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Posts Tagged ‘Chivalry’

The Association of Sterner Husbands (ASH) hereby seeks nominations for its prestigious Star Sterner Awards which are conferred upon those of the tribe of the so-called sterner sex who have managed to break the bond between themselves and their delicately nurtured spouses during the preceding year.

ASH is devoted to the cause of promoting Masculinism. It has instituted the awards to counter the ‘rising trend of all this nonsense about the modern emancipation of women which has resulted in them getting it up their noses’, eventually manifesting itself in such ‘movements’ as Feminism, #MeToo and the like.

Things in the society have reached a state where physical violence inflicted upon the party of the other part, even if the husband is all sozzled up, is in the realm of imagination. So is the provocation of an extra-marital affair. The level of delicacy of the f of the s has already jumped up several notches, putting a lot of burden on the m of the s. Besides the harsh slings and arrows of a career, he is now expected to take care of household affairs. The days when he could afford the luxury of exerting his authority without being responsible for whatever may be happening on the domestic front are long since over. The rise in the delicacy level has resulted into a sharp drop in the tolerance levels, thereby making it relatively easier for aggrieved husbands to persuade their wives to seek a divorce. A mere flick of the eyebrow is all that is needed these days to send a wife scouring around for a lawyer.

But the foundations of our civilization are quivering. The institution of marriage itself is being torn down brick by brick by cold-hearted wives clawing their way up the power ladder in a family. Unless prompt steps are taken through proper channels, the future of humanity is at stake. Males need to reassert themselves so the process of human evolution does not get derailed.

Those who qualify to apply for the Star Sterner Award would need to conclusively demonstrate having any or all of the personality traits mentioned herein below. They should have successfully persuaded their soul mates to promptly file for a divorce.

  • He has always imagined himself to be the King of Babylon and has treated his wife like an Egyptian slave. He would have been the lord and master of the house in the truest sense of term. His wish should have been her command. From time to time, he should have shown her place by assaulting her physically. He should have made her submit unconditionally to his whims and fancies. Like a caveman of the distant past, he should have never cringed at the prospect of hitting her with a club and dragging her with her hair to the cave. This would have fulfilled her inward yearning to be treated like Mrs Spottsworth.
  • He realizes that the proof of his masculinity lies in his donning the mantle of a Serial Harasser. He may otherwise lose whatever respect he gets from the society. Following would have been his role models:-Vincent Jopp who is known to have been terrible to his wife Luella Mainprice Jopp. He always insisted that her dog eat the leg of a chicken and not the breast.

    -Sir Derek Underhill, the knighted MP whose treatment of Jill (the reckless) scored rather high on the Richter Scale of Harassment of the Delicately Nurtured.

  • He should have an ostrich-like outlook on life. The trauma the wife suffers even when she receives a short message from him is her problem, not his. His arrival at the doorstep should make her wilt like a flower which has not been watered for some time. By traumatizing her, he merely hastens her spiritual growth. He has continued to live in a bubble of illusion that the wife alone is responsible for all the problems he faces. A bout of introspection or soul-searching should have been the last thing on his mind. 
  • The nominee has been firm in his belief that he is merely a victim of circumstances. He should have played the victim card to the hilt, scooping up sympathy – real or feigned – from all those who have come under his spell. He is convinced that by doing so, the rift between the partners would get resolved. He refuses to address the basic issue at hand. A direct dialogue with the person he believes to be the Harasser would have been a strict no-no. He has played safe by remaining at the fringes and never coming to the point.
  • He should have been a harsh critic of all endeavours of his wife, clearly conveying the deficiency in her services, such as:-Her culinary skills not matching to the standards set by Anatole, God’s gift to the gastric juices;

    -The need for her to undergo a crash course in rearing children under the aegis of such stalwarts in the realm of lion-taming as Aunt Agatha who brought up Thos and Miss Tomlinson who, with her steely gaze, could control goofy kids like Peggy Mainwaring. 

    Either cleaning the dishes and doing the laundry, or in maintaining the house like a five-star hotel, all spick and span.

    -Having a dreamy demeanour, like that of Madeline Bassett, or being someone who deserves to consult Sir Roderick Glossop so as to ascertain her Loopiness Quotient.

