In a world which is glued to its screens, films and television are media that have the ability and the power to create a profound impact on the minds of the masses. Media is often confined to news channels but in actuality it is inclusive of movies, documentary films, soaps etc.
The world of media, especially the Indian film and television industry, has a viewership base unrestricted by barriers of caste, class, race, economic backgrounds. This medium is therefore one which is widely accepted by all, and more importantly, accessible and affordable by all. This acceptance can be attributed to two reasons, the first being its widespread availability. The second reason is that against the backdrop of a country like India where more than half the population is illiterate, these industries demand no pre-conditions like literacy or the ability to read and write (unlike in the cases of news papers and other types of media). Therefore people from various backgrounds can understand, have access to and relate to this means.
The extent of influence this channel exercises is well established and its foundation is well built. For decades now the central theme of this entertainment industry has revolved around the promotion of the patriarchy and has very conveniently supported stereotypes like the male gaze and the objectification of women. Scripts and stories are usually developed around a male protagonist and his heroism. This is perhaps because content like this does wonders at the box office. At the same time, the woman tends to be potrayed as the homemaker, the epitome of the weaker and vulnerable sex that seeks the protection of a man.
One often witnesses a contradiction between the traditional role of an Indian woman and modern feminism. Most soaps and movies are reflections of these realities of Indian households. Film makers tend to stick to such themes because of their wide acceptability which also ensures that such films earn large sums of money in ticket sales as well. The importance of content of the film tends to be overpowered by the amount of money it needs to make, therefore minimising female-oriented films.
Serials infamous for their “saas bahu” dramas have the highest viewership. The central themes of such soaps have focused on the stereotyping of Indian households and the promotion of gender roles, which, sadly, has contributed to the social degeneration of society, since most of their scripts succumb to household dramas.
A slight change is evident where female-centric movies have begun to be produced. While not all are filmed against the social backdrop of the majority of Indian households, they have been successful enough to put across messages about pertinent issues like female foeticide, equality between a girl and boy child, and empowering women in their traditional roles, thereby making the content relatable as well as acceptable by the masses. The entertainment industry of India can make a big difference to the framework of society owing to the quantity of lives it has an impact on. Superstars in India have been treated like gods, and the reel roles they play have a great influence on the mindsets of the masses. Perhaps a revolution is necessary in the film industry and the agenda of film making should undergo a significant change.
Glimpses of this have been evident in the industry since 1957 when the first woman centric film ‘Mother India’ was released. This film sent waves amongst audiences, which travelled overseas too, so much so that the movie got nominated for Oscars which lent it more creditability and even gained it widespread acceptance. Only after a few decades were more female oriented films relased; meanwhile, women played traditional roles or were used as objects, subjected to the male gaze in what is infamously known as an “item number”. This trend is still very prominent in the Indian film culture.
Although the 21st century ushered a wave of female centric films as compared to what was produced in the ’90s, the numbers remain low. Media has the power to question the government, unite our country and save the society from societal degeneration, but only if entertainment makers realize that now it is obligatory for them to indeed bring about a stark shift in the central theme of this industry.
-Contributed by Urvi Lahoti
Picture Credits: indiatoday.in