Image source : Prairie girl
I had heard some good reviews of the latest bollywood hit ' Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ' (roughly translated is you only live once ) . Many of my friends were raving about it on facebook, and twitter, so I was super excited to see a good bollywood movie. Although the movie wasn't disappointing, beautiful locations, nice songs, good performances, overall a good bollywood movie, but one thing that kinda struck me was to see yet another movie dedicated to the close male friendship bond.
I guess I've seen one too many bollywood movies about brotherly love, and male bonding, so the less than enthusiastic reaction, and, it begs the question in my mind, 'Where's the sisterly love, Bollywood ???'. Where are the movies showing similar close female bonds, with their girlfriends ?
Bollywood loves the theme of friendship and has churned out many a movies on that theme right from the black and white film 'dosti'.
Lemme just do a quick recount of the most memorable. The first such movie I remember seeing was Sholay, where the friendship between Jai and veeru was a central theme of the movie, there were others, like yaarana, and more recently a spate of such movies based on male bonding, like Dil Chahta hai, Rock On, Hey Baby, Rang de basanti, Partner, Dostana, and now Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
Even though all the movies are quite a bit different from each other, the one thing that remains common among them is the central theme of close knit male friendships. Any female presence was incidental and mostly in the form of the girlfriends of one of the male characters .
Another interesting little detail here is that, in addition to the presence of women in such films being incidental and not central to the theme, there's also the fact that, there aren't any movies made which are based on female bonding, or female friendships. The closest one I could think of was the movie 'Main prem ki diwani hoon', where the leading girl is seen with a close group of friends she hangs out with, but even there, it wasn't the central theme of the film, and the girls seem almost teenagerish, and immature, with their girlish giggles and what not, I guess it's a kindof consolation prize. There really aren't any movies, showing mature, grown, confident women having close knit bonds, or atleast I haven't seen those movies, none that show women, celebrating their friendships the way that these men are shown doing in these movies, by doing adventurous activities together, or taking trips, or even just hanging out. Infact, if anything, bollywood has even vilified female friendships to some extent, by stereotyping women into kitty-party goers, and wannabe socialites, if they have a social life outside of their families.
Also, just in case, someone who reads this digs up some failed flick about female bonding from the ash-heap of forgotten bollywood flops, then please don't bother, because you're just gonna prove my point more, of the severe lack of female bonding type of movies in India, and the ones that may get made, never get noticed.
Now, I may be running the risk of losing any shred of respect on this blog by saying this, but I must confess that I'm a fan of the Sex and the city series, haven't read the book, but loved the tv series, and both the movies. I know there's criticism of the show as well, and that many found it shallow and superficial, etc, etc, etc.....and yes I do think it was that, but what I liked about it, was the story of the four women, the bond that they shared. Though there were some aspects I couldn't relate to perhaps due to cultural differences, but still there was so much I could relate to in each of their stories, and their story together, and that was enough to keep me hooked. How I would've loved to see a desi version of something like that, one where the women were shown to have a life independent from their families, and their daughter-sister-wife-mother tags, but haven't yet seen any shows/movies like that. I think in Indian society we like to believe that women can never be good friends to each other, and are incapable of long, deep friendships, which is actually quite wrong, while it is true that women do have issues like jealousy, envy, etc to deal with, but when they find women they get along with and can trust, these types of issues don't surface much.
It's a known fact that bollywood rarely produces any movies with women as the central characters, any movies that do, usually are about social issues, and considered 'offbeat' or non-commercial cinema ( Damini, Lajja ). To see an equivalent of a Sex and the city in India, would be almost revolutionary, we could even tone down the name to something less risque, if it's too much for Indian audiences.
I maybe over thinking this, but I think somewhere it is reflective of our collective mindset as a society towards women, we are happy to see our women in roles which are clearly defined and outlined, like daughter, sister, wife, mother, etc etc, but any roles that are undefined or not as clearly defined make us uncomfortable, eg: lover, friend, etc. For a girl friendship isn't considered as important, and especially after she gets married, her life is supposed to revolve around her family leaving little or no time for lesser causes like going out gallivanting with friends, I do know for a fact that many women, in India, lose touch with their friends after marriage, and I don't think it's just a coincidence.
This difference is even more marked for me, when I compare it to the NRI women in the US. Here I've found that most women, including me, have formed great friendships with other women, have made some extremely close friends over the years, and they even spend a considerable amount of time with them, be it shopping, or lunch get-togethers, or any such activities. I've seen many women make time for their friends, and that makes me wonder, why is it, that the Indian-American women seem to be able to do it, while their Indian counterparts aren't ?? And the answer I believe is not because their Indian counterparts don't wanna do it, it;s only because they just can't devote as much time to nourish their friendships in India, as these women can being abroad, mainly because of family engagements, and compulsions, which eat up most of their time.
For one thing, these NRI women, don't live with their in-laws, most don't even have family nearby, so there's no one who'll raise their eyebrows at their choices. Secondly, there is a lot more freedom as far as mobility goes, for the NRI women, who live abroad, as their aren't any security concerns, like going out alone after dark in cities like delhi, etc, so they can be more flexible in their plans. So for the Nri women, maintaining their friendships isn't a difficult task.
So definitely there's something missing from the Indian woman's life, and it is the close friendship of a girlfriend, a confidante. The situation isn't the same all over the country and urban and metro Indian women do seem to do better on this count, even my own mother has a close group of friends, who meet up regularly to catch up and have stayed in touch over the years, but such examples by and large remain the minority in India.
I think if Indian society starts thinking of women as individuals, instead of just a wife, mother, daughter, etc, along with the duties that come with these roles, than we can definitely see more women, embrace their feminity, and female bonding and them wanting to connect and interact more with their girlfriends.
Even though we say that art imitates life, and that bollywood might be just reflecting our collective thinking as a society when it comes to female friendships, but in this regard, I wish bollywood would take some initiative and show us through their movies, that women can and do have great friendships too, and they too can celebrate their girlfriends, and the bond they share together.
Show us the sisterly love bollywood, we the Indian women, would love to see it.