  • He should have repeatedly told her of all that he has done for her and for her ungrateful family. Hating her parents and her family is one of the essential conditions. So are misbehaving with them in her presence, ignoring her siblings when they come to pay a visit, rebuking her sister-in-law, showing open disrespect to her brother-in-law and even taking their kids to task for any goofy adventures. Driving a wedge between their kids and his kids would have been his policy.
  • Evidence of having insulted her in the presence of her kids would help.
  • Unlike Bertie Wooster, he should have never behaved with her like a preux chevalier.
  • Nor should he have ever followed the example of Bingo Little, ensuring that she got her afternoon cup of tea without fail. He should have never behaved like a spineless worm beneath her chariot wheels when she wanted to accompany her mother for some treatment at the Droitwich brine bath. Displaying nerves of chilled steel, he should have put his foot down. Even if her mother had decided to kick the bucket, he should have bluntly refused to support any of her travel plans.
  • If he had ever been persuaded to wear a skirt and undertake such household chores as dish washing, baby sitting and vacuuming, he should have let it be known in clear terms that he performs such chivalrous acts only as a great favour to the family; that he does so after making great personal sacrifices, such as catching up either on the latest political gimmickry on television or on social media updates streaming through his smart phone. He should have resorted to such tactics as may have irritated her no end, like never tidying up the toilet seat and even honing his discus throwing skills by using his wet towels in the master bedroom.

Those who have ever felt like a Tubby Vanringham to a cold-hearted Miss Whittaker need not apply.

It is presumed that applicants have covered their tracks well and ensured that no evidence of any of the acts mentioned above and indulged in by them exists. Documentation submitted in support of the application shall be kept confidential, thereby minimizing the chance of an applicant being hauled up in a harassment case.

The awards will be presented on the next International Men’s Day at the Blandings Castle by Sir Derek Underhill in the august presence of Lord Emsworth, the Chairman of the Association of Sterner Husbands and himself a member of the old school which resents a disposition on the part of the young man to act like a slave to the deemed Cleopatra of his life.

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Cupid has a free run in Plumsville. He is present everywhere. He influences and enables incidents which go beyond the normal call of his duty, not restricting himself merely to generating and sustaining magnetic currents flowing between two individuals.

The large circle of influence of Cupid

When he wants someone goofy like Thos to acquire a saintly disposition, he strikes at him, leaving him besotted with Greta Garbo, thereby making him rise in love. When he decides to champion the cause of vegetarians, he uses Madeline Bassett as a front and forces Gussie Fink-Nottle to lay off all the vitamins of animal origin, making him skip Anatole’s lavish spreads and survive only on spinach, sprouts, broccoli and similar stuff. When he wishes to campaign for safety of sharks, he deploys Angela to do his bidding.

Those who serve in the constabulary, however tough their exteriors and however pure their intentions to bring the culprits to book, also fall under his spell. When one of them has to be taught a lesson in humility, Stiffy Byng becomes an instrument in his hands, persuading even a vicar to pinch a policeman’s helmet. When the intellectual level of those who belong to the so-called sterner sex has to be raised, Cupid uses such characters as Florence Craye and Vanessa Cook to give the project a good shot. When he decides to downgrade obesity, he finds an ally in Maud, who scratches her fixture with Geoffrey Raymond to bring home the point.

When casinos at Monte Carlo need some promotion, Cupid makes two perfect strangers meet. If George Albert Balmer is an insurance clerk, the party of the other part is a companion of Lady Julia. Within a day of their having met, George proposes and finds that he is getting accepted. It is only then that he gets asked by his lady-love as to what his name happens to be! (The Tuppenny Millionaire, The Man Upstairs and other stories)

Bingo Little and the Evolution of Romantic Maturity

But the character Cupid is particularly fond of in Plumsville is Bingo Little. It appears that there are repeated attempts on Cupid’s part to enable his favourite person to ‘settle down’ in life. Objects of Bingo’s affection have included a waitress named Mabel; Honoria Glossop, the formidable daughter of Pop Glossop; Daphne Braythwayt, a friend of Honoria; Charlotte Corday Rowbotham, a revolutionary; Lady Cynthia Wickhammersley, a family friend of Bertie’s; and Mary Burgess, niece of the Rev. Francis Heppenstall. After each failed affair, Bingo does not necessarily sulk. Cupid rushes to his aid. The scales fall from his eyes, and he suddenly realizes that the next girl alone is his true soul mate.

After many failed affairs, Bingo ends up marrying the romance novelist Rosie M. Banks, an author whose outlook on life happens to match well with that of his. Cupid does not desert him even in his post-nuptials phase, setting the bar rather high for all the men who attach a premium on matrimonial bliss.

We now find a Bingo Little who is completely transformed. He is singularly devoted to his wife. Maintaining matrimonial peace and harmony is the sole purpose of his life. When it comes to keeping his lady-love happy and contented, there is little that he leaves to chance.

Charles Darwin, had he come across this unique case, might have gifted humanity with a treatise on The Evolution of Romantic Maturity instead.

Taking care of those young at heart

When it comes to Cupid’s machinations, age, caste, creed, profession and social status do not really matter. He does not discriminate between the younger lot and those who might be advanced in age but are young at heart. Other than the topsy-turvy romances of younger couples, he also does justice to those who are advanced in age and young at heart. An affection which was discernible in a couple’s younger days – whether declared or otherwise – survives the harsh slings and arrows of life. A chance meeting unearths and rekindles the deep buried embers of love. A well seasoned romance bears fruit. The Valentine Spirit prevails. Love may remain dormant for a long time, but can get revived in a jiffy – much like a Psyche getting revived by a Cupid’s kiss!

