I find it imperative that there is a need for a discussion about Indian Cinema and the Women-centric Movies it has produced. As someone who adores the Indian film industry and wants to become a story-teller, I analyse and learn a lot from the movies I see. Sometimes to learn what I should do and sometimes to see what I shouldn't do.
Recently, I have caught up on lot of Indian movies and frankly I got astonished and worried by what I saw. There is a great number of stories based on women we have either met in our lives or heard about. But, there is inherently so much wrong with how people handle such stories. I have two movies that I want to point out specifically and compare their approach towards the film's treatment. They are, Uyare starring Parvathy Thiruvothu and Dear Comrade starring Vijay Devarakonda & Raashmika Mandanna. These two movies, in their core, had a similar principle. It's about women fighting their battles and marching past the obstacles. One movie manages to convey the point while the other one fails. Let's go through these movies and see what they were trying to do and what they managed to.
Being honest, out of the two movies, this was the one I was most excited for. Mainly for the leads in the movie. When the promos and trailers came out for the movie, I got amazed by what I saw and got excited for an intense and heartfelt romantic movie, following two unique characters and their love for each other. (What can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic). And to an extent, the movie didn't disappoint. The chemistry between the leads were amazing. I loved their performances and there was a lot in the movie that made me feel nice.
However, when the second half rolled in, I wasn't able to invest in the movie. More specifically, I wasn't able to come to terms with the message that the movie was trying to put forth. To all those uninitiated (Major Spoilers ahead), Lily ends up being sexually harassed and in my opinion, she is harassed by her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend Bobby (Vijay Devarakonda) to fight against the man who wronged her. While the movie's tone tried to portray Bobby's actions as being a comrade and helping Lily in her fight, in retrospect, it was more along the lines of harassment.
Think about it! After he learns about the incident, his first course of action is not to go and talk to her or comfort her. Instead, he treats it as if it was one of his protests from his college days and he needs to fight his way to justice. A story, set to focus on a girl coming to terms with the injustice and fighting against it, turned into a story about a guy who makes the girl do so. In a way, this defeats the purpose. The movie ends with the message of Vijay addressing all the men to become comrades to women. But, let me ask: wouldn't you have found this message more impactful if it was coming from Rashmika, the one who actually goes through the hard experience?
Which brings me to the second movie that I want to talk about, a movie which managed to convey a lot more in a subtle nature.
The only thing I knew about this movie beforehand was that Parvathy was in it and it was given good reviews. It surprisingly wasn't even on my "to watch list". But, I was curious and ended up checking the movie out on Netflix. And I gotta be honest, I wasn't ready for what I was going to see. There was something so genuine about the movie that I couldn't for a moment view it in my analytical gaze. All I could do was follow Pallavi's story.
The movie didn't preach or urge people to think a certain way. It just showed some good people and some bad people. It didn't try to judge anyone and differentiate in the way it had portrayed characters. One specific scene comes to my mind when talking about this. It's the scene in the end where she is on her last flight. It could have very well been this heroic ending where she get a full-blown appreciation ceremony, had her job back and more stuff like that. But the makers were smart enough to understand where to stop. With that we had a beautiful ending, making an honest effort, being truthful to the story they were trying to convey.
Another point in particular to consider is the men in this movie. Now, Dear Comrade has this bevy of support for Vijay Devarakonda for taking a backseat and it being the woman's story. But, in my opinion, that wasn't the case. And to illustrate that, all you need to look to is Tovino's character in Uyare. He is technically the male lead in the movie as he is possibly the second most commonly known face after Parvathy. Apart from that technicality, he is just a character. He exists only to service the story not the other way around. His character had all the potential to going from a friendly face to a messiah to the poor girl. But that wasn't the case. He came into the story, helped it progress and his role ended there. Truth be told, this simple fact manages to convey the message that the previous movie was trying to yell out to the world in bold letters.
To be fair, Dear Comrade was in no way a bad movie. But, where it goes wrong is so crucial that it cannot be ignored. These two movies shows us a spectrum. A spectrum where on one end, we have the kind of cinema that people should aim to go for. A movie sticking on the strength of its story and believing that the story will convey the message. A movie confident about who is the lead and what part the other characters play in it. On the other extreme, we have the kind of cinema where even the most genuine ideology needs to get diluted and spiced up for general audience consumption. Where satisfying the template and the norms become more important than serving to the needs of the story.
Truth be told, it's time our movies start to aspire for the latter end. It's time that the movies stopped catering to the diluted needs of the audience and start challenging the audience to change the way their perception of the world is. In all honesty, many people argue that people should not learn from movies and should find better sources to take life lessons from. But, as someone who grew up with the Indian movie watching experience, I can assure you, all the good qualities I have, I got them from the movies I watched. It's high time creators understood that it all matters in the way a story gets told, not the person who listens to the story.