Twitter

"
bloglovin

I am from India.  Hence, befalls upon me the duty to blog at least once about the industry that is the beating heart, deep soul and the throbbing pulse of India-The Indian Film Industry aka BOLLYWOOD.

 

 

Indian film industry is based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai).  It is fondly known as Bollywood, possible name origination from Hollywood.  It is massively influential not only in the home country but has a growing popularity internationally as well.  With India being on the global map, Indian cinema’s popularity has exponentially increased.

Bollywood churns out twice as many movies as Hollywood in a span of one year.  With movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and exports like Freida Pinto, an increasing number of Western audience are becoming familiar with not only the colorful song and dance routine that is so integral to Bollywood movies, but thanks to the portrayal of slums, the debilitating poverty in India as well.

For the purposes of this blog and because I am an insider, I will introduce you to a quintessential theme in Indian cinema that is patently latent for the foreign eye, yet prevalent in most Indian movies.  It is also a little insight into the pre-disposition of the Indian brain, especially the male brain.

It is the Madonna-Whore theme on celluloid.

Women are an integral part of Indian cinema.  In most Indian films women are portrayed in two ways.  Either they are shown as a pious, sacrificing, maternal figure or Madonna.  Or they are depicted as the wanton, sexy, lustful, glamour doll or whore.


The sacrificing maternal figure may as well be called a sacrificial lamb.  The adversities of her life are higher than Mount Everest and insurmountable; not even Edmund Hillary in flesh and blood could peak the heights of such misery.

The hardships start at a young age when she is coerced into marriage against her will to a much older man and from there on the misery chapter of her life starts.  The script usually goes like this-she gets pregnant after marriage; one of her kids is born without a limb and is handicapped; the burden of taking care of this child falls entirely upon her slim shoulders; the husband is an alcoholic loser who drinks, gambles and at the end of the day beats her up; she works like a dog doing menial jobs where again she is abused and exploited by her employer and then the poverty, oh such cruel   poverty that two square meals will be considered to be a banquet.  Despite all these calamities, she is able to educate her handicapped child who in turn becomes a famous doctor and just when one would think that the anguish is about to end, she gets cancer and dies.  Throughout the movie she is dressed in a white sari, the color of grieving.  It is a perpetual saga of despondency, melancholy and wretchedness.

One of the great classic Indian movies of all times named Mother India, is a perfect example of this ideal, sacrificing woman.

The audiences come out of such a movie with tears rolling down their cheeks and a renewed respect and reverence for a woman.

This mother or “ Madonna” figure is the signature illustration of an ideal Indian woman in Bollywood.  She is pious, sacrificing and wallowing in eternal suffering.  The audiences bow to her-she is Madonna.


In the opposite extreme you have the woman depicted as a seductress.  She is an enchantress, a femme fatale, a temptress, a vamp all rolled into one tight package.  She oozes sexuality and lust with flat abs, protruding breasts, luscious lips, cascading ravenous hair, skimpy clothes and a husky voice.  Most of the camera frames are angled to focus on her anatomy, especially the sexually stimulating body parts such as the plump lips, heaving breasts and swinging derriere.

 

The sexuality interpreted through this woman is so over the top that it makes all the Victoria’s Secret models look like nuns.

The audiences come out of her movie panting with lust and sexual tension.  This woman is purely objectified as a sex-object-she is a whore.

You must have noted the dichotomy in Bollywood movies by now.  Women are either put on a pedestal and given the veneration and respect of a Madonna or simply portrayed as an object of lust.

Interestingly, most Indian cinema is hesitant to portray Indian women as both being a mother and also a seductress.  The two concepts appear to be diametrically opposed and do not seem to merge in a Bollywood woman.

In all honesty, the tides are changing in Indian  cinema.  Modern cinema is becoming trendy, issue based, somewhat intelligent and more realistic.  But for the past many decades the true and tried formula of the Madonna/whore theme has been a sure shot success at the box office.

What is your opinion?  Can meaningful cinema depict a woman both as a Madonna and a sex object?

  • Albert:

    Okay, I felt really horrible laughing at your description of the Madonna character. Shame on me! To answer your question, they say truth is stranger–and hence more entertaining–than fiction. And in truth, I think many real women (and men) embody both Madonna and lustful qualities, at least in their hearts. Imagine the internal conflict and drama! So I think it would work on film. I’d like to see more of it, anyway. Great post.

  • OH gawsh it sounds like Filipino cinema. I mean honestly this is kind of why I would have trouble living in the places where my parents call home. They are so stuck! I mean stuck and it’s infuriating. I mean seriously who are these women?!?! I know no Madonna’s and no straight up seductresses. For me it’s really sad that the portrayal of women are so one dimensional.

    As an aside. I am wearing a sari this weekend for a friend’s wedding. That has nothing to do with this post but I really wanted to share that with you, lol.

    LOVE YOU AMBU!

  • I have been watching Indian cinema since before “Bollywood”. I must admit I am still addicted even with all the changes over the years. What about the “Fallen Virgin”? The young girl raped by an older, ugly learing sweaty enemy of her father or the slimey, handome guy? She’s always dead at some point – either by her rapist or her shamed family.
    One film I saw years ago at the cinema, a young girl was raped and at some point was thrown into a ditch – discarded – and, unbelievabley, she was never mentioned again – as if she never existed.
    Could Madonna and seductress be portrayed in the same women in Indian or other film? Maybe it’s been done but my memory holds no history of that – but I haven’t seen all the films made.
    Life is duality – women are duality – we are both nurturing mother, sister, wife, daughter – and we are also juicy and powerful. We are scary….. oh yeah, our power frightens even ourselves sometimes. Thousands of years of patriarchy. Yes, that juicy, nurturing woman can be portrayed – but it will take a woman to do that film.

  • Albert:

    Paua Devi, your Fallen Virgin comment reminds me of an old Kirk Douglas movie, Town Without Pity. Same exact story.

  • Never saw that movie – might check it out on Netflix.
    But I do remember that song sung by …………….?

  • Thank you for breaking down Bollywood for me, I thought they were movies with a lot of musical numbers. I love how a woman is either a madonna or a whore. I mean c’mon, but I do understand that it is a cultural issue. I think they do need to evolve and depict women truly as they are caring selfless willing to sacrifice themselves for the people they love who also are sexual and not afraid to express themselves.

  • prutha:

    love this post.. the pictures couldn’t be picked more perfectly..i cant believe u remembered “ram teri ganga maili” and “satyam shivan sundaram”!!!! if i had to ever name seductive bollywood moments i would have also come up with these 2 exact images plus one from babby of dimple kapadia from the song “jooth bole kauwa kate”..lol…

    i do think that indian cinema and general public mentality needs to change towards women… but honestly this Madonna/whore mentality is A universal perception and not just indian from my personal experiences. honestly… i cannot tell u how hard it is to stay sane and ignore the remarks ppl will make of u just coz u r forward thinking, dont mind talking about sex without actually being sexual or wanting to have sex with ther person ur concerning with etc.. sometimes guys will just think ur a whore coz u r overly friendly, have more guy friends than girl friends or coz u r both of the above and refuse to still sleep with them and they r offended and hence start believe that the woman is loose.. “the grapes r sour”logic… anyway, i really do think men and ppl in general have to stop being bitched to women who dont pretend to be nuns

Leave a Reply