Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has taken a swipe at the film industry saying that romance in almost every movie starts with eve-teasing, irrespective of Hindi and regional cinema. She has also blamed films for why men believe they can get away with indulging in violence against women.
Speaking at an event in Goa that launched an initiative to curb and redress violence against women in the advertising industry, she said: "If you look at films, which have been the only way for years of communicating messages — I am talking of feature films in every language in India — you will find that romance almost always in every film starts with eve-teasing."
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The Union minister went on to add: "The man and his friends will surround the woman, be mean to her, trip her up, shove her down, abuse her, touch her inappropriately, and then slowly she falls in love with him!" She explained: "And when we talk about films today, they are exactly the same as the films from the 1950s and 60s — the same method in every regional or Hindi film."
Hear the comments below, and read on to see why we agree with it:
Misogyny has been a part of Hindi and regional film industries for a long time. Researcher and activist Sona Mitra, who is also an MA and MPhil in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote in an opinion piece in 2013: "Almost all the mainstream Bollywood flicks for over a decade now contain at least one song where women are clearly objectified and treated as sex objects — the item number — which is then solely justified on commercial viability of the movie."
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And its effects have borne fruit in some really revolting ways. In 2015, an Indian-origin man in Australia, Sandesh Baliga, was acquitted of all charges of stalking two women — one for 18 months and another for four months — after arguing that he had been influenced by Hindi films where the male protagonists get their girl after doggedly pursuing them!
As for regional films, controversies such as the one involving Mammootty pulling a woman police officer by the belt and saying he can break her menstrual cycle if he wants have dogged the Malayalam film industry for years. Sadly, the scene being described is from a 2016 film, and while organisations like the Kerala Women's Commission saw red, many in the audience reportedly clapped and hooted with glee.
While not all films are like this — flicks like Neerja and Pink go a long way against objectification of women — they are a few and far between. And rarely does a Hindi film show the true legal ramifications of stalking. It remains to be seen how the industry reacts to this.