The Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media believes that a good way of filling the gender parity gap which exists in the film industry globally could be to put more women behind camera in order to have more women in front of it. In a study conducted by the same institute the gender ratio in India’s film industry stood at 6.2 males to every female and only one-in-ten film directors (9.1%) were women. Meryl Streep in an interview few years earlier had stated that the reason why films had less of women’s stories was because the male audience found it difficult to empathize with them whereas the reverse was not true. Women grow up relating to a Tom Sawyer and a Harry Potter more easily than what men could do with the opposite gender because few instances of the opposite gender helming the lead are present..

The lack of women behind camera severely affects the stories and the manner in which they are told.

Documentation of female valor is less and whenever it is present it is done in a traditional macho way like in the film Mardaani if not in a manner that gives the male audience a high either by objectifying or by showing the female character as a submissive person. Rarely is the feminine aspect of strength shown. Distributors and financers find it risky to invest in such movies since the audience is bound to reject them. However all this took a turn recently for the film Raazi which on recently showed earnings of Rs 102 Crore, the second only heroine-centric film after Tanu weds Manu Returns to enter the coveted 100 crore club. Tanu weds Manu was a franchise and that was an advantage for it. Raazi had none of it and in its third week had managed to give a tough competition to not just other hero-centric Bollywood films but also big releases like Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and Solo which are franchises all by themselves featuring popular characters and superheroes. The fact that the male audience is willing to forego all the other movies to watch a movie which is not only heroine centric but also contain a good amount of feminine strength and emotional vulnerability is a noteworthy trend that has to be followed.

The fact that the male audience is willing to forego all the other movies to watch a movie which is not only heroine centric but also contain a good amount of feminine strength and emotional vulnerability is a noteworthy trend that has to be followed.

The reason these figures were surprising was because two weeks before Raazi another woman-centric Marathi film Nude had opened up to almost empty theatres because the film on nude models posing for artists was a cringe worthy topic for many despite having English subtitles and a great deal of sensitivity being employed while portraying the topic. Though this film too explored a lot of the insecurities, pains and vulnerabilities of women it could not be expected to gather a great earning. It had already faced many obstructions due to its title such as sudden disqualifications from a popular film festival in Goa.

Coming back to Raazi, I along with many others went to it expecting a tight spy thriller which would put us at the edge of our seat, it would be about a hapless girl being a master in the situation but the belief was that the girl would end up winning in the end and all would be good.

bollywood heroes Naomi Dutta

Kahaani 1 and Kahaani 2 were few of the movies which had broken the mould of featuring women in the lead roles. They had kept you at the edge and yet made you come out of the theatre with a sort of happy ending. They were more about the story with Kahaani 2 focusing on the character too but no one spoke about PTSD as clearly as this film managed to because those were the very early days of heroine-centric films in Bollywood and they had to break some huge stereotypes. It was clear right from the beginning that it was going to be about the emotional toll and the sacrifice faced by the character in the whole process of the great grand mission. It was no blockbuster sugarcoating thing and saving the good guys. As it happened the situation went back to normal but the protagonist went on to have a heavy PTSD.

It was clear right from the beginning that it was going to be about the emotional toll and the sacrifice faced by the character in the whole process of the great grand mission. It was no blockbuster sugarcoating thing and saving the good guys.

In Raazi, one could feel bad for many of the characters  for instance Nafisa who had willingly helped the protagonist but ended up losing her life. An innocent character ended up paying the cost of her life for working for her country and helping the protagonist. Sehmat spoke about Nafisa only once while her grief was entirely for her husband first. Unlike the testosterone pumping films about patriotism this film talks not only about the taxing emotions which a woman has to undergo for her actions but also about all the nameless faceless foot soldiers of our country especially women who are in a fight to keep our country safe. They are not recognized for their valor and die in anonymity.

Unlike the testosterone pumping films about patriotism this film talks not only about the taxing emotions which a woman has to undergo for her actions but also about all the nameless faceless foot soldiers of our country especially women who are in a fight to keep our country safe. They are not recognized for their valor and die in anonymity.

In a biography which I had read  titled ‘An Indian Spy in Pakistan’ by Mohanlal Bhaskar I had always wondered why did the man enter Pakistan the second time to collect information when his instincts were warning him against it? He had to face a capture and uncertainly of release after that, he was sacrificing his own life for the greater safety of the country despite knowing he would die in anonymity. The whole biography was screaming about the subconscious fear which the man had in between the lines and not explicitly. We are yet to have works in which the humane side of any non heterosexual male or for that matter a  conventional male’s fear is showcased clearly.

When we have such people living their lives for others despite all the fear then the question arises that who are the people acting as nameless, faceless trolls on social media having a display picture of India with the slogans of  Bharat Mata ki Jai and then heaping abuses on people because they don’t agree with their favored government. Wouldn’t a real patriotic person feel angry that they are tarnishing the image of not just the country and its flag but the actual foot soldiers like Sehmat and the innumerable people who sacrifice more than their lives to have their achievements being misused and used as a provocation for needless war.

Wouldn’t a real patriotic person feel angry that they are tarnishing the image of not just the country and its flag but the actual foot soldiers like Sehmat and the innumerable people who sacrifice more than their lives to have their achievements being misused and used as a provocation for needless war.

By showing us the vulnerable side of the spy, hopefully films like Raazi told and enacted by women which speak about things even more than lives which are lost in conflict, will now reduce our society’s tolerance to these anonymous faceless trolls and others abusing people in the name of Bharat Mata. Since it was a real life story it gave the makers an edge in winning over the audience. Had the same story been told by a male director it would have spoilt the case as the same amount of sensitivity and human flaws would not have been translated on screen.

The writer of the novel ‘Calling Sehmat too had been clear about Sehmat’s PTSD towards the end of the book just like Mohanlal Bhasker had spoken about his fears but none of the those things would have got transferred on the screen. In few of the comments on YouTube some people are calling the movie overhyped because they can’t seem to fathom the fact that how can a spy cry constantly in the various scenes. The fact that it has earned Rs 102 crore till this Wednesday can assure us that people are willing to throng to the theatres to watch the real story of human flaws of a woman despite a good amount of emotional quotient shown in the film. This can bring in the promised change of inclusive story telling if the trend lasts for long and is used well.

The author is a literature student studying the cultural changes affecting the common man’s life. The views expressed are author’s own.

Also Read: It is Time for Bollywood Heroes to Man up!

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.