The case of Joe and Julia springs to one’s mind. So does the case of Piggy and Maudie. Not to forget the case of Mrs Spottsworth and Captain Biggar-Biggar. Even someone of the stature of Sir Roderick Glossop, the eminent nerve specialist, is not spared. Having fathered such exquisite specimens as Honoria and Oswald Glossop in the past, and having been a widower for two years, he decides to get hitched to Myrtle, Lady Chuffnell, later in his life.

 

The limitations of Cupid

But the freedom to strike at will does not come without its attendant responsibilities. Cupid has some serious obligations to meet in Plumsville. The strict code of chivalry in vogue therein does not permit physical intimacy. It looks askance at someone bandying about the name of a female. It does permit a sideways scrutiny of a lissome profile but scoffs at any attempts to outrage the modesty of a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. In Plumsville, romance blossoms. Love is in the air. Devotion is permitted. But physical intimacy is a taboo. Aphrodite has limited access to the goings on in Plumsville. Eroticism is denied entry. An occasional occurrence which could amount to mild titillation alone is allowed.

Consider some such instances where Cupid’s advances have met with a resounding buff in Plumsville.

When Bertie Wooster stands up to Gussie’s Amorous Plans

The Mating Season touches upon Gussie’s notebook which contains some juicy remarks on Pop Bassett and Rederick Spode and continues to be in Stiffy’s possession. Gussie comes up with a fruity scheme to retrieve the notebook from her.

‘Well, listen. You could easily engage her in a sort of friendly romp, if you know what I mean, in the course of which it would be simple to…well, something in the nature of a jocular embrace…’

I checked him sharply. There are limits, and we Woosters recognize them.

‘Gussie, are you suggesting that I prod Stiffy’s legs?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, I’m not going to.’

‘Why not?’

‘We need not delve into my reasons’, I said, stiffly. ‘Suffice it that the shot is not on the board.’

He gave me a look, a kind of wide-eyed, reproachful look, such as a dying newt might have given him, if he had forgotten to change its water regularly.

Unfortunately, Gussie proceeds with his plans. This prompts Madeline Bassett to scratch their engagement, thereby putting both Gussie and Bertie in a limbo.

Of girls clad in swimsuits in one’s bed

Bertie is never too keen on having Pauline in his bedroom in the small hours of night, and that too dressed in a wet swimsuit. But his reaction upon finding her there is not to fall for one of the devilish schemes of Cupid. His primary concern is to get her out of his cottage at the earliest possible. He does not even try to kiss her. Deciding to wait till the morning, he himself sleeps in the garage. (Thank You, Jeeves)

Bertie often comments on women’s bodies but only as an appreciation of beauty. There’s never any lust involved and he treats his female friends well, though he considers Madeline a drip and Bobbie Wickham and Stiffy Byng as troublemakers.

The closest he appears to come to expressing some lascivious thoughts is perhaps in The Mating Season. But here again, the Code of the Woosters reigns supreme.

When reproduction is embarrassing

The very idea of reproduction embarrasses Bertie Wooster, making him blush, as in this conversation he once had with Aunt Agatha:

‘Aline Hemmingway,’ said Aunt Agatha, ‘is just the girl I should like to see you marry, Bertie. You ought to be thinking of getting married. Marriage might make something of you. And I could not wish you a better wife than dear Aline. She would be such a good influence in your life.’ 

‘Here, I say!’ I chipped in at this juncture, chilled to the marrow. 

‘Bertie!’ said Aunt Agatha, dropping the motherly manner for a bit and giving me the cold eye. 

‘Yes, but I say–’ 

‘It is young men like you, Bertie, who make the person with the future of the race at heart despair. Cursed with too much money, you fritter away in idle selfishness a life which might have been made useful, helpful and profitable. You do nothing but waste your time on frivolous pleasures. You are simply an anti-social animal, a drone. Bertie, it is imperative that you marry.’

 ‘But, dash it all–’

 ‘Yes! You should be breeding children to – ‘

 ‘No, really, I say, please!’ I said, blushing richly. Aunt Agatha belongs to two or three of these women’s clubs, and she keeps forgetting she isn’t in the smoking-room.

 (The Inimitable Jeeves)

 

Of upturned faces and burning kisses

Showering upturned face with burning kisses is another tactic that brings a Plummy reader to a somewhat provocative titillation. Constable Ernest Dobbs of The Mating Season fame indulges in such a naked display of affection towards Queenie, the maid at Deverill Hall. However, he is quick to apologize.

