Archive for January, 2014

Bertie imageI wonder if I should endeavor to find a true and worthy soul mate,

Who would join me in facing the harsh slings and arrows of fate.


Let me be spared of someone like Madeline who gazes moodily at stars in the sky,

While I yearn for smoked salmon, cheese and wine, or some bacon and egg fry.


Honoria Glossop would be prone to slapping the backs of guests with all her might,

Nudging me to perform goofy deeds without any consideration of my own plight.


Roberta Wickham would sashay up to the altar with much aplomb,

But each moment spent with her would be like a ticking bomb.


Pauline Stoker would exhort me to swim a mile before breakfast,

And then play five sets of tennis post-lunch, leaving me gasping and aghast.


Florence Craye would like to mould me into an intellectual cove,

Being a fine example of cerebral excellence I detest and abhor.


Stiffy Byng might just make me pinch the helmet of a constable,

Only guests meeting Bartholomew’s approval would end up at our dining table.


The Wooster Code prohibits me adding more to this list,

The brainier ones amongst you would have by now got the gist.


Ideal mate for me would be lissome, endowed with a generous helping of grey cells,

Feeding enough fish to Jeeves who can protect us when life rings its sinister bells.


Someone who would dish up a seven course Anatole meal with a magic wand,

Ensure a liberal supply of tissue restoratives with pick-me-ups always at hand.


Keeping my house clear of invading cousins, cats, dogs and aunts,

My life free of silver cow creamers, speeches to school kids and Pa Bassett’s taunts.


Fussing over me like my cousin Angela, a spiritual view on life she would possess,

Supporting all my endeavors to enliven life and to help my pals in distress.


In matters of attire and appearance, she would keep Jeeve’s admonitions at bay,

A stiff upper lip upholding the pride of the Woosters, making life joyous and gay.


An occasional sojourn to the Drones to hone my skills in darts she would not mind,

Keeping the milk of human kindness sloshing about within me in a soft bind.


Warm and cosy evenings may see me acting like the perfect preux chevalier,

Cuddling small ones the prattle of whose feet would make the house livelier.


Jeeves’ feudal spirit would ensure that the Wooster millions remain safe and secure,

The right mate chosen and banns announced, heart overflowing with love pure.


The day we walk down the aisle dispelling many a nymph’s father’s dreary gloom,

God would be in heaven, a benevolent sun shining, birds chirping, flowers in bloom.


As winter turns to spring, my thoughts invariably assume a romantic hue,

Let me consult Jeeves; yes, your opinion on this fruity scheme is also overdue.

(This post was composed prior to the advent of the ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells’ era)



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For those who take the hobby of blogging rather seriously.


Over the last year and a half, my blogging dilemmas have been many. I have, I’m afraid, been able to reduce these dilemmas into neat little binaries quite without satisfactory answers.

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Homo sapiens these days have a serious challenge on hand – that of being unable to ‘switch off.’ Connectivity has become omnipresent. Technology rules the mind and, to some extent, the heart. The result is a disconnect with the real world, steady deterioration in the quantum of quality time available with the near and dear ones, burn-outs, fatigue and an early onset of lifestyle related diseases. Increasingly, we appear to be becoming slaves to technology.  

The following antidotes might help those amongst us who happen to be a part of this rapidly growing tribe.

  •  Learning to Unplug: Out of the twenty-four hours we have in a day, we can surely carve out a time niche where we can just be ourselves. Heavens will not fall. Our business, or the companies we work for, would not collapse. If we set our mind to this, we can do it.
  • Renewing Ourselves: Setting aside a time for yoga, meditation, light exercises and simply pursuing aTechnology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEED simple hobby would help. Being connected to the external world – watching TV, for example – would provide only temporary relief. Real relaxation would swell up from inside us – once we start doing something that makes us internally happy.
  • In-sourcing: One thing we cannot outsource to technology is mindfulness – being aware that we are aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Attempting an ‘in-sourcing’ of this kind has a great therapeutic effect on our system. Short bouts of meditation or deep breathing achieve precisely this.
  • Being Wiser: Every moment, we are flooded with data. Every day, we face a tsunami of information. Wisdom lies in sifting through this haze and differentiating between the important issues and the urgent ones. Nassin Taleb, author of The Black Swan, says: “Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.” Wisdom alone can ensure that we follow a balanced direction in life.
  • Thinking before Wishing: The option to remain connected 24 x 7 and the deluge of information available at the click of a mouse is making us lazy cats which have had an overdose of rich cream. We need to critically evaluate the wish-list of our lives and reset our priorities in a conscious manner. Chasing rainbows is fine, but the real challenge lies in deciding the colors of our individual rainbows.
  • Being Vigilant: Sci-fi spine chillers tumbling out of the Hollywood dream factory project a scary picture forTechnology smart Home_ipadandiphone us. Our lives could soon spin out of our own control. One threat – to our privacy – has already manifested itself. Another looming large on the horizon is that of our smart gadgets going beyond running our homes. These could soon start aspiring, conspiring and colluding to control our lives. Vigilance is highly recommended!

Life is much like a driving experience. The vehicle we drive and the gadgets at our disposal are becoming smarter with each passing year. We are trying to navigate our way on the autobahns of our lives through an enveloping fog of information which becomes denser with each passing milestone.   

