A Feminist Bollywood Movie?!

Yesterday we went to watch Chak De, and while never a Shahrukh fan, I was quite impressed with this movie and the positive message that it has, for and about young women. There are pure filmi moments where jingoism raises its head, and the inevitable regional stereotyping (Punjabi = hot tempered and so on) but otherwise, for a mainstream movie, I thought it was remarkably nuanced and really warmed my feminist heart (grin!)

So what did I like about it? (Warning, I am not going to give away spoilers, but you will find some plot details…)

It shows a bunch of young women passionate about their game, hockey. How many Hindi movies do we have where the women are shown as being passionate about any sort of career or personal development?

Many of the women have families, but they are not shown as being defined by these. They have roles over the ones they assume with their families.

The movie acknowledges that in our society, many women face tremendous pressure to do the “right thing” by their families, with little regard to their own wishes.

The movie also acknowledges that not all women succumb to these pressures. There are brave young women out there, who are defying the stereotyped roles set out for them.

Some of the women face conflicts with their husbands/boyfriends as sport takes them away from important occasions and so on. The film maker didn’t succumb to the temptation to show the ladies as doing the right thing by both. The reality is that sometimes in stressful careers, some family moments may need to be passed over. Men do this all the time, and this time, its nice that the women were not shown as apologetic about it.

A big-name Bollywood movie actually states clearly that girls can have roles other than that of wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law. Shahrukh encourages the team at one point, that the girls play their best, to show up everyone who assumes that women are poorer in any role outside the house.

Finally, the filmmaker has also resisted the temptation to show the women as smart and yet beautiful. Too many times, the brainy/smart/ accomplished heroine can only be good enough if she is also a bombshell. In one scene, the girls are dolled up in Saris and jewellery, but as this is a formal dinner, it seems natural enough. There is little focus on the glamour/sex appeal of the team, which is as it should be, since their claim to fame is hockey, not how they look.

After a long time, I’m watching a mainstream movie that doesn’t grate on my nerves for the pathetic unidimensional role it gives women. Go watch if you haven’t already!

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8 Comments

  1. […] Original post by apu […]

  2. hmm i have this on CD – S has repeatedly suggested I see it but so far have resisted it cos it has SRK (blech!) in it. May be I will give it a go.

  3. Liked your point about the girls missing out on some occasions in their commitment to the game. So true, they weren’t depicted as these superwomen who do it all, with grace and a smile. Very realistic!

    I enjoyed the film too, and worked it into a post which wasn’t entirely about the film. Do take a look: http://righttowrite.blogspot.com/2007/08/girl-power.html

  4. DG, you must!

    Anamika – ah, the superwomen we need to be! nice isn’t it to see a movie which steers clear of that. will go through your post too…

  5. Nice post…I liked the girl power element of the movie too and thought it was far more important than the patriotism element that everyone is talking about more.

  6. thank you anindita. infact that was the first thing in the movie which really jumped out at me, simply because it is so rare !

  7. […] apu wrote a fantastic post today on “A Feminist Bollywood Movie?!”Here’s ONLY a quick extractA big-name Bollywood movie actually states clearly that girls can have roles other than that of wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law. Shahrukh encourages the team at one point, that the girls play their best, to show up everyone who … […]

  8. I had no idea what it was about when I first watched it, but it was great to see it not succumb to all of those nasty pitfalls that made me stop watching Bollywood in the first place. I liked that not all of the girls were girly or feminine. I was afraid the little one who was more masculine would eventually be subjected to a makeover or something but (fortunately) she didn’t and I really really liked that.


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