The perks of being an eccentric

Rupert Psmith hastens to rush across to handover a virtually stolen umbrella to Eve Halliday in Leave it to Psmith. He indulgently tolerates a stain on his assumed character when Eve takes him to task during a boat ride for mistreating his supposed wife who is a close friend of hers. Cupid brings them close together yet again while facing Smooth Lizzie, but there is never any trace of any physical intimacy between the two of them. This is how their alliance gets sealed:

‘Cynthia advised me’, proceeded Eve, ‘if ever I married, to marry someone eccentric. She said it was such fun…Well, I don’t suppose I am ever likely to meet anyone more eccentric than you, am I?

‘I think you would be unwise to wait on the chance.’

When class distinctions evaporate

Other than cross-class affairs at many places, we also run into Lord Emsworth treating his young friend who happens to be a girl rather well. When Gladys requests some flowers, he hesitates, but cannot refuse her. Just as she is picking her flowers, McAllister rushes up in a fury, but his master, encouraged by Gladys’ hand in his, stands up to the man, putting him in his place. (Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend)

Here is a case where the innocence of Master Cupid does the trick, holding the adult Cupid at bay.

Snuggling close together

In one of the short stories, estranged lovers get reunited on an isolated beach. When a chilly wind starts blowing in, the girl, who is not sufficiently clad, ends up asking the party of the other part if it would not be better if they snuggled together. The rest, of course, is left to the reader’s imagination. (Wilton’s Holiday, The Man with two left feet)

She seated herself with her back to him. Dignity demanded reprisals, so he seated himself with his back to her; and the futile ocean raged towards them, and the wind grew chillier every minute.

 Time passed. Darkness fell. The little bay became a black cavern, dotted here and there with white, where the breeze whipped the surface of the water.

 Wilton sighed. It was lonely sitting there all by himself. How much jollier it would have been if—

 A hand touched his shoulder, and a voice spoke—meekly.

 ‘Jack, dear, it—it’s awfully cold. Don’t you think if we were to—snuggle up—’

 He reached out and folded her in an embrace which would have aroused the professional enthusiasm of Hackenschmidt and drawn guttural congratulations from Zbysco. She creaked, but did not crack, beneath the strain.

 ‘That’s much nicer,’ she said, softly. ‘Jack, I don’t think the tide’s started even to think of going down yet.’

 ‘I hope not,’ said Wilton.

Warm embraces and progeny

Perhaps the top slot for flirtatious initiatives in Plumsville would go to Gally and Lord Ickenham, who are known to have embraced young ladies with warmth much greater than what might be warranted.

The paternalistic origins of Sue Brown, the daughter of Gally’s old flame Dolly Handerson, leave Plum fans twiddling their thumbs. In any case, illegitimate children are never in the scheme of things in Plumsville.

 

Plumsville: Intentions as pure as freshly driven snow

If one were lucky enough to have gone through all the works of Wodehouse, and even his biographies, one is unlikely to find any traces of either overt sexuality or vulgarity. Strong attraction, yes. Infatuation, decidedly. Cupid’s arrows, surely. The world he has left behind for us to revel in is innocent, with intentions as pure as freshly driven snow. And therein we have the unique appeal of his canon.

 

Several lenses of viewing the Wodehouse canon

There are several lenses with which one could discern the messages embedded in his works. A literary lens would reveal his canvas to be very wide. A spiritual lens would bring into sharp focus the kind of lessons he forks out about life in general. A fitness lens would nudge us to avoid the pleasures of the table and remain fit and trim. A social lens would make the scales on our eyes fall and help us in seeing the perils of economic inequality.

However, a romantic lens would reveal a clear absence of cruder passions. Respect for women reigns supreme. In fact, his canon is a sterling example of a superficial male supremacy where, in reality, it is the females who call almost all the shots, whether in the form of domineering aunts and love interests who have perfected the art of wrapping the males around their dainty fingers, enterprising collaborators who think nothing of stealing scarabs, efficient secretaries who wish to earn their pay through hard work, romantic interests who think stars are God’s daisy chains, and of course those who have the grit and determination to pursue their careers with reverent support from the Bingo Littles of their lives.

Cupid is invariably omnipresent. But one would not be surprised to find a note from him one of these days, protesting overwork and lack of any assistance whatsoever. If Santa Claus, who gets busy only around Christmas time, could have elves and a fleet of reindeer supporting him, why he, who has to remain preoccupied throughout the year, 24 by 7, has to work single-handedly, he might well ask.

 

Blessing: A singular absence of Vitamin S

Dishing out narratives which get lapped up by common folk like us despite a missing element of Vitamin S, considered so very critical to the commercial success of an author, is no mean task. P G Wodehouse accomplished it. His plots invariably stuck to the conventional norms of morality.

A blessing, indeed. Much like seeing a family movie which is certified as ‘U’, reading the works of P G Wodehouse gives us a neutral ring side view of romantic affairs of all kinds. But to label these as ‘romcoms’ might not be proper. Perhaps, as suggested by Honoria Plum of Plumtopia fame elsewhere, a term along the lines of ‘comroms’ might do the Wodehouse canon better justice.