The only way out is to have sharper responses, a stronger will power, an intuitive capability to forecast others’ behavior, a higher level of vigilance and a quiet time for ourselves. The bliss of switching off our gadgets and enjoying a real sunset over the lush green fields that whizz past us is simply waiting to be experienced. So is the joy of rolling up the car windows and listening to the soothing strains of a Beethoven symphony wafting out of the music system. As darkness falls, the fog lamps of wisdom enable us to drive our way through life safely and enjoyably.

As our gadgets become smarter, let us not get dumber. Let us not be slaves to technology!

Related post:  https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who-is-the-smartest-of-them-all

(Images courtesy www)

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Here are some key ideas which emerged at a National Seminar on Industrial Safety, Health and Environment organized by the Regional Labour Institute, Chennai and the Madras Management Association recently at Pondicherry in India.  

  • Businesses today face three kinds of challenges:
  1. Increasing digitization and the spread of internet which is fundamentally changing the way a    business interacts with its customers and suppliers.
  2.  As the world’s economic power and consumption of goods and services gradually shifts from the developed world to Asia, a host of new business opportunities present themselves.
  3. A value-based culture which takes into account socio-economic realities is becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. Businesses have the choice of being proactive while shaping future policies and goals. In the long run, this would avoid their facing pressure from either the community, or the government or the society at large. DSC_4999
  • Growth in business has to be consistent, competitive and profitable. A business also has to be socially relevant. A renewed emphasis on S-H-E alone can achieve this.
  • Following the tenets of S-H-E is not only about companies creating a separate Department to drive these goals. It is also about better regulatory compliance. It is also about calculating the carbon foot print. It is also about a change of attitude. It is about putting people and planet alongside the drive for profits. DSC_5025
  • Unless companies imbibe a culture which encourages all managers and executives to work together to achieve their goals by adopting sustainable methods, continuous growth may be difficult to achieve. Ensuring safety of all concerned is an important responsibility of the business. Many business leaders realize that a healthy employee contributes better. Work-life balance needs to be taken care in such a way that the employees are always happy as well as healthy. Businesses also need to ensure that they give back to Mother Earth more than what they draw from it. taking care of environment is an important issue which facilitates sustained growth.DSC_5109
  • All over the world, businesses are gearing up to ensure that their operations take place on a sustainable basis. There are already companies which have started reporting Environmental P&L Accounts.
  • In India, the government is now talking of shifting subsidies from chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizers. MNCs like BASF are talking about Product Stewardship, meaning compliance right through the entire supply chain to its end-use customers. DSC_5124
  • According to a recent study done by KPMG, India has emerged as a leader in the field of sustainability reporting. In the Asia-Pacific region, India has recorded the highest growth in sustainability reporting since 2011 – 53%. Chile is the next, with 46% increase, followed by Singapore (+37%), Australia (+25%), Taiwan (+19%) and China (+16%).
  • The safety of an employee should also cover the duration he or she is not on duty. The concept needs to be extended to the life outside, at home, on the road – practically in all spheres of life. DSC_5158
  • When companies think of a SHE culture, they should not ignore the safety and health of their women employees in a much wider context. They need to feel empowered to report misbehavior of any kind. At the work place, the need is to treat them with dignity and respect. As part of a progressive society, males need to examine their attitudes towards women at home and in public spaces.

The day-long seminar was attended by over 200 participants who benefited from the expertise of several subject experts and thought leaders from the field. It was inaugurated by the Lt Governor of Pondicherry.  

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How do you prepare yourself for your sunset years? Here are six things you can do to enjoy this special phase of your life to the hilt.

1.   Learn to Respect your Body

Your genes may be weak but getting into healthier habits earlier in life helps. Moderate food, regular exercise and prompt check-ups help in the long run.

For mature persons, yoga is a good route to consider – it offers a ‘slow and steady’ solution, as opposed to a ‘fast and furious’ one. It is not the ferocity of exercise which is important; rather, it is the regularity with which you do it which is more important. The time to start forming this habit is now.

2.   Build a Financial Nest Egg

60 is the new 40, so you could easily continue working much after conventional wisdom tells you to hang your boots. When you do so, it may no longer be possible to maintain the same lifestyle you were enjoying when you were working.

You can start saving early. Build a nest egg which has at least 70% by way of fixed assets. An extra property which can be sold off on a rainy day can be a part of this corpus. Another 20% could be in liquid forms, which could be withdrawn at a short notice. If you are yet to overcome your allure of precious metals, let 10% be channelized into the same.

3. Create an Alternate Identity

You have always enjoyed a professional peg on which you could hang your persona and put it on display for the society. You have been a doctor, an engineer, a manager, an architect or whatever.

Once you hang your boots, this peg of identity would no longer be available to you. You need to start building an alternate identity for yourself earlier in life.

Even while you are professionally active, start networking with people who share a similar passion – be it photography, wildlife, music, movies, literature, painting or adventure. Start working on a hobby which is close to your heart. Market yourself in this domain as well. Gradually, build an identity for yourself in this realm. It would keep you gainfully engaged in your second or third innings in life.

4.   4.   Count on Mental Agility

Develop an interest in an activity which would keep your grey cells in the active mode. Find ways to remain connected with younger and fresher minds. One way to do so would be to start sharing your experience, wisdom and skills with the younger lot. This way, you would also have the satisfaction of giving back to society a part of what you have gained from it.

