have established their stardom through films.

The gender pay gap in Bollywood results from the patriarchal mindset of society, which does not see women as heroes, superstar Amir Khan has said.

  • Globally in Film Industries, the trend of paying less to female stars than male stars are evident form articles and researches… Even Globe itself is a Patriarchal village…


 Casting Couch…


After the #metoo movement, the women were strong enough to raise their voice against the sexual harassment and discrimination they faced. Casting couch, one of the evil in the Indian film industry faced by newcomers was one such harassment faced by women for entering in to cinema.

  • It was the film industry which gave us the term casting couch. Today it remains a professional body where that couch has become almost institutionalised.
  • The metaphorical casting couch is the place where young newcomers, seeking to break into the world of glamour and glitz, are often forced to offer sexual favours in return for roles.
  • And it continues to exist because the laws regarding sexual harassment in the workplace have never applied here.

The casting couch refers to a mentality in which directors and filmmakers take undue advantage and favor from aspiring film actors or actresses. The youngsters are provided with the filmy option in exchanged of sexual favors.

#metoo campaign

  • 2018 saw the rise of the #MeToo movement in India. Inspired by a global campaign against sexual harassment and assault, women across the spectrum opened up and shared their stories about abuse by men in positions of power.
  • And it began in October with actress Tanushree Dutta accusing actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment while shooting for the 2008 film ‘Horn Ok Please’.
  • What followed was a series of posts by other women who shared their experiences with the world. From actors, film directors, artists and writers and politicians, women professionals called out obnoxious behaviour at the workplace.
  • From unwanted attention in the office to sexual innuendos on the film set, there were many kinds of allegations that surfaced.
  • But, the #metoo challenge does not exile the accused people as they continue to work in the Indian film industry.
  • People who were called out are back at work; they have neither been proven guilty nor acquitted. On the other hand, women who came out have had to face a pushback from the industry…

Kerala Way of Fighting Patriarchy in Indian Film Industry…


Casting couch was visible all over in the Film Industry. The risk for a woman to enter into a profession that she like is tough in a patriarchal society and in film it is far too risky.

  • As the time moves, the role and power of women in the society also increased. Now she has the support of her family and friends to enter in Film, She works hard for her passion to be an actress and she knows how to speak and stand for her right.
  • But is that enough?  But what about the large mass of women… the extras, the group dancers, the aspiring starlets, the production assistants and many others, for whom the job means survival? To whom do they appeal when things go wrong? What do they do when they get pregnant or have small babies to nurse? Do they get proper changing rooms and toilet facilities on site? Do they get properly paid?
  • These were the questions which were asked before, but does not get answered and yes it get an answer now…in Kerala…

Women In Cinema Collective (WCC)


Equal spaces and equal opportunities for women in cinema.


from the left: Rima Kallingal, Manju Warrier, Deedi Damodaran and Anjali Menon


  • It was formed after the horrific abduction and assault of a leading film star in Kerala and work for the right and welfare of women in Film Industry.
  • On November 1, 2017 Women in Cinema Collective was registered as a society in Kerala.


  1. WCC works towards building a safe, non-discriminatory and professional workspace for women in cinema through advocacy and policy change.
  2. WCC encourages more women to be a part of the industry through outreach initiatives for career advancement opportunities, industry support, and mentorship opportunities for its members.
  3. WCC showcases the creative acumen of women by curating films and bodies of work by women.
  4. WCC seeks to create awareness about gender bias and exploitation faced by women in the film industry,  both onscreen and off-screen.
  5. WCC promotes responsible filmmaking practices accelerating the work culture transformations required for a gender-just film industry and cinema.


  • Punarvaayana a major activity done by WWC which focused to bring awareness in the society on issues such as exclusionary workspaces, workplace exploitation and gender discrimination. The initiation of the programme has brought together several successful women from various fields to address these problems.
  • On May 18, 2017, WCC submitted a petition to the Chief Minister Kerala, requesting an inquiry and prompt action on the sexual assault case, against a prominent film actress in the Malayalam Cinema. Later WCC also publicly condemned and revolted against the decision of AMMA to reinstate actor Dileep back into the association. 


WWC members with Chief Minister of Kerala


  • WCC members have requested the intervention of the government to formalise wage structure and welfare schemes for women working in the film industry such as maternity pay and tax subsidies for production crews that have at least 30% women representation, among many others.
  • WCC requested the Kerala government to start more movie production-related technical courses that provide direct employment opportunities for more women and provide for more women’s reservations in government-owned studios.


WWC’s announcement on launching a film society, named after PK Rosy



A statement that you my friend..are making in a million unheard voices!And to those voices I apologise..for at an age and time when I wasn’t wise enough..I have been part of films that celebrated misogyny..I have mouthed lines that vilified regard for your self respect and I have taken a bow to the claps that ensued. NEVER AGAIN..never again will I let disrespect for women be celebrated in my movies! Yes..I’m an actor and this is my craft! I will whole heartedly trudge the grey and black with characters that possess unhinged moral compasses      ~Prithviraj Sukumaran

Even after decades, Indians love to see the big screen and are tirelessly watching movies. Due to this reason, the Indian Film Industry is one of the leading industry in the world. Even being in heights, by bringing high-quality movies, but fails in the aspect of gender equality. The remaining curse of patriarchy, gender discrimination, caste systems and highly stereotyping thoughts in the modern nation hinders the growth of Indian Cinema. Being in a land with existing patriarchy, it is tough to have a feminist perspective for both orthodox males and females. In the book titled Feminist Social Work, Lena Domicellie have written about her perspective towards feminism. Feminism is not against men’s well-being, but it is firmly against sexism and privileging men’s welfare over women’s. This includes privileges emanating from practices that: endorse the preferential treatment of men over women on sexist grounds in any arena. 

If the ideologies and philosophies raised by socialists( in such situation, for gender rights) may feel like piercing an arrow to your thoughts, contradicting your beliefs and value system; Its high time to initiate a journey for the unanswered questions and certainly you may end up in logical interpretations which may support or oppose the dealing scenario.

#Challenge 2

Now, how many of you have watched these movies??

(These are few best movies which fight patriarchy in Indian Film Industry. They may not be in box – office hits but they have told stories about the dreams of millions.)

What is your opinion???


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  1. Well written! Would like to add another point- The order of the list of actors shown at the end of a film. Irrespective of the priority of the character or the screen space, its always the male actors names first. This practice is seen even in female oriented films. This may seem simple but when you start noticing it, you understand the difference.

  2. This article itself contains matter for more than one write up. While the study is quite wide and a well researched one, I think you could touch upon more recessive symbols of misogyny in films, which skips the plainsight but still inculcates wrong notions about the ” role” of women in society. But for a study this vast, you have done a wonderful job beyond any doubt or question!

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