Mahesh Bhatt

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What has Bollywood learnt from Delhi gangrape?

Mindsets are changing, thanks to vigilant media: Mahesh Bhatt, filmmaker

When the rape happened, there was a divide between Bollywood, the media, and the civil society. While one group blamed Bollywood for things going wrong, there was another group that said that you can’t trivialise such crimes by blaming everything on the film industry.

They refused to be browbeaten by the sections of the media and the civil society who were trying to put the entire blame on Bollywood.

It forced the film fraternity to think again whether they need to do some introspection. There might not have been any radical change in one year, but to say that nothing ever impacts Bollywood is incorrect. Contrary to perceptions, Bollywood is not made of irresponsible people who are only there to make money. Mindsets are certainly changing, thanks to vigilant media. Now, people think before saying or doing something.

Item numbers in films continue to degrade women: Pritish Nandy, filmmaker

Bollywood has shown women in both poor as well as excellent light. Films such as Sujata (1959, starring Nutan in the lead) and Khubsoorat (1980, starring Rekha in the lead)  have had terrific women protagonists — strong, powerful and inspiring. In the recent past, Chameli (2004, Kareena Kapoor Khan in the lead) and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003, Chitrangda Singh in the lead) have been around strong women. So to believe that all films objectify women is not true. But, if you judge Bollywood by films such as Grand Masti, then that’s not the right measure. Those who want to celebrate the power of women will still do it, and those who want to degrade, will continue to do it... no single incident can change them. It’s true that even to this day, there are films that treat women as furniture, but 50-60% of films show women in good light. But if you talk about item songs, yes, if songs are used in an exploitative form, it’s bad. However, if one’s using item numbers as a tool for greater reach to tell a women empowering story, it’s worth it.

Nothing has changed... all that matters is what sells: Onir, filmmaker

It’s not as if a rape happened for the first time last year... it has happened in the past too, and yet films objectifying women were made. There certainly are some very progressive filmmakers such as Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar and Kiran Rao, and every year, a couple of non-regressive films are  made by filmmakers who are socially responsible and gender sensitive. But what about the rest? Nothing has changed if you see the larger picture... I mean, what do you think is the whole idea behind items numbers? To titillate. There is this song, Don’t Touch My Body, in the film, Bullett Raja, and the actress is doing everything possible to imply, ‘please touch me’. So the message conveyed is that a woman may say, ‘No, no’ but it means, ‘yes, yes’. Even now, films show that a woman has nothing better to do than to attract and impress the man in her life! So, Bollywood doesn’t get affected by what’s happening around. It operates as per what the majority wants to see, and according to what’s generating money.

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