In an age when the threshold of childhood innocence is getting lowered with each passing year, his works happen to be squeaky clean, safe to be devoured even by kids and adolescents about whom their hapless parents lose much of their beauty sleep these days.

Educationists could improve upon the effectiveness of the sex-education packages for their wards by including some references to the works of Wodehouse.

Judicial beaks the world over, while dishing out harsh sentences to those convicted of sexual adventurism, could seriously consider gifting a tome of the Master’s works for them to compulsorily devour while cooling their heels in prison.

Societies and associations which propagate Wodehousean thoughts could come up with annual awards which get dished out to those who demonstrate a chivalrous approach to the challenges faced by their heart-throbs.

The possibilities are limitless. The mind boggles.

(Yours truly acknowledges with great respect the inputs of those Plum fans whose thoughts have enriched this post many times over.)

(Related Posts:

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/wodehouse-and-the-romantic-novelist-sophie-weston

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/different-shades-of-women-in-plumsville

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/when-rozzers-in-plumsville-fall-in-love

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/when-masters-thos-bonzo-and-moon-rise-in-love

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/joe-julia-and-a-seasoned-romance

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/piggy-maudie-and-a-seasoned-romance

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/of-mrs-spottsworth-and-the-biggar-code-of-white-men)

 

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The #MeToo allegations which have popped up recently in Bollywood go on to show the extent to which the virus of the infamous Director’s Couch Syndrome has not only permeated our entertainment industry but also morphed into a more disgraceful version of itself.

Perhaps a part of the solution lies within Bollywood itself. The gender insensitivity which is showcased and glorified in our movies is something which leaves us gasping for some innovative scripts. Exceptions are there. But these remain just exceptions.

When it comes to winning the affection of a heroine, a typical Bollywood hero spares no effort. He charms. He dazzles. He pursues. He flexes his rippling muscles. He shows off his biceps. He chases away a gang of baddies who try to harass his lady love. He poses as a well-endowed person. He even threatens and imposes himself.

Our heroes are adept at expressing their emotions in a song and dance routine. It would be worth our while to look up some such songs which showcase different shades of romancing our Bollywood heroes use to fulfill their romantic ambitions.

When chivalry works

The importance of a chivalrous approach towards impressing one’s lady love was etched out in the movie Shagird (1967). Sample this song:

 

The reluctant wooer

A hero of this kind is at one end of the spectrum. He could either believe that he is not good enough for the lady of his dreams, or is simply not interested in a romantic alliance. The reason could either be social, financial, or the phase through which he happens to be passing by. The burden of convincing him otherwise falls on the heroine. There are occasions when he does not mind getting wooed, though!

Saath Saath (1982)

 

Woh Saat Din (1983)

 

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

 

The sacrificing lover boy

The guiding principle of such a wooer is that when it comes to bringing some sunshine into the life of the heroine, no sacrifice is small. There are times when such selfless love is shown to lead to a failure in the relationship.

Sangam (1964)

 

Teesri Kasam (1966)

 

Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi (2008)

 

The post-marriage wooing

In many cases, love blossoms in the post-marriage phase. The hero goes to great lengths to win over the affections of his wife.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

 

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)

 

Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)

When a choice has to be made between a pre-matrimonial lover and a husband, the heroine keeps social sensitivities in mind and walks into the arms of her husband. Movies like Gumrah (1963), Woh Saat Din and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam attest to this trend in the past.

The empathetic wooer

The heroine has just had a rather traumatic experience at the hands of her spouse. But support is at hand, in the form of an empathetic hero. At times, a soulful song makes the heroine fall into his loving embrace.

Guide (1965)

 

Arth (1982)

 

The quintessential romanticist

He is soft and gentle. He is often diffident but tender in his approach. His soft power often wins over the heart of the heroine in question. The impression he conveys is that chivalry works well.

Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962)

 

Baton Baton Mein (1979)

 

Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994)

 

The playful wooer

The value system of a hero of this kind permits him to tease the heroine a wee bit, hoping that he would not only be noticed but also accepted as a suitable candidate for a romantic alliance.

Aradhana (1969)

 

1942 A Love Story (1994)

 

The dashing lover

He is the one who believes that a relentless chasing of the party of the other part would bring home the bacon. Irrespective of the time and the place, he continues with his efforts with gay abandon. Flowers, chocolates and even pumpkins come to the aid of the dashing hero. He is so very self-obsessed that he is clueless about the career aspirations of his lady love. Needless to say, he wins, thereby conveying a message to all wannabe lovers that mild aggression in pursuing the heroine indeed works.