Pandit Birju Maharaj, all of 70 years, says that “The rest of the world may love me as a Guru, but in my own eyes, I have always been a good student (of dance) for over 70 years now.”

Continue to have a childlike curiosity in life!

5.   5.   Cultivate Enduring Relationships

While you are professionally active, you have an eco-system of administrative support. Personal visits to your bank, your RETIRINGpharmacist or your garage are possibly unheard of. Secretarial support is taken for granted. In your second innings, such luxuries may no longer be possible.

Be prepared to become a one-man army, prepared to handle domestic chores you abhor now.  

Cultivating a well-knit circle of well-wishers and friends would help. You shall then have the comfort of sharing your problems, thoughts, joys and sorrows with them.  

The sheer joy of seeing your children and grandchildren grow would ensure a level of happiness which is beyond words. To be able to support them in whatever way you can would surely help. Passing on your wisdom, learning and values to your progeny would be quite satisfying. This process can start much earlier in life.  

 6. Plan to Depart Systematically

Eventually, ensure that those left behind face the least possible difficulty in acquiring things when you decide to kick the bucket. Build a clear list of assets and liabilities. Your family card, your bank accounts, your investments, insurance policies, registrations with various utilities, passwords of your debit/credit cards are all details which can be left behind in a secure manner. Wherever possible, nominate your inheritors.

Between the body and the mind, age is merely a number. By preparing for an advanced age upfront, you will be better equipped to relish this exciting phase of your life.

(Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/when-age-is-only-a-number)

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Sixteen Shades of the Bollywood Eve

(Continued from Part 1)

  • ·         The Avenger

She is the one with a resilient spirit. She takes up an issue and brings it to a logical conclusion.movies nadira

Nadira started this trend in Hunterwaali (The Lady with a Whip) way back in 1935. Several others followed. Hema Malini played a role with negative shades in Laal Patthar (Red Stone, 1971). Rekha extracted a revenge in Khoon Bhari Maang (The Blood-filled Hair Parting, 1988). In Insaaf Ka Tarazu (Scale of Justice, 1980), Zeenat Amaan took a serial rapist to court. Mirch Masala (Spices, 1987) depicted a fiery Smita Patil who resists the amorous advances of a village headman. Zakhmi Aurat (Wounded Woman, 1988), had Dimple Kapadia avenging her rape by means of castrating the perpetrators of the crime.

Damini (Lightning, 1993) raised the issues involved in bringing a rapist to justice. In Bandit QueenMovie Kahaani (1994), we had Seema Biswas portraying Phoolan Devi, a real life character who avenges her humiliation on her own terms. Corporate (2006) had a business executive using her charms to steal a competitor’s marketing plan from his laptop. In No One Killed Jessica, (2011), Rani Mukherjee worked with a missionary zeal and secured justice for a bereaved family. A supposedly pregnant Vidya Balan avenged the death of her husband in a terrorist attack in Kahaani (Story, 2012).

  • ·         The Silent Sufferer

The delicately nurtured are invariably shown to suffer silently, a virtue which was much celebrated in the past. However, with social changes, women have assumed a more assertive role.

Leela Naidu suffered due to neglect at the hands of her professionally committed doctor husband inMovie Anuradha Anuradha (1960). Tapasya (Penance, 1976) had a woman sacrificing her own interests so as to take care of her family. Jaya Bachhan silently tolerated a difference of opinion with her husband in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Happiness at times, Sadness at times, 2001). Earlier, in Abhimaan (Pride, 1973), she had suffered because of the superior quality of her singing as compared to that of her celebrity singer husband who developed an inferiority complex.

These are archetypal kinds, for whom the marriage is sacrosanct, the only deliverance being death.

  • ·         Mothers of all Hues

No movie could be complete without her. There are finer shades in their portrayal as well.

The Sacrificing and Crying Ma

The mother of all mothers was Nirupa Roy who acted in over 400 films and played a mother in most movies Nirupa_Royof them. Deewar (Wall, 1975) and Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) are two movies which readily spring to one’s mind. She cried when she lost her children, when she found them, when she either got separated or rejoined them, when she turned blind and when she regained her vision. 

In Leela Chitnis, we had the aboriginal kind mother who was the eternally sacrificing type. Whether it was Hum Dono (Both of Us, 1961), Guide (1965) or Waqt (Time, 1965), she played the role of a devoted and suffering mother to the hilt.

The Dominating Ma

Lalita Pawar has left a deep impression on our minds, playing the role of a dominating mother andmovies Lalita_Pawar mother-in-law who is adept at creating trouble for her daughter-in-law. She embodied the nasty woman who terrorized her family and the audience.

The Revengeful Mother

The wronged mother, the one who suffered at the hands of the villain and patiently waited for her sons to grow up and then beat up the bad guys. In Karan Arjun (1995), we had Rakhee playing this kind of a mother.

The Doting Ma

Here is the sweet and indulgent mother who doubles up as a friend. Rakhi in Kabhie Kabhie (AtMovie Hum_Tum times, 1976) played such a mother to Rishi Kapur. Reema Lagoo in Maine Pyar Kiya (I Fell in Love, 1989), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun….! (Who Am I to You…!, 1994) and Hum Saath Saath Hain, (We Stand United, 1999), Farida Jalal in Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (The Bravehearts will Take Away the Bride, 1995), Dil To Paagal Hai (The Heart is Crazy, 1997) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (I Feel Something, 1998) and Kirron Kher in Devdas (2002) and Dostana (Friendship, 2008) played similar mothers. And yes, in Hum Tum (You and I, 2004) we had both Rati Agnihotri and Kirron Kher playing a friend, philosopher and Ma to Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Helen had a simiar role in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (I Have Already Given My Heart, Darling, 1999).

