These Female Characters Say So Much About “Choice”!
Ila (from the movie Lunchbox) was just another housewife, a very dutiful, dependent, passive and submissive wife. All she yearned was for some attention and respect from her husband. She kept mum, like many, despite knowing that her husband was having an affair.
There is a scene where she smells the vulnerable world through his shirt, the scene speaks volumes about her confinement as an obedient wife. As she leaves her snoring husband, leaving behind all the gold jewelry she owned (symbolic of her marriage), she walks past the confined walls of broken marriage and patriarchy built around her. It was never a wrong choice when Ila decided to go with a man who gave her a sense of her existence.
A choice; the word reflects not just a temporary want, but the glimpses of a person’s identity as a whole. For all these years, our choices have been framed and influenced by the hovering fumes of patriarchy. And hence it won’t be wrong to say that, like jobs, individual choices have also been gender-stereotyped. Women with unpopular choices are seldom prominent in mainstream cinema. Ila from Lunchbox breaks this convention.
Sex has always been a hush-hush word. Any woman expressing her sexual desire is slut-shamed at worst. In the film DevD directed by Anurag Kashyap, we see Dev, who is representative of all those Indian men who are uncomfortable with the idea of women taking ownership of their bodies and desires.
Remember when Appu from Mayanadi (2018, Malayalam) says- “sex is not a promise!”? By sleeping with Maathan, she has not provided him any ownership over her. She is just fearless enough to express what she felt.
Similar were the women in Lust Stories. We grew up in a society where female sexual desires have no relevance and are meant to be suppressed and never spoken of. Our societal system normalizes sex as just a process to continue the family lineage by reproducing offspring. The leading ladies of Lust Stories are unapologetically bold in expressing their desires and are not ready to subside to these norms of society. They make a choice to own their sexuality.
Bua Ji (played exceptionally by Ratna Pathak) from Lipstick under my Burkha is also a woman who has desires which lie outside the scope of the societal rule book. Widowed at a very young age, Bua Ji never got to explore much of her sexuality. Her feelings for a man of much younger age are brutally mocked by everyone including her family. Like every other woman who wants to explore her sexuality, she too faces the same fate- a culture that chastises women.
Society has a list of does and don’ts categorized based on one’s age and gender. Choices should see no age barrier. Sreedevi’s Sasi from the movie English Vinglish saw no age barrier in redefining herself. She makes a choice- to become self-dependent and master the English language so that her family treats her with respect and dignity. Yet another brave and independent choice.
In all these movie characters, we can see that the choices they made were only a glimpse of what they seek- respect, identity, pleasure. We fear to make a choice, be it anything- career, marriage, life, we are taken aback by the thought of being judged and ridiculed by the people around us. In the case of women, the impact is even severe. Choices made by women are at the most tepidly welcome.
The most we can do to overcome this is to give women the freedom and liberty to make their own choices. As JK Rowling said, “It is our choices that show who we truly are.” Here’s a shout-out to all the brave women who fearlessly made their choices and unapologetically pursued their desires.
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