Jaanwar (1965)

 

Sholay (1975)

 

Satte Pe Satta (1982)

 

Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya (2017)

 

The tormentor

At the other end of the spectrum, we have heroes who suffer from an excessive dose of supreme self confidence. They treat the heroine as chattel and think nothing of even terrorising her to get results. Physical intimidation is taken recourse to. Stalking becomes the norm. Threats of rape not only get made but even get executed.

Amar (1954)

 

Dil (1990)

 

Darr (1993)

 

A wide spectrum of chivalry

Bollywood movies offer a very wide range of the kind of treatment that women receive at the hands of their wannabe or ex-lovers.

If a Rajendra Kumar in Dil Ek Mandir (1963) sacrifices his life trying to save the husband of his ex-girl friend, a Dilip Kumar in Amar (1954) rapes Nimmi, a principal character in the movie. If a dacoit played by Sunil Dutt abducts a courtesan in Mujhe Jeene Do (1963), a Good Samaritan played by Dharmendra marries a lady who has been sexually abused by a prince in Satyakam (1969).

If a Kamal Hasan provides shelter and care to an unfortunate accident victim in Sadma (1983), a Vivek Oberoi mistreats his wife in Sathiya (2002). If a Sanjeev Kumar does not get distracted by a lady in the buff in Aandhi (1975), a Manoj Bajpeyi abducts and forcibly marries a damsel in distress, and even persuades her to change her religion, in Pinjar (2003). It is another matter he eventually develops a soft corner for his wife.

Distorted messaging

When heroines happen to respond favourably to either dashers or tormentors, the message conveyed to the audience is crystal clear – that a macho image and a misogynist attitude help in romantic pursuits. Add to this the tendency of our directors to objectify women so as to keep the box office collections alive and kicking, and the recipe for a wrong kind of social messaging is ready.

Since films influence the society in a big way, our dream merchants would do well to churn out more movies which have gender sensitive portrayals. Scripts which are based on negative societal attitudes towards women could be readily avoided.

In a study conducted by IBM India, gender stereotypes in as many as 4,000 Bollywood movies released between 1970 and 2017 were examined. Of these, researchers came up with only 30 movies in the last couple of years where such stereotypes were broken.

According to the study, females were the central characters in 11.9% of Hindi movies released between 2015 and 2017. Back in the 70s, this figure was closer to 7%.

The solution within

The power-puff girls of Bollywood have recently done well in such movies as Jalpari, Gulaab Gang, Queen, NeerjaPink, Nil Battey SannataMargarita with a StrawMardaani, Parched, Jai Gangaajal, Ki and Ka, Dear ZindagiAkira, and the like.

Our future generations cannot be made to live in a world where men are encouraged to harass and rape women. Sexist behaviour is passé. It no longer attracts women. What does is unalloyed chivalry, where the old notions of a patriarchic mindset find no place; where violence and intimidation has no place.

This could be a solution to the #MeToo tsunami that appears to have hit Bollywood in the recent past. Perhaps Bollywood can start a self-certification process which rates movies based on their gender sensitivity.

Charity begins at home, as they say.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/bollywood-divas-join-in-at-metoo

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/the-powerpuff-girls-of-bollywood

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/women-through-the-bollywood-lens-part-1)

 

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ashokbhatia

Gone are the days when Bollywood used to specialize in churning out only male-centric movies. There were times when our heroes used to be super humans with powers that even God would have hesitated to manifest. Our heroines were inevitably ‘cute’, irrational and dumb. Our families were massive piles of relatives dressed in garish clothes and living in ugly bungalows. Our idea of wooing a girl was dangerously close to molestation. Our assumptions regarding the IQ of our audiences were different. The movies catered mostly to the intelligence of an imagined front-bencher, and were inane, vulgar and obscene.

Cut to the present. The heroes are no longer diffident about shedding their macho image and reveal their softer side on the screen. The heroines have now become far more decisive and assertive. They resist amorous advances. They call the shots. They continue to be as beautiful as ever, but have become…

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Angelina Jolie had faced it. Gwyneth Paltrow has had to bear it. Kate Winslet has hinted at it. Ashley Judd has admitted to it. Many others have now joined the crusade against Harvey Weinstein who had preyed on them. A police investigation has just started gathering steam.

Leading ladies from Hollywood have finally shown the courage to stand up and spill the beans. Irrespective of the time that has elapsed, it is praiseworthy. It encourages many other silent sufferers amongst the tribe of delicately nurtured to openly name and shame their oppressors.

Would some of our Bollywood divas also take a cue and come out with a ‘MeToo’ revelation? Some of them have charted their own paths in the entertainment business and have built their own brand equity. Sure enough, they can help many other struggling artists and starlets to stand up to amorous advances being made by their possible benefactors?

So far, Konkona Sen Sharma, Rahika Apte and few others have come out in support of the drive. But one looks forward to a far more widespread support.

