Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where's the sisterly love bollywood ?

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.


  1. Go Anjali Go :) :) KJo are you listening :) :) ek dum sahi bola.. and I llooovveee Sex and the city :)

  2. me too. waiting for one. but not the 'Aisha' kind plssss
    nice post

  3. :) Girrrrrlllsss!! I am all for Girrls ! Bring more girl movies :D

  4. Bollywood, like Hollywood is primarily a business. I would be interested to see male attendees at the cinema v. female. I know most "big" movies are targeted to the under 21 male crowd in the US because they are the audience most likely to go to the movies.

    And there is no shame in liking Sex and the City, it was a smash hit for a reason!

  5. arreeeyyy :) I am a female and photo is female too :) following u now :)

  6. LOL...chintan...yea I can see that your pic is a girl's....I guess i'm a little slow...:-)...Anyway enjoying your blog...I'm catching up on a few older posts...welcome to my blog...

  7. @ Sunita : Haha, thanks...yea anyone from bollywood listening, KJo, nahi to koi aur bhi chalega...LOL..

    @ Sujatha : Thanks dear...I agree we are all waiting..

    @ Chintan : Welcome

    @ Julia : Interesting point about target viewership, and I'm sure that may have some bearing on the decisions, but we have sooo many lovey dovey chick flicks, and rom-com type movies in bollywood, which are not geared towards just the male audience, so are we really asking for much when we wanna see one or two movies based on female friendships ???

  8. Hmmm....7 comments and all from women...dunno what to make of it... :D

  9. Can't say I am a huge fan of SATC series.. but I am totally with you on promoting female-bonding in our desi movies.. it's like we women don't make lasting friendships at all.. *sigh*.. very untrue! No?

  10. I agree, Bollywood really lacks chick flicks, it's far too much of a macho industry.
    Our men might laugh at chick flicks, but they are therapeutic, I have quite a few in DVD for these off days.
    you would think that with the skewed gender ratio bollywood would do a bit more to just glorify women a bit more, but nope, they are pretty clear about delivering to the majority of their audience: men...:(

  11. awesome.....very well said

    loved to read each n every word of it

  12. Great points. I love reading your writing.

    Can we chat by e-mail

  13. So true! I never seemed to have noticed this earlier! You opened my eyes!

    Nice post :)

  14. @ Kavita : Welcome to the blog, I agree, it is very unfair, we women can have deep lasting bonds of friendship too, and bollywood needs to see that...

    @ Cyn : I agree about the overwhelming macho nature of bollywood, but as far as chick flicks go, while they don't have movies with women in the central roles, and movies that are 'about' women, but they do churn out a lot of movies that women primarily like to see, i.e sappy, romantic, love stories, what I need to see is women being given a front and center role in hindi movies...

    @ Bhavna, welcome to the blog, glad you liked it...

    @ Jennifer, thanks for the sweet words, check your email.

    @ Namrata : Welcome to the blog! and thanks for your sweet words...

  15. Yeah tht's what I meant, chick flicks for me are movies with women as a cetral role, with romance as a side dish, but Bollywood seem to have no such thing, there is gooey romance, but if I'm down and need a pick me up that might not be the type of movie I will go for.

  16. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants", though a Hollywood movie on Female bonding and friendship...you may like it :)


  17. @ Cyn : I agree, sometimes you just need a feel good movie about women, not about romance, there is much more to being a woman, than being in love with a man...and that's what we need to see in movies too..I agree...

    @ Kunal : Welcome to the blog, thanks for your comment, I have watched it, and it was a sweet movie, now if only we could have something like that in bollywood, like the sisterhood of the travelling salwaar or ghaghra...LOL..I would love that... :D

  18. I also wonder if some of it is that Indian women are expected to put so much time into keeping up family relationships, there just isn't time/energy left for friendships of their choosing? I guess that gets into your "aunties raising eyebrows" argument...but when I see how many people some of A's cousins, aunts, mom, etc. keep up with, it makes me dizzy!

  19. Hi Anjali,

    Good post, great thoughts and a very valid point that Bollywood shies away from making an "All out chick flick".

    But when it comes to "Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara" , In my personal opinion , its an over hyped and superficial film.

    And when you are looking for a chick flick, look no further then ZNMD itself

    Mr Arnab Ray (greatbong) puts it really well in his article on DNA as to why ZNMD is a Chick Flick:
    Do check it out: http://t.co/v4OjHHI


  20. Nice take.. if u ask me, I liked the movie Luv ka the end.. where 3 gals are sabak sikhaying to a guy who cheated on one of the gals.. Nice read.. I am following u... thanks for coming to my blog and giving ur comments.. otherwise I wud've not found a blogger like u... :)

  21. Hi

    I don't need to say how much I agree, since you already read my take on the subject.
    I love the angle you brought to it by comparing it to women who don't have close relationships, while I was saying women have close bonds and it is not represented.