The Manipulative One

We had Aruna Irani portraying a manipulative mother in Beta (Son, 1992). In Hum Saath Saath Hain (We Stand United, 1999), Reema Lagoo mistreated her adopted son under the influence of malicious advice from her friends, only to repent later. Movie English_Vinglish

The Modern Ma

We get to see fashionable mothers as well. Aaja Nachle (Come, Let’s Dance, 2007) had Madhuri Dixit playing a single mother guiding her teenage daughter through the by-lanes of a small town in India while attempting to revive a theater. Vicky Donor (2012) had Dolly Ahluwalia, hero’s mother,  bonding well with her mother-in-law while sharing a peg or two. Forget self-pity; in English Vinglish (2012), we had Sridevi learning the English language, eventually winning the respect of her derisive family.

The Revolutionary Ma

In Shaheed (Martyr, 1965), we had Kamini Kaushal playing the role of revolutionary Bhagat Singh’sMovie Mother_India courageous mother. We also got to see a homely mother turning into a revolutionary, like Jaya Bachhan in Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa (The Mother of 1084, 1998).

The Stiff Upper Lip Ma

She is a stickler for principles and invariably assumes a high moral ground when dealing with an errant child. In Mother India (1957), we had Nargis killing her own son because he misbehaves with a girl from the village. Durga Khote essayed the role of Jodha Bai in Mughal-e-Azam, (The Emperor of the Mughals, 1960) torn between the loyalty to her husband, Prithviraj Kapur, and the love for her son, Dilip Kumar.

In Julie (1975), Nadira softened up with her daughter only in the climax scene. Dina Pathak inmovies durga khote Khubsoorat (Beautiful, 1980) played a disciplinarian who exercises strict control over all her family members in all spheres of their lives. In Khamoshi-the Musical (Silence, 1996) and Vivah (Marriage, 2006), we had Seema Biswas playing a mother who does not approve of the goings-on.

We had Reema Lagoo in Vaastav (Reality, 1999) who shot her own son, Sanjay Dutt, dead. Dimple Kapadia in Luck by Chance (2009) disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with a struggling hero. At one stage, she even shares with her daughter the kind of casting couch harassment she herself faced at the beginning of her career in Bollywood.  

The Mumbling Ma

Here is the kind who ends up embarrassing her children. She is a simpleton with a heart of gold and a childlike simplicity. She lacks the social grace and manners, thereby becoming an object of light-hearted ridicule. Pearl Padamsee portrayed such characters with great finesse in movies like KhattaMovie Mere apne Meetha (Sweet and Sour, 1978) and Baaton Baaton Mein (Just Like That, 1979).

The Ma-like Women

Lalita Pawar played the role of a caring motherly figure in Shri 420 (1955), Anari (Simpleton, 1959) and Anand (1971). Meena Kumari played a central role in Mere Apne (My Own, 1971), exhorting the young ones to give up violence.  

  • ·         The Bold One

In several movies, we find strong and independent women who live life on their own terms. TheyMovie Aandhi walk into the sunset, head held high.

In Anupama, Sharmila Tagore broke the emotional barrier of paternal authority and scorn to join up with Dharmendra, the love of her life. Guide had the heroine walking out on her husband to pursue her dancing career. In Aandhi (Storm, 1975), Suchitra Sen pursued her ambitions in the realm of politics at the cost of separating from her family.

In Arth (Meaning, 1982), Shabana Azmi refused to take her husband back while also spurning the offer of companionship from Raj Kiran. In Videsh (Heaven on Earth, 1998), a fiesty Preity Zinta walks out of an abusive matrimonial relationship. Astitva (Existence, 2000) had Tabu confronting her husband despite the social stigma of adultery.

In Zubeidaa (2001), Karishma Kapoor stood up against her family and carved a new life for herself,Movie Filhaal even leaving behind a child from a failed marriage. Filhaal (Momentary, 2001) was based on the theme of surrogate motherhood. Sushmita Sen went against the wishes of her fiancee and offers timely help to Tabu who had had a miscarriage.

Lakshya (Goal, 2004) depicted a heroine who walks away first from a relationship because the hero is clueless about his career goals, she also decides to break an alliance to pursue a career of her choice. Chak De! India (Go India!, 2007) had a similar character who ends a relationship so as to be able to focus on her choice of playing hockey. 

In Paheli (Riddle, 2005), Rani Mukherji opted to live with a caring and loving ghost, knowing fully well that he is just a look alike and not her real husband who is away on aMovie Fashion professional errand. In Dor (String, 2006), a widowed Ayesha Takia chose to run away and face an uncertain future rather than facing illegitimate pressure at her in-laws’ place.

Provoked (2006) depicted a harassed Aishwarya Rai burning her husband alive. The judiciary eventually allows her to walk away free. In Fanaa (Annihilated, 2006), Kajol put her patriotic feelings uppermost and killed Aamir Khan who played a terrorist.

