Why Indian entertainment within the age of OTT continues to hawk regressive content as feminist dialogue – The News Everyday

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It is necessary to credit leisure entertainment for taking steps in the fitting path. However, it’s equally necessary to be important of areas which are propagating the similar regressive narrative they declare to discredit.

With a cultural shift in direction of new-age, feminist mainstream media, cinema has develop into instrumental in imploring this pivotal evolution. Scripts following robust feminine leads, radical concepts of empowerment and sexual reclamation are at present trending. It begs a pertinent query concerning the motivations behind these new releases — relevance or reform? The commercialisation of a contemporary feminist motion leaves room for debate, dialogue and when required, downright defamation. It is necessary to credit leisure entertainment for taking steps in the fitting path. However, it’s equally necessary to be important of areas which are propagating the similar regressive narrative they declare to discredit. This essay makes an attempt to discover aforementioned concepts by analyzing current movies and web-shows, specifically She, Love Aaj Kal and Fleabag, with a give attention to Amazon Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please (FMSP).

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Is Indian entertainment afraid of the ‘liberated woman’?

With censorship largely filtering out the potential of courageous and progressive entertainment on the massive display, OTT platforms present hope for reform. However, current reveals have continued to be conservative of their exploitation of this new-found liberty. The query then arises – was censorship actually the issue, or was its roots lodged far deeper than the business wish to admit? Imtiaz Ali’s Netflix debut She is an instance of the lack to shrug off the male gaze when portraying feminine sexuality. With Mumbai’s felony underbelly as its backdrop, the sequence follows Bhumika Pardeshi (Aaditi Pohankar), an undercover cop posing as a prostitute to take down a drug cartel. A lower-middle-class Marathi woman, Bhumika is seen weaponising her body. She makes use of elements of gender politics to control data from corrupt criminals and dodgy drug lords, with a weak spot for — you guessed it — intercourse.

One might argue that the reveal tackles sexual possession and empowerment with its feminine lead and unconscious erotica. However, Bhumi’s character is given little to no company. Her relationship together with her personal sexuality stays principally conceptual and glossed over with incoherent flashbacks and coaching montages. She’s thrilling premise carries ample promise, however manages to marginally discover sexuality by way of an intersectional lens because of its geopolitical setting. What stops this reveal from being one thing pivotal, nonetheless, is its fetishisation of sexual awakening. It makes use of male counterparts as instrumental units to showcase liberation, taking away from the intimacy of Bhumi’s individual journey. With “there’s something about her” dialogues, adopted by a speaker calling that ‘something’ a ‘scorpion between her legs’, the sequence is a well-recognized indication of a person trying to inform a girl’s story, and expectedly failing at it.

A still from She. YouTube screenshot.

Additionally, Imtiaz Ali’s lens appears to wish somewhat dusting. It can be unjust to not point out his newest 2020 remake of his 2009 movie, Love Aaj Kal. Zoe (Sarah Ali Khan) has been depicted as an antagonist within the gentle of contemporary feminist cinema. Attempting to painting a career-driven lady, the script finds her oscillating within the face of recent love. She is seen feeding into the age-old debacle of a girl having to decide on between work and want. This antithetical strategy to a progressive movie’s narrative leaves no area for robust feminine characters in supporting roles. The film isn’t just conceptually paradoxical, however can also be painfully unrelatable. The concluding scene brings something however redemption. Instead of discarding the necessity for skilled compromise, the protagonist cries into Veer’s (Kartik Aryan) arms, accepting her lack of ability to strike a stability between her individual {and professional} lives saying, “I want to make this mistake with you.”

Four shots too many: A severely classist hangover

Even with an (virtually) all-female crew, director Anu Menon’s ‘Cosmoesque’ two-season Amazon authentic fails to characterize a new-age feminist narrative. The reveal follows 4 ‘unapologetically flawed’ girls, as they navigate the perilous South Bombay terrain of misogyny, marriage, ethical dilemmas, males and the murk of the avant-garde. This ‘pretty’ reveal with its ‘fairly’ girls is, sadly, restricted to being simply that and never a lot else. With flowery montages and jazzy outfits to match, the sequence stays largely elusive and unrelatable to an viewers that lives exterior the peripheries of South Bombay.