    It actually made me see the perspective. My mother could not stay in touch with her girlfriends because of family and basically us (her children) but I however can.

    If Bollywood can talk about child labour and I think they missed the women representation bus, because in real life women have much more balanced roles than Katrina or Bipasha or Deepika do on screen.

    P.S I love Sex and the City even if it is not always very feminist, it shows girlfriends bonding and I love that!

  22. So true... ! Another lovely post...

    You know I wonder if that is because women tend to take their friendships more seriously ? There are quite a few friends I have stopped talking to (and vice versa) because of things they have said or done !!

    Men for the most parts of their friendship seem to do things that are fun, eating, sports, games, drinks, etc. Most of their talk is entertaining. Only occasionally when someone is in need or trouble have I seen them giving advice or talk in length about what the problem is.

    Women on the other hand seems like they are always solving each others problems ! As women I feel we find it hard to simply shut up and enjoy something... Do women always feel the need to create conversation perhaps ?

    In the sex and city episodes, which I totally love, I envy the straightforward relationship they have with each other. No one is very similar to the other person. But if we had a friend like Samantha, we would only be bitching about her behind her back - unless of course we were also like her. Can you really be that OK with everything ? And even if you were ok, what about the 'bad by association' aspect ? "She hangs with XXX so she must also be like that ... " I really doubt if even the liberal americans would in real life be that OK with such diverse friends with completely different principles ?

    I must stop tying... it says post a comment .. not a blog post ;-)

  23. @ Sara : Welcome back dear, missed you around here, I do think that friendships for Indian women are expected to take a backseat after marriage, as for keeping with a lot of people, most women are infact expected to keep up with the family, the kids' birthdays, the anniversaries, any occassions, the woman needs to be on top, for all the relatives, when it comes to her friends though, the attitude is a little different. This is somewhat of a generalization, but still not totally uncommon in India, especially smaller towns.

    @ Shrijeet : Welcome to the blog, I agree somewhat that ZNMD is a hyped film, and wasn't that much substance, I didn't watch it with very high expectations, so I found it ok, strictly ok. But like I said in my response to Cyn earlier, that by chick-flicks we don't mean just sappy romantic type movies, there's a lot more depth to a woman's life than being in love with a man, and the only time bollywood seems to be focusing on a woman is when she is through love for a man, be it her son, or her boyfriend, hence the name where's the sisterly love ?

    @ Preethika : Welcome to the blog dear, and you are most welcome, hope to interact more with you in future.

    @ Prathm : Welcome to the blog, glad you came by and gave your take. Loved your post as well, and your take on the topic too. See, I do agree with your post, that women too have close bonds and they need to be shown, but in Indian society the bonds of family are much more accepted and celebrated for a woman than those of friendships, being a daughter-sister-wife-mother is celebrated, but being a friend not so much. In urban areas one might find a different picture, and women are much more free as far personal life goes, and are able to dedicate time and energy into nurturing friendships, but if one goes to the smaller towns and cities of India, you'll find a marked difference, and women are mostly confined to their families and don't have much freedom to nurture personal friendships, why I even had one friend in the US, who, when her in-laws visited for three months, had stopped coming over to our twice weekly get-togethers altogether, no matter how much we persuaded to come, she just didn't feel right to come while her in-laws would be home alone, this is what I mean, friends and friendships are considered almost unimportant in a woman's life in Indian society, by and large...
    This generation of women is doing a lot better on that count as compared to the previous one, but still things could be a lot better...

    @ Preeti : Thanks dear, I would say that for men it's very easy to separate aspects of their life, while we women tend to overlap everything, like I know guys can be friends with someone for years without ever knowing any real information about their personal lives, while women will share every littlest detail of their lives with their friends, and yes, we do love playing agony aunts to one another...sometimes this can take it's toll on the relationship
    I agree about SATC, and admiring the close and honest bond the friends shared , I do see your point about the back-biting, and maybe that has some bearing on why women sometimes have a falling out with their friends...I think this topic needs further pondering...
    And, hey you are welcome to comment as big a comment as you'd like...no worries, I love to read all the interesting perspectives...

  24. Great idea...but they should show some real time bonding and not a bunch of giggly squealers.TV has anyway tarnished the image of women. The women on TV are always scheming and plotting.

  25. Hey Anjali, great post!! I not very familiar with Bollywood or Sex and the City (though the few episodes I have watched, I loved, for the same reason as you...the female bonding aspect). Very interesting to think about how Bollywood reflects the status and socialisation of women in India - I might not understand bollywood, but I would love to watch an India SATC!!

  26. @ Alka : I agree, that's what I mentioned in my post, to be able to see, adult, matured, confident women, sharing their life, in realistic scenarios...I agree about the tv image of women too...sad..

    @ taswin : That makes two of us who'd watch a desi version of SATC...I'm sure there are more, if only bollywood was reading this post...sighhh


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