Friday, December 10, 2010

BRING ON THE WOMEN!!

Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘Lajja’ (2001) is one of those movies that I find frustrating.... Let me start by stating my opinion of the film - which is that overall, it’s not a good film. The script is often clumsy, clunky or corny (and sometimes all three), and the directing and editing are pretty shoddy sometimes. There are elements to the story that are either superfluous or actually detract from the power of the film (e.g. the presence of Ajay Devgan’s character, Bhulwa).
But what frustrates me about ‘Lajja’ is the flashes of radiance in it, the elements that do work, the things that could have made for a really good movie if they hadn’t been overshadowed by the sucky stuff. I really like Rekha’s earthy performance, for example... but I think my favorite thing about ‘Lajja’ is the relationships between the female characters...



... especially the relationship between Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala) and Jhanki (Madhuri Dixit):







Looking over my collection of Vaidehi/Jhanki screencaps got me thinking about girlfriends (the platonic kind) in Hindi films. ‘Bromance’ is a central feature of a lot of Bollywood movies, and has been for decades. Alas, the same certainly cannot be said for relationships between women. I love my girlfriends – I’ve always had great relationships with funny, smart, strong, compassionate women... and I love reading about female relationships. I also love watching vibrant, interesting female relationships on the big and small screens, but that doesn’t happen nearly enough when it comes to Hindi films. Relationships between women are generally skimmed over and sidelined.

Yup, onscreen relationships between women are almost always peripheral in Bollywood – there were really no female equivalents of the two-hero movies that Amitabh Bachchan starred in alongside Shashi Kapoor/Dharmendra/Vinod Khanna/Rishi Kapoor/ Pran in the 70s and 80s. Neither are there female counterparts to contemporary, mainstream movies about male friendship, like ‘Rock On!’, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and ‘3 Idiots’. There are plenty of films in which there’s real affection and friendship portrayed between sisters, cousins, or women related by marriage, although again, this is usually peripheral – forming the backdrop to the central story (which is often dominated by a man or two).


But, in stark contradistinction with the many films about friendships between men who aren’t biologically related, there just aren’t many films with similar stories involving women. Probably because the consensus is that such movies won’t do brisk box-office business, and perhaps there’s a little of the whole ‘women can’t stand to share the spotlight with each other’ stereotype in the mix as well. But I figure profitability is probably the key issue.

I have been thinking hard, trying to remember Bollywood movies I’ve seen that have platonic female relationships at their core (with the exclusion of relationships between biological sisters), and I’m not coming up with a whole lot. Apart from ‘Lajja’, there’s the lovely ‘Dor’, of course, with Ayesha Takia and Gul Panag playing two women thrown together by a combination of tragedy and serendipity....


... and there's the gorgeous 'Fire', with Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das burning up the screen in a compelling (and controversial) story about love, sex and self-fulfilment...


And of course this year, there was ‘We Are Family’, which I haven’t seen (and don’t really want to)....

... but there aren’t many more, which is why I’m really looking forward to Vidya Balan and Rani Mukherjee in ‘No One Killed Jessica’ (I know it’s not really about the women’s relationship, but at least it’s a theme), and to Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra’s rumoured two-heroine film.... I really hope these movies do well and open the door to other films with women and their relationships at their centre. I would love to see more –for example, I would love to see something with Madhuri Dixit opposite Aishwarya Rai again – but this time, not converging in concern over a childish drunk à la Devdas, but in a smart film about women balancing (and/or failing to balance) career, romance and family. Or I would love to see Vidya Balan and Mahie Gill star in a good old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness buddy romp with a sparklingly witty script. Or maybe Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi in a movie about two older women rediscovering themselves through their friendship.... And one of my most enduring dream movies is a remake of ‘All About Eve’, starring Shabana Azmi, Konkona Sen Sharma and Aamir Khan. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

... Anyway, I’d love to hear about the Hindi movies you’ve seen that featured interesting female friendships... am I exaggerating their scarcity? Which ones would you recommend? And who would you like to see in your dream Bollywood movie about female friendship?

8 comments:

dustedoff said...

I watched a film called Saheli the other day - Kalpana, Vijaya Choudhary and Pradeep Kumar, in which the focus was the friendship between the two women. They fell in love with the same man, unfortunately, and that sent their relationship into a downward spiral. In any case, it was a badly made film, pretty ho-hum most of the way, and with no really good girl-bonding scenes. But just for the record...

Amaluu said...

One of my favorite old movies is the Rajshri flop film 'Raadha aur Seeta' starring Reeta Bhadhuri and Abha Dhulia - they play best friends who of course fall in love with the same man. It's a totally cheesy film, but I love it. And it is primarily about their friendship! :-)

Otherwise it's very hard to find female friendships in films isn't it? I love all the girls in Satte Pe Satta and how they rally to protect Seema, but they certainly aren't the focus of the film.

There's Rani & Preity in Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (Piya Piya is one of my favorite girl friendship songs), and Rani & Kareena in Mujhse Dosti Karoge, I suppose. The guy and love is always the main focus, unfortunately.

I hope you do a follow-up post on this!!!

Would love to hear some suggestions from others.

dustedoff said...

Oh, one good one I just remembered, which is all about women power, though I don't recall if a friendship is part of the film. More like empathy. Mirch Masala, starring Smita Patil.

bollyviewer said...

Female buddy-pyaar, if ever allowed onscreen, usually breaks down over one man! :( Considering that filmi women have to spend all their time making gajar-ka-halwa for their kids (it takes hours!) and atone for the sins of all their menfolk, I am not surprised that women have no time to bond with each other!

There were the three girl friends in Dekh Kabira Roya, but for the rest, women teams seem to be confined to sister-sister pairs.

Daddy's Girl said...

@dustedoff: Thanks - I have heard about Mirch Masala but didn't know what it was about - will look for it.

@amaluu: I've never heard of 'Raadha aur Seeta' - will have to find out more... I did like how protective the girls were of Seemsa in 'Satte Pe Satta'... lots of girl power - there was some of that in 'Naseeb' as well, I recall... I haven't seen 'Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega' - must remedy that soon.

@bollyviewer: Too true - alas, the women's lives are often so wrapped up in taking care of the family and being self-sacrificing lambs that they don't have time for their girlfriends... I just thought of Hum Saath Saath Hain whre the mother's friends were all evil influences that made her act selfishly and foolishly. Oh dear. Thanks for the link to dustedoff's review of 'Dekh Kabira Roya'... I remember thinking it looked like fun....

dustedoff said...

@DG: Sharmi did a review of Mirch Masala sometime. It's a very good film, with superb acting, a good story, and great cinematography. Here's her review:

http://oldfilmsgoingthreadbare.blogspot.com/2010/08/red-hot-mirch-masala.html

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Daddy's Girl This is a wonderful post and you're definitely right there is such a scarcity of women friendships perhaps for the exact reason you've stated about box office collections, the closest perhaps is sisterly love.

And even when i think of popular female duo's like Sridevi and Jaya who did loads of films together they had very little interaction with each other hence that rumour about them both being locked up in a room only for them to turn their backs on each other.

Let's hope that changes soon and there are films that will explore female friendships till then Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year from me.........xx

Daddy's Girl said...

@dustedoff: Thanks for the link to Sharmi's review - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing the movie soon.

@bollywooddeewana: I love that story about Sri and Jayaprada... although it is sort of sad that it plays right into all those negative stereotypes of women being ultra-competitive and never getting along with one another. I hope you had a very happy festive season, and I wish you a very prosperous 2011 too!!