FAIR-PLAY LESSON AWAITS BOLLYWOOD 

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By FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA in Mumbai
  • Published 14.06.01
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Mumbai, June 14 :    Mumbai, June 14:  If many are content wailing about cinema, soaps and commercials commodifying the female body for the male gaze, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women is thinking of an antidote. "The commission is planning to take up portrayal of women in media in the form of a movement and sensitise the financiers, directors and other personalities related to the film world on realistic portrayals of women in their media with the changing times," chairperson Nirmala Sawant-Prabhavalkar said today. The decision came after a workshop organised by the panel on the portrayal of women in media. At Tuesday's workshop, speaker after speaker talked about the necessity of seeing a woman not as a castrating revenger, but in a really positive role - as someone who is in control of her life. The impetus, the commission feels, has to come from the makers. "Every media exercise is an investment. In a film, an actor does what he is told to do. So we want to influence the people who invest," said member-secretary of the commission T.F. Thekkekara. For the purpose, the commission will hold several closed-door meetings with ad managers and film producers, Prabhavalkar said. "We expect the movement to take shape within a couple of months," she added. NGOs working in the field will also be involved. The meetings will be held over a period of time. The commission said it will see to it that the dialogue continues. Inaugurating the workshop, actor and Rajya Sabha MP Shabana Azmi had lashed out at mainstream media, stating the so-called empowerment of women on the big screen was very deceptive. Avenging angels were the favourite avatar in which "empowered women" were cast, she said, but they were nothing but honorary men, like being Rambolina after Rambo. Azmi also pointed at certain lyrics. Songs like Choli ke peechhe kya hai reveal the woman's body in segments - she seems to lose autonomy over her body, part by part. And if songs like sarkailo khatiya jaara lage give the impression that women are asserting their sexuality, they are actually exposing the women with a new vulnerability before the male eye, the actress said. Director Shyam Benegal also pointed in the same direction. "Depicting a man's sexuality is all right. But a woman's sexuality is not to be portrayed on the big screen," said the director, in whose films, from Ankur to Zubeida, women have always played a big role. Censorship was also discussed at the workshop, attended mostly by women. A civil servant, who had worked on the censor board, talked about the preponderance of rape scenes in Indian films. "It is because Indian audiences are so prudish. They can only see sex when in its most distorted and perverted forms," she said.