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!