Free Press Journal

Shabana Azmi: India is living in many centuries in different parts of the country simultaneously


Mumbai: Actress Shabana Azmi during the special screening of film "Partition: 1947" in Mumbai on Aug 17, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

Shabana Azmi feels Indians are living in many centuries simultaneously in different parts of the country

Veteran actress-activist Shabana Azmi says people in India are simultaneously living in different centuries in various parts of the country. Shabana, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) member Vani Tripathi Tikoo and filmmaker Divya Khosla were among those who gathered at the Ficci Frames 2018 for a panel discussion recently.

Co-existing realities

Considering the presence of women at workplace increasing in India and, at the same time, the incidence of sexual violence growing, is gender equality an outdated topic of conversation? “Firstly, let’s acknowledge the fact that India is living in many centuries in different parts of the country simultaneously. Yes, we have had a woman President, woman Prime Minister, woman politicians, but at the same time there are several girl children being killed because they are girls… both the realities co-exist,” Shabana said.

“We talk about education, but often education re-enforces the gender stereotype and role play,” added the actress, who also stressed that the definition of masculinity needs to be changed.

Tikoo thinks the conversation could have been outdated if there would have been equal opportunity everywhere. “The conversation holds relevance. The idea of a woman being as good as a man to compete should be stopped but why to compare? The competition should be with oneself and not with a man. Who says they are supreme? Therefore, I think unless we are breaking away from the stereotypical idea of gender and role-play set by the society and culture, the constant conversation on gender equality will remain relevant and not outdated,” she added.

Only for titillation

Criticising the culture of item numbers in Hindi films, veteran actor Shabana Azmi today said they are used in movies for “titillation”. During the discussion, Azmi said item numbers involve a woman surrendering to the male gaze. “I have strong views on item numbers because they are not part of the narrative and they’ve been put in a film for the only purpose of titillation and nothing else. When a girl or a leading lady says ‘it’s alright, I want to celebrate my sensuality’ I have no problem with that. I think that’s wonderful,” she said.

“But under the pretence of ‘celebrating your sensuality’ what you are actually doing is surrendering to the male gaze and objectifying yourselves because the business of cinema is of images,” the actor added.

Be informed

Azmi said it is problematic when people are shown a woman’s “fragmented bits of her body, “heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hip”, as it robs her whole autonomy. Citing the lyrics of Salman Khan-starrer “Dabangg 2”, where Kareena Kapoor Khan danced on “Fevicol Se”, Azmi said mouthing those lines is a cause of concern.

“Please be informed, when you say ‘main tandoori murgi hu, gatka lo Mujhe alcohol kay Saath’ and a four-year-old girl is dancing on it, you are leading to the sexualisation of children and the parents who are enjoying it, people who are encouraging her are just as responsible.”

Intentions matter

Drawing a parallel with Zoya Akhtar’s “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”, the actor said portions of Katrina Kaif in the film, where she wears a bikini, were gracefully shot. “In the film, Katrina Kaif comes out of the water in a bikini, the camera doesn’t go close to her, doesn’t linger on her bosom or the droplets falling. The camera in mid (frame) sees her coming out of the water, picks up her bathrobe, wears it and you immediately accept that she is an instructor who is coming and doing her job. The very same shot, if the director had decided to go over, it would be objectification. So, it’s the intention. There’s a difference between sensuality and objectification,” she added.