We want more movies on women and their sexuality, writes Supriya Raman

Since Lipstick Under My Burkha released, there has been a lot of talk about the representation of women in Bollywood and how filmmakers are finally recognising the potential of making “women centric films.” Films that are unabashed about how they deal with female sexuality and appeal to a female audience that is more than willing to see relatable characters on screen.

This is a refreshing change. Considering just three years ago, The Geena Davis Institute of Gender and Media, released a study titled Gender Bias without Borders, the aim of which was to look into female characters in popular films across 11 countries, (India was a part of the study) they found a dismal lack of female characters. That mainstream Bollywood routinely fails the Bechdel Test is no surprise but to note that, after the 493 films evaluated for the study, India had a gender disparity of 3 males to 1 woman, is still pretty sad. And pretty much explains the situation of women in Bollywood.

Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in the hugely poolarising film, Fire (1996)

Having said that, no one can deny that 2014 onwards, we have seen some very strong female leads at the centre of Hindi Cinema. It all started with Queen and in 2015, NH10, Piku, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, were some of the notable examples, followed by Neerja, Pink and now Dangal and Lipstick Under My Burkha.

What makes Lipstick Under My Burkha, such a game-changer is the way it deals with female sexuality. Of-course, there have been movies that have dealt with the issue long before the movie came out. Movies such as Margarita with A Straw (2014), Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), Masaan (2015) Fire (1996) they have failed to stir up mainstream interest and often been relegated to the discreet but respectable area of being critically acclaimed but too out there for public consumption.

Why is this the case?

The answers lie in simple statistics. Women are not watching as many movies as you think they are unless they are targeted as ‘women oriented.’  According to a report made Ormax media earlier this year, men contribute to a whopping 81 per cent of the first day revenues of films. But interestingly, the study also noted that the revenues picked up on their second and third day and Piku, the unlikeliest of the women-centric lot had a largely female viewership—a total of 54 per cent. This clearly points out to the fact that women are open to watching female experiences on screen, as long as they are marketed that way and seem relatable. Lipstick under My Burkha too seems to have hit the right note, the first mainstream film on female sexuality to do so, so maybe we are on to a revolution, maybe it’s time for cinema for women to be bold, brazen and fun

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