Priyanka Chopra was shown having carved a niche for herself in a challenging industry in Fashion (2008). In The Dirty Picture (2011), Vidya Balan demonstrated how sleaze could be made fashionable and marketed in the world of cinema.

  • ·         The Patient One

Whether it is memory loss or disability, heroines have managed to keep our tear glands in an activePoster Khamoshi mode. Some have evoked pity whereas some have given us hope and the courage to face adversity. Many have protected men  who suffer from some ailment.

Nutan took care of an ailing husband in Khandan (Family Tribe, 1965). In Khilona (Toy, 1970),  it was Mumtaz’s turn to do so. The role of a nurse essayed by Waheeda Rehman in Khamoshi (Silence, 1969) would remain etched in our minds for a long time to come. Eeshwar (God, 1989) had Vijayshanti taking care of a mentally challenged Anil Kapur.

Sridevi was simply brilliant in Sadma (Trauma, 1983).  Maushumi Chatterji played the role of a blind woman in Anurag (Affection, 1972), as did Madhuri Dixit in Sangeet (Music, 1992).

Rani Mukherjee portrayed the role of a deaf and blind girl in Black (2005) with much aplomb.Movie Barfi! Likewise, we had a blind Deepika Padukone in Lafangey Parindey (Cheeky Birds, 2010), trying to fulfill her skating ambitions. Priyanka Chopra excelled in her portrayal of a woman suffering from autism in Barfi (2012).      

Kajol was not daunted by cancer in We Are Family (2010), adopted from Stepmom. Vidya Balan was courageous in the face of progeria in Pa (2009). Tisca Chopra took her own time in coming to terms with dyslexia in Taare Zameen Par (Like Stars on Earth, 2007).

  • ·         The Widowed One

The social stigma attached to widowhood and the issue of a widow’s remarriage has been tackled in quite a few Bollywood movies. Most of the roles evoke sympathy whereas some turn amorous. Movie Prem_Rog

In Bahu Beti (Daughter-in-law, Daughter, 1965), it was the father-in-law who organized the remarriage of his widowed daughter-in-law. A well made movie in this genre was Prem Rog (Love Malady, 1982), where Rishi Kapur and Padmini Kolhapure got united after the latter gets widowed. Likewise, in Baabul (Girl’s Father, 2006), Amitabh Bachhan, playing a doting father-in-law, got Rani Mukherjee remarried to her former lover.

All these roles reinforce the overt dependence of a woman on a man in her life. All these movies depict the men taking decisions over the fate of women. However, viewed against the backdrop of the social norms prevalent in India, the importance of a widow being shown to getting remarried itself deserves to be appreciated.

In Choker Bali (Sand in the Eye, 2003), we found Aishwarya Rai unleashing her charms on the males she comes in contact with. A moving narrative of the widows’ plight appeared in Water (2005).

  • ·         Villains and Dons

Comely heroines do spring a surprise when they turn out to be villains in some of the moviMovie Aishwarya_Rai_Canneses. Nanda in Ittefaq (Chance, 1969), Kajol in Gupt (Secret, 1997), Preity Zinta in Armaan (Desire, 2003), Aishwarya Rai in Khakee (Brown Uniform, 2004) and Pink Panther 2 (2009) and Katrina Kaif in Race (2008) are some examples which come to mind.

Rekha played the role of a don in Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (Player of Players, 1996). Shabana Azmi played an underworld don’s role in Godmother (1999). Neha Dhupia portrayed the role of a gangster in Phans Gaye Re Obama (We are Stuck, Obama, 2010). Amrita Singh played a negative role in Aurangzeb (2013).  In Ram Leela (2013), Supriya Pathak sprang a surprise in a similar role.

  • ·         The Weird One

From Nagin (Female Snake, 1954) of earlier days to Hisss (2010) of recent times, several movies have captured the role of a vengeful female snake assuming a human form. Shabana Azmi surprised us with a weird role in Makdee (Spider, 2002). Konkona Sen played a witch in Ek Thi Daayan (Once There was a Witch, 2013).

  • ·         The Seductress, The Adultress Movie Paroma

In few movies, women have been shown to have extra-marital relations. In some, they come out as ambitious seductresses.

Parveen Babi in Deewar (Wall, 1975), Rakhee in Parama (The Ultimate Woman, 1984), Rekha in Aastha (Belief, 1997) and Silsila (Continuity, 1981), Tabu in Maqbool (Accepted, 2003), Urmila Matondkar in Pyar Tune Kya Kiya (Consequences of Your Love, 2001) and Bipasha Basu in Jism (Body, 2003) are some of the portrayals which fall in this category.

  • ·         The Comedienne

Shubha Khote followed by Aruna Irani played such roles with much aplomb opposite Mehmood and other comedians. Manorama, Farida Jalal and Tabassum kept this traditionMovie SHIRIN_FARHAD_KI_TOH_NIKAL_PADI alive, till the omnipotent heroine herself donned the mantle of keeping the audience in good humor. With ready wit and renewed self-confidence, a middle aged Farah Khan charmed us admirably well in Shirin Farhaad Ki Toh Nikal Padi (How Shirin and Farhad Had Trouble, 2012).

Women of course appear as helpful sisters as well. This aspect has already been covered in an earlier post.

Objectifying men, for a change!