What they also need to do is to repudiate the views of actor Mayim Bialik who has suggested in a column that dressing conservatively and looking ‘unglamorous’ often helps skirt amorous advances. This is, yet again, placing the blame at the doorstep of the victim.

The Casting Couch

The existence of this phenomenon has been Bollywood’s worst kept secrets. By going public with the acts of sexual predators, perhaps some degree of self-regulation may come about, thereby helping the vulnerable to avoid getting exploited.

Once in a blue moon, Bollywood has, through some of its own offerings, confessed to the presence of this scourge. Movies like Fashion (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2008) and Luck by Chance (Zoya Akhtar, 2009) had clear references to the sordid practice.

Hormones moderated by Chivalry?

Some of the members of the so-called sterner sex would also do well to introspect and mend their ways. The least they can do is to undergo a crash course at the Bertie Wooster Institute of Chivalry.

 

(Ref: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/10/harvey-weinstein-accusers-sexual-harassment-assault-rose-mcgowan-ashley-judd-gwyneth-paltrow)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/female-power

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/romancing-the-boss-in-reel-life

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/hormones-vs-hierarchies

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/to-all-ye-ogling-males)

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Gone are the days when Bollywood used to specialize in churning out only male-centric movies. There were times when our heroes used to be super humans with powers that even God would have hesitated to manifest. Our heroines were inevitably ‘cute’, irrational and dumb. Our families were massive piles of relatives dressed in garish clothes and living in ugly bungalows. Our idea of wooing a girl was dangerously close to molestation. Our assumptions regarding the IQ of our audiences were different. The movies catered mostly to the intelligence of an imagined front-bencher, and were inane, vulgar and obscene.

Cut to the present. The heroes are no longer diffident about shedding their macho image and reveal their softer side on the screen. The heroines have now become far more decisive and assertive. They resist amorous advances. They call the shots. They continue to be as beautiful as ever, but have become far bolder.

Women have found their own voice in the movies, perhaps mirroring the kind of social changes in the offing. More and more female protagonists now sweep us off our feet not only by their chutzpah but also by their brains and brawn. The males are still around, but they often got relegated to the background. If they happen to be in the foreground, they happen to be in a supportive role. Or, they get teased, mocked at and hounded till the time they mend their corrupt and lecherous ways.

Some movies have even gone ahead and made us wonder if the members of the tribe of the so-called sterner sex are even necessary in the scheme of things. However, for the evolution of our species, a balanced approach is called for. A realization is to dawn that women are not objects of lust, violence and humiliation. They deserve all the respect and adoration that is rightfully due to them.

Rays of hope

Here are some Bollywood offerings in the recent past which have had women-centric scripts and have also done well commercially. Most of these have depicted strong females, real or imaginary, who have carried the narrative on their strong shoulders and turned the tables on the so-called sterner sex.

Jalpari

(The Mermaid, 2012, Nilab Madhab Panda)

jalpari

A delightful movie which makes an effective comment on the issue of female foeticide.

Kahaani

(The Story, 2012, Sujoy Ghosh)

kahaani

A courageous widow who tries to unravel the mystery behind the unfortunate death of her husband in a poison gas attack on the Kolkatta metro.

Gulaab Gang

(The Pink Brigade, 2014, Soumik Sen)

gulab_gang

Here is a gang of women activists and vigilantes who take up issues like domestic violence, the dowry system, rape, civic service deficiencies, and female education.

Queen

(2014, Vikas Bahl)

Print

When her fiancé calls off their wedding, the heroine decides to register a protest by proceeding on a mono-honeymoon trip, savouring life on her own.

Lakshmi

(2014, Nagesh Kukunoor)

lakshmi-movie

A girl is kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Assisted by a lawyer, she faces violent threats, coercion and bribes, stands up in court and in a landmark case in India, succeeds in putting the traffickers behind bars.

Mary Kom

(2014, Omung Kumar)

marykom

A biographical sports film which depicted the famous Indian boxer’s ascendance to fame. The heroine pursues her passion even while she discharges her family responsibilities with the support of her husband.

Mardaani

(The Masculine One, 2014, Pradeep Sarkar)

mardaani

A policewoman takes personal interest in the case of a kidnapped teenage girl and ends up busting a gang specializing in human trafficking in India.

Parched

(2015, Leena Yadav)

parched

The movie captured various evils of the society – deep-seated attitudes of patriarchy, child marriage, dowry, marital rapes and physical and mental abuse of women.

Jai Gangaajal

(Hail the water of the Ganges, 2016, Prakash Jha)

jai_gangaajal_poster

A newly appointed police officer stands up to her seniors and attempts to end the reign of corruption, terror and anarchy in the area under her charge.

Pink

(2016, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury)

pink

Built around an incident of molestation and attempted rape, the movie highlighted the regressive attitudes towards women who dress ‘inappropriately’ and attend parties, thereby being considered fair game. A “NO” may come from any woman – a girlfriend a sex-worker, or even one’s wife – and needs to be respected as such.