One can concur on the truth that the reveal’s goal is a crucial step in direction of feminist cinema, very similar to what She claims to be. However, boiling these sequence all the way down to montages of feminine friendship and combat sequences tends to show them simplistic, mockingly. With issues that stay blanketed in snug options, pop-coloured lipsticks and Jeh’s (Prateik Babbar) well-known vodka shots, FMSP reduces feminist morality to classist aspirations. The sequence’ viewership isn’t restricted to the minuscule proportion it represents; problems with misogyny don’t discriminate, on account of which exclusivity of their illustration appears irrelevant.

Love Aaj Kal (2020) by Imtiaz Ali, starring Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aryan

Unlike She, which manages to considerably discover tropes of sexuality on account of its premise that includes the darkish underbelly of Mumbai, FMSP portrays a jarringly elitist conception of the similar. The reveal ensures that its protagonists are all from the upper-class, upper-caste, city and privileged elite, thereby alienating a big part of its viewers with un-ironical use of classist idioms, whether or not by way of its illustration of ‘sexual liberty’, a ‘NoBo’Amit (Prabal Panjabi) blaming Geeta didi for his scattered laundry, or anti-national publicity, psychological health retreats, and even utilizing privilege as a punchline in a comic book set on empowerment — “Par main toh privileged hun naa…material kahan sae aayega?”

Breaking down criticism: ‘Cool’ content bias and performative pretence

Counterclaims may level to critics being too important of the OTT platforms’ makes an attempt at increasing the feminist discourse in Indian pop-culture and media. However, girls’s liberation can’t be represented by and restricted to using hackneyed tradition shocks which are rendered synonymous to being the one markers of modernity — alcohol, cigarettes, and quite a lot of…censored intercourse. Consumed by its opulence and glamour, FMSP sadly tends to lose the plot. Addressing this obsession with seeming ‘Western’ tropes of modernity, actor Kirti Kulhari stated in an interview: “Indian audiences have applauded similar shows from the West”. Using Amazon’s reveal Fleabag for example, she questions why, regardless of receiving comparable criticism as FMSP within the West, the reveal stays extensively accepted and revered in India. Kulhari attributes this response to an obvious ‘cool’ content bias in direction of worldwide and significantly Western entertainment.

In response to this allusion, it’s honest to conclude that the distinction lies within the ranges of authenticity displayed by the respective reveals. Fleabag’s wit is in its capability to do its characters justice. The component of reality is central to its biting satirical take, aided by the absence of the fourth wall. FMSP’s protagonists, then again, are inclined to painting fantasies that play out as fantastical fiction. The reveal talks about body-positivity and embracing the non-normative, — thereby setting its rhetoric aside from different Indian content in current occasions — and but, fails to sink its tooth into both.

A still from Fleabag

This, coupled with the informal and regrettably un-ironical feedback like “Men like curves, dogs like bones”, “Baby, you don’t know how hard it was for me to keep dating all those women. I still jerked off thinking about you after the divorce”, and a bartender really refusing to make a particular cocktail on account of it being too ‘sissy’, ensures defeating the aim the reveal got down to fulfil.

Ultimately, some may argue that accepting the plurality of the time period ‘feminist’ itself is important to proudly owning its title. This, nonetheless, begs a good query — are we not, in our harsh evaluation, then complicit in the similar reductionist narrative we accuse this entertainment of propagating? It is, in truth, necessary to acknowledge these creators’ intentions, as a result of with overly-sexualised tropes, Twitter trolls and movies about girls being derailed by males, cinema has traditionally been a troublesome place for girls to claim themselves in. Recent mainstream entertainment can due to this fact be seen as an try at cementing the gaping pit in India’s cultural repertoire.

The entertainment area has undoubtedly undergone a type of visionary evolution, and creators and producers can now not cover behind the excuse of censorship. With a platform now accessible for trustworthy, progressive content, the litmus check is that of professional bravery and the thirst for cinematic evolution. Is it not justified then to ask girls to sentence what maybe under-represents, if not misrepresents them? Should entertainment platforms or media messengers not be held accountable on this regard? At the top of the day, accountable, correct, and intersectional illustration is essential to feminist reform, whether or not on display, or off it.

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