In the Tamil language fantasy Irandaam Ulagam (Second World, 2013), it is the heroine who walks up to him to tell him she wants to marry him. For a change, it is the man who ends up being objectified, with comments being passed on his eyes, lips and thighs.

In Singh Saab the Great (2013), women dominate not only with wits but also with muscle power.

All About Money, Honey!

To set the cash registers tingling, our dream merchants have a standard recipe – shock and awe. Movie Lamhe-cover-smallGlorification of stalking, objectification of women, endorsement of lewd behavior and sexual harassment continue to be part of the box-office winning formula. With each passing year, the envelope only gets pushed more and more. The probability of commercial success of a movie is believed to be directly proportional to the skin exposure and the bold content, rather than to a strong script or a realistic characterization. Increasing number of explicit scenes go on to prove that it is all about money, honey!

In a scenario where art takes a back seat and the concern to draw customers into theater seats reigns supreme, there is limited scope for flexibility in plots; moviegoers largely want their expectations and prejudices reinforced.

At the same time, innovation is the only key to sustained engagement, so newer and bolder themes ahead of their times always keep coming up. Movies like Mera Naam Joker (My Name is Joker, 1970), Rihaee (Release, 1988), Lamhe (Moments, 1991), Fire (1996) and Nishabd (Without Words, 2007) came when the audience was not really ready for them. Some of these achieved a cult status after many years.

The Entertainer’s Role

In a recent interview, Aamir khan aptly summed it up by pointing out that we have entertainers whoMovie - Fire use cheap jokes and lewd comments to appeal to our baser instincts. Then there are those who create a movie lovingly, rich in poetry, music and visuals, thereby appealing to our finer sensibilities.

But they have a much larger role to play in society, by being graceful in presentation, by instilling higher values in the younger generation and by enriching the moral fabric of our society.

Bollywood can play a very important role indeed in making women safer in our public spaces. Movies from such directors as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Basu Chatterjee and Sooraj Barjatya have repeatedly proven that a decent depiction of women does not mean absence of commercial success.

Some of the women directors who have wielded the megaphone have also come up with sensitive portrayals of women. Aparna Sen, Deepa Mehta, Kalpana Lajmi, Zoya Akhtar and Gauri Shinde have given us remarkable movies which were not only artistically rich but also commercially successful.

As a mature industry which is now a century old, it is unfortunate that there are very few women-centric movies Bollywood can boast of. Old values continue to get perpetuated, reinforcing a patriarchal mindset in the society.

Our dream merchants would do well to introspect on this account and start regaling us with movies which transform the society’s attitudes towards women. This would make it easier for a woman to enjoy social freedom, respect and dignity she truly deserves.

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Recently, a friend asked me what I thought of Katrina Kaif’s character in the just released Dhoom-3movies katrina (The Blast-3, 2013). Even at the risk of offending some of you, I confess I found it full of chutzpah and oomph but, alas, hollow otherwise. From this perspective, the script of Dhoom-2 perhaps etched the characters played by Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu in somewhat greater detail.

This led me to think of the kaleidoscope of movies churned out by Bollywood and the wide spectrum of roles written for and played by women. It is also interesting to see how their roles have evolved over the past few decades, much in tune with two inter-related trends in the Indian society – a deeply patriotic fervor giving way to the rise of consumerism, and the outlook changing from a society-centric one to an individual-centric one. The first one has to do with growing incomes, and the second one to the gradual decay of the joint family system.

If there is a similarity in women’s portrayal across various films, there is also a stark contrast. In some, they are put on a pedestal and venerated. In others, they are subject to humiliation and objectification. Yet, they end up forgiving their tormentors, eventually running into their arms. Somemovies LeelaChitnis films portray them as epitomes of virtue where they are depicted as silent sufferers, always putting their families first. Some show them as temptresses who manipulate, destroy and seduce while unleashing their charms. In some, they are victims of betrayal. In others, they turn out to be ruthless avengers. 

They portray motherhood in myriad hues. They might be nagging housewives within the confines of the house, but would protect their soul-mates and family members against external harm much like tigresses out to protect their cubs. They turn up as great doctors. They also play fashionable patients who are often undaunted by their ailments. They portray meek and submissive daughters. They also turn out to be rebellious bold ones, breaking the rigid barriers of convention and overcoming societal stigma.

Of late, they have even managed to turn the tables on the sterner sex and started objectifying men. A welcome development indeed!


The portrayal of women in films getting churned out by Bollywood has undergone a sea change overMovies Achhut_Kanya the past few decades. The earlier notion of the perfect woman — tradition-bound, a lot of glory in sacrifice, her duty to accept what comes to her, etc – has now metamorphosed into an unabashed display of physical assets and a liberal attitude towards sexuality.

Way back in the 1960s, touching of hands used to be the outer limit of physical contact between the hero and the heroine. Kissing was a taboo and could only be hinted at indirectly, often by the camera capturing two blooming flowers swaying next to each other in a gentle breeze. Actresses would roll down a snow-covered slope with the hero, or go under a waterfall in their sari, but they would not kiss. A gruesome rape scene would be fine, but not any kind of sexual overtures.

If a woman was a prostitute, she had to be rescued before she lost her virginity. A woman could neither have an affair nor sex. If she did, the poor thing had to die in the end.

One factor has remained unchanged, though. In many movies, women are not human beings. They are just pretty dolls, mostly there to support the hero, incidental to the plot and exploited for their sex appeal.