Neerja

(2016, Ram Madhvani)

neerja

A courageous flight head purser stands up against the vicious hijackers of a plane. She helps to save 359 of the 379 passengers and crew on board but gets killed in the process. Based on a true incident, wherein the woman received Ashok Chakra posthumously, the highest civilian honour in India.

Nil Battey Sannata

(Good for nothing, 2016, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari)

nil_battey_sannata

An uneducated household maid and single mother of a young girl sets out to ensure that her daughter dreams big and changes her lot in life.

Ki and Ka

(She and He, 2016, R Balki)

ki_and_ka

A delectable tale of role reversal of genders in a marriage, where the wife becomes the bread-winner and the husband takes care of the household.

Dangal

(The Wrestling Competition, 2016, Nitesh Tiwari)

dangal_poster

A real-life father braves opposition from the society to train his daughters to become star wrestlers, who go on to win international recognition. 

Blast from the past

This is not to say that Bollywood has not come up with women-centric movies in the past. Here are some which readily spring to one’s mind.

Hunterwali (1935, Homi Wadia)

nadia-hunterwali

Mother India (1957, Mehboob Khan)

Movie Mother_India

Bandini (1963, Bimal Roy)

Dark Bandini

Khamoshi (1969, Asit Sen)

khamoshi

Insaaf Ka Tarazu (1976, B R Chopra)

insaaf_ka_tarazu

Bhumika (1977, Shyam Benegal)

bhumika

Arth (1982, Mahesh Bhatt)

arth

Mirch Masala (1987, Ketan Mehta)

mirch_masala

Aastha (1997, Basu Bhattacharya)

aastha_-_in_the_prison_of_spring

Godmother (1999, Vinay Shukla)

godmother

Astitva (2000, Mahesh Manjrekar)

astitva

Lajja (2001, Rajkumar Santoshi)

lajja

Then and now

The difference is that women in earlier movies were mostly the sacrificing, the weepy and the self-pitying kind. They would take matters in their own hands but only when driven against a wall. Now, they come into their own out of sheer free will, revealing the inner strength they possess.

However, the fight against a deeply entrenched patriarchical mindset is far from being over. What we see today are mere green shoots, that too on the silver screen, which are confined to the metrosexual male. Movies directed at upwardly mobile urban youth alone mirror the new set of values. Centuries of social hierarchy has conditioned male minds to accept only certain conservative patterns of behaviour and dress for women. A person who deviates, dresses differently and goes partying is seen as fair game.

Creativity, Commerciality and Social Challenges

Creativity innovates. Commerciality exploits. For good cinema to flourish, a culturally vibrant social environment is necessary. If fine arts are better understood and appreciated, if there is a solid rooting in humanities and social sciences, imaginative and responsible movie makers would surely come up with meaningful entertainment which nurtures the soul while giving pleasure.

The intrinsic purpose of movies is commercial. However, if the message being conveyed also helps the society to correct itself, there is a real value-add which needs to be lauded. Producers and directors who come up with such creative offerings deserve all the admiration and adulation they richly deserve.

Needed: Different shades of chivalry

Indian males really need to reboot themselves for the 21st century. They could learn a lot about the art of chivalry from such heroes as Ashok (Anupama, 1966, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and Arun (Chhoti Si Baat, 1975, Basu Chatterjee). This change can only start at the dining table and in the kitchen, within the confines of a home.

Parents of those who indulged in ‘mass molestation’ in a premier metro of India recently need to seriously introspect and start grooming their wards to practice different shades of chivalry in the days to come.

Bertie Wooster would surely approve. So would the likes of Honoria Glossop and Florence Craye.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/women-through-the-bollywood-lens-part-1

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/different-shades-of-women-in-plumsville)

 

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Bertie imageAs one of the foremost champions of true blue chivalry, Bertie Wooster might have never suspected that the f of the s could even be disliking it. It transpires that some of the delicately nurtured find it stifling. They resent it. They detest it.

Here is a juicy post which draws our attention to this aspect of chivalry. Members of the so-called sterner sex stand warned.

There Are So Many People in the World

These days denizens of India are smarting in the aftermath of the airing of the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’, and crimes against women in general. However, this post is not about rapes, molestations, domestic violence and other kinds of harsh slings and arrows of life the female of the species face. Instead, it is about the softer kind of harassment we, the f of the s, beget from some of the members of the so-called sterner sex. It is the harassment of chivalry – feigned or otherwise. I believe it is equally discriminatory in nature.

The softer variety of discrimination robs us ladies of the kind of equality we secretly yearn for. It is the persecution of the “parfait gentle knights”, who abound in our society. Fuelled with a misplaced sense of chivalry, they are determined to serve the fairer sex, come what may. In a milder form, it…

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