It all started with that one scene from Veere Di Wedding, where Swara Bhasker moaned and writhed on-screen while masturbating. While a certain class of viewers grew uncomfortable and called this sequence “vulgar” and “cheap” on social media, most women nodded in approval. But that was just the beginning, because in 2018, Bollywood embraced female sexuality like never before. The Indian audience had a rendezvous with Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) a middle-aged woman with an active sex life, who ends up getting pregnant in Badhaai Ho, and a very classy yet diabolical female villain, Simi (Tabu), who made cooking crab a masterclass in seduction in Andhadhun.
- In 2018, Bollywood embraced female sexuality like never before.
- Films like Veere Di Wedding and Badhaai Ho talked about masturbation and an active sex life among Indian women.
- They didn’t just squash the inhibition that Indian society felt when discussing female sexuality, they also had super successful runs at the box office.
- Hopefully our acceptance of these stories will only encourage filmmakers to explore female sexuality further, but in a tasteful way.
Previously, with films like Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) and Margarita With A Straw (2014) and Astitva (2000), Indian cinema took tiny steps to explore female sexuality and how the audience received it.
But despite being critically acclaimed, all these films were viewed by a limited audience. This year, though the aforementioned films didn’t just squash the inhibition that Indian society felt when discussing female sexuality, they also had super successful runs at the box office. Yes, middle-aged women have sex. Yes, women masturbate and yes, they own up to their sexuality. Finally, it was not a big deal for women on silver screen to seek fulfillment of their carnal needs.
Did it take longer than it should have? You could say so. For decades the only women characters who were allowed to express sexuality and desires on-screen were the vamps. These characters would seduce heroes and villains with skimpy outfits and seductive moves. The heroines were mostly demure and coy, always expressing love but seldom desire or their own physical needs – whether as a girlfriend or as a wife. It basically mirrored the ideal idea of womanhood in our country.
You are to experience and express love, but you are to pretend that you are unfamiliar to sexuality. This is what is expected of average Indian women across households, cities, villages and religions. They must be coy, untouched, and not having explored lovemaking. Our society has reduced women to mere vessels of male satisfaction. It expects them to have no sexual needs of their own.
If you dare to explore your sexuality as a woman, you are dirty or characterless.
Which is why this grand acceptance of female sexuality on the silver screen through many movies this year is monumental. It broke many taboos and gave our prudishness in discussing sexual desires of women no corner to hide. Even if it was in the form of aggressive and threatening tweets, or in the form of box office success of these movies, the key takeaway is that Indian society took notice. While a certain section grew uneasy, outraged and shut its eyes, a larger section embraced it, thus normalising existence of female sexuality to an extent.
So where do we go from here? Hopefully, our acceptance to these stories will only encourage filmmakers to explore female sexuality further, but keep it tasteful. We don’t want a woman dressed in flimsy clothes making seductive gestures but a realistic portrayal of women’s desires, and how they struggle on a day to day basis with those feelings being branded as dirty, slutty and un-sanskari.
Photo Credit : YouTube
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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