A Masculine Outlookmovie Nikaah

Showing women in a helpless mode somehow appeals to the male audience. The image of stalking and hurting a woman excites this segment of the audience. Women in the audience perhaps identify with those on the screen and grin and bear the feudal treatment.

As a society, women are second-class citizens from birth, and cannot openly express any anger about that situation. Typically, a man is being cared for by his mother, by his sisters, by his wife and also by his daughter. So, he fantasizes about a woman who is passive and open to subjugation.

When a wronged heroine turns an avenger, the man claps in the theatre. However, at home, the way he treats the females around him shows a reality which is quite different.  

Love and Lust

Even as late as in Veer-Zaara (2004), we had a romantic relationship which retained its innocencePoster Veer Zaara and celebrated the deep commitment between the hero and the heroine. Contrast this with Love Aaj Kal (Love Nowadays, 2009), Anjaana Anjaani (Strangers, 2010), and Ek Main aur Ekk Tu (One Me and One You, 2012), where the couples showed a different attitude towards the bliss of togetherness.  In Ram Leela (2013), we get to see a Leela in Deepika Padukone who thinks nothing of unabashedly wooing a Ram in Ranveer Singh.

A hug is no longer much to write home about. Intimate scenes are the new buzzword, even from the stable of Yash Raj Films (Jab Tak Hai Jaan – As Long as I am Alive, 2012) and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag – Run Milkha, Run, 2013) who have otherwise given us romantic and socially relevant themes devoid of any obscenity in the past. These are subtle hints that lust is increasingly getting portrayed as love these days.

Sixteen Shades of the Bollywood Eve

  • ·         The Simpering Beloved

A majority of movies have black hats who are wooed and won over by white knights – in some with prior societal or parental approval. In others, a post-facto reconciliation takes place between the young couple and their parents just as the camera fades out and credits start rolling out towards the end.

Despite a relatively modern upbringing, Kajol remains a traditionalist to the core in Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (The Bravehearts will Take Away the Bride, 1995). In the climax, she joins the hero only after receiving her father’s consent.

  • ·         The Soulmate

A spouse or a girl friend is often found leveraging her strength of character to support the hero inDark Bandini distress.

In Hum Dono (Both of Us, 1961), Sadhana did so. In Bandini (The Female Prisoner, 1963), Nutan decided to support her sick but long since separated husband – played by Ashok Kumar – rather than starting a new life with a younger and healthier Dharmendra.

In Maachis (Matchbox, 1996) and Hu Tu Tu (1999), Tabu turned into a terrorist and a human bomb so as to join the cause being championed by her lover. In Aitraaz (Objection, 2004), Kareena Kapur played a lawyer who wins a case for her husband. In Veer-Zaara (2004), Preity Zinta relocated to India from Pakistan so as to serve Shahrukh Khan’s parents who, unknown to her, was languishing in a jail in Pakistan. In Wake Up, Sid (2009), Konkona Sen Sharma became a friend and guide to Ranbir Kapur.

  • ·         The Venerated One

If the woman gets stalked in a majority of Bollywood flicks, she also gets venerated in few. And onemovie Vivah is not referring to the mythologicals here.

In Saathi (Companion, 1968), the love shown between husband Rajendra Kumar and wife Vyjantimala bordered on the reverential. In Purab aur Paschim (East and West, 1970), Manoj Kumar handled a heroine brought up in a western country with due regard to the diferences in their cultural upbringing. In Khushboo (Aroma, 1975), a sober Jeetendra was made to realize his folly by his wife who takes him to task for dithering in inviting her to join him in his home. 

At a time when harassment of women in all walks of life appears to be on the rise, Vivah (Marriage, 2006) came as a fresh whiff of air, projecting a male character who was considerate, caring and compassionate. The hero’s decision to marry the heroine who was from an economically weaker strata was praiseworthy. No dowry was demanded. Above all, the marriage got solemnized despite the heroine having received severe burns in a fire. 

  • ·         Femme fatale

A vamp is inevitably an insider to the affairs of the lead pair, whereas women portrayed in thismovies nadira category tend to be on the fringes of the narrative.

Gangster’s molls, sex objects and item dancers are all there to appeal to our baser instincts. Smoking, drinking and making seductive overtures comes habitually to them. Right from Cuckoo and Nadira to Helen and Bindu, we just love to hate them. While the gangsters are busy unfolding their Machiavellian plots to torment the lead cast and their near and dear ones, the molls provide the perfect foil to soothe the frayed nerves of the audience.  

When it comes to seductive dances, Helen’s belly dance in Inteqam (Revenge, 1969) and Padma Khanna’s cabaret in Johny Mera Naam (My Name is Johny, 1970) immediately spring to one’s mind.

Over the years, the presentation of ‘item numbers’ has got increasingly refined. There are severalmovie Helen crude ones which have kept a part of the male audience glued to their seats, their eyeballs popping out of their sockets with each gyration and pelvic thrust of a lissome dancer. Increasingly, this space has been taken over by the leading ladies themselves, relegating the poor side heroine to the background.

Aruna Irani did prance around a young Rishi Kapur in Bobby (1973). But it was Aishwarya Rai who wooed us with her ‘Kajra re…’ in Bunty aur Babli (Bunty and Babli, 2005). Rekha gyrated to songs old and new in Parineeta (The Married Woman, 2005) and Yatra (Journey, 2006). Katrina Kaif scorched the floors in Tees Maar Khan (2010) and Dhoom-3 (The Blast-3, 2013).

Sushmita Sen played a teacher in Main Hoon Na (I Am Here to Support You, 2004), but that did not restrain her from having a sensuous duet with her student, Shahrukh Khan.

  • ·         The Vamp

The woman with malicious intentions towards either the lead couple or the whole family. She is sexymovie ABHIMAAN and could be shown either smoking or drinking. She wears high heels, garish makeup and could be caught doing a cabaret at least once in the movie.

Nadira is remembered for her negative role in Shri 420 (Mr 420, 1955). Shashikala had evil designs in very many films, though B R Chopra and Hrishikesh Mukherjee used her in positive roles in films like Gumraah (Gone Astray, 1963) and Anupama (The Incomparable, 1966). Bindu played the spoilsport in Do Raaste (Two Separate Ways, 1969), Kati Patang (A Free-floating Kite, 1970) and Imtihaan (The Test, 1974); her role opposite Ajit as ‘Mona Darling’ in Zanjeer (The Shackle, 1973) is remembered till today, as is that of someone supporting the lead couple in Abhimaan (Pride, 1973). In Caravan (1971) and in several other movies, Aruna Irani played a negative role.

With changing social mores, vamps and dancing girls have become an endangered species. A courtesan played by Meenoo Mumtaz – in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (The Boss, The Wife and the Servant, 1962), for instance – who used to present a dance based on a classical form while lip-synching soulful lyrics – has become virtually extinct. She has been crowded out by skimpily clad heroines seductively gyrating to item numbers like ‘Beedi jalayi le’, ‘Chikni Chameli’ and ‘Shiela ki jawaani’. In Dhoom-3, Katrina Kaif treats the voyeuristic amongst the male audience to a family friendly striptease.    

  • ·         The Victim

Greedy relatives, encounters of an unfortunate kind, social stigma and poverty have repeatedly beenmovie Pakeezah shown to force women away from following the straight and narrow path of chastity, matrimonial bliss and happiness.

In Sujata (1959), Nutan portrayed the character of an orphan girl facing caste prejudices. In the lavishly mounted Pakeezah (The Pure One, 1972), Meena Kumari got rescued by the hero who faces stiff social resistance, finally overcome by the revelation that his uncle was the real father of the heroine.

Ankur (Seedling, 1973) and Rudaali (The Professional Griever, 1993) effectively captured the oppression of women in a male dominated society. Sharmila Tagore in Satyakam (1969) and Saira Bano in Chaitali (1975) were only two of the several others who have portrayed hapless women being exploited. Bhumika (Role, 1977) captured the pathos of an exploited woman very well. In Umrao Jaan (1981), Rekha’s search for true love proved to be elusive. In an unabashed display of male parochialism, Nikaah (The Betrothal, 1982) and Woh 7 Din (Those 7 Days, 1983) showed two males arguing out the fate of the woman both are in love with, as if she herself need not be consulted.

Lajja (Shame, 2001) raised several feminist issues in a predominantly male chauvinistic world.movie Pinjar Pinjar (The Cage, 2003) portrayed the agony of a heroine disowned by her own family after getting kidnapped by a person from another religion.

In Aradhana (Worship, 1969), a widowed mother successfully brought up her son all by herself. In Silsila (Continuity, 1981), a pregnant Jaya Bachhan sought social approval and financial safety by getting married to the younger brother of her beau who had passed away in an air accident. In 1947: Earth (1998), Nandita Das ended up suffering at the hands of her lover. In Banaras (2006), Urmila Matondkar turned into an ascetic after her beau, hailing from a lower caster, was ordered to be murdered by her own mother.

In Pati, Patni aur Woh (The Husband, The Wife and The Other, 1978), the hapless housewife tried her best to restrain the romantic escapades of her husband who suffered from the ‘roving eye syndrome’. In Rang Birangi (Colourful, 1983),a bored wife found that an affair in the office prompted her husband to pay better attention to her at home!

Stalking is often depicted as a birth right of the men. Darr (Fear, 1993), led to tragic consequences. However, in most other movies, the heroine forgives and ends up accepting a romantic relationship with the former stalker. Raanjhanaa (The Beloved, 2013), took the art of stalking to new lows. Inmovie Ghar R…Rajkumar (Prince, 2013), the heroine eventually ends up falling for the hero, despite his wayward ways to win her over.

In Gori Tere Pyaar Mein (For Your Love, Fair Maiden, 2013), the heroine is a social worker, relentlessly pursued by the self-centered hero. When he points out a strand of white in her hair, she is not on the defensive. Here is an acknowledgement of the woman as being a person who ages like anybody else. Eventually, she ends up coyly in the hero’s arms. 

Rape scenes have been an integral part of the Bollywood movies. Roti, Kapada aur Makaan (Food, Clothing and Shelter, 1974), had a particularly graphic rape scene involving Maushumi Chatterji. We have also had sensible depiction of such scenes in some movies – like Satyakam, where a lamp rolling about on the floor was used to depict the traumatic event in the heroine’s life. One of the rare movies which handled the post-rape emotional rehabilitation of the heroine very delicately was Ghar (Home, 1978).

(Next part: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/women-through-the-bollywood-lens-part-2-of-2)

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