New Delhi: What happened in Delhi on December 16, 2012 shocked the entire nation and started a debate about women security and the factors responsible for the moral degradation of culprits involved in such heinous crimes. Some analysts pointed towards the role films play in invoking such a situation.
Critics of mainstream Hindi films brought into discussion the kind of roles typical heroines play and how their sexuality has been perceived by the rural and urban audiences. A simple glance at Hindi films would reveal that heroines are rarely supposed to go beyond the usual sing and dance stuff in most of the films. This process of objectification is a conscious decision on part of the storytellers who want to cater to the 'so called' demand of the spectators, but there are directors who dare to defy the common practice, Sudhir Mishra is one of them who is swimming against the popular tide.
Sudhir Mishra's latest offering 'Inkaar' is about a lady who musters the courage to file a complaint of sexual harassment against an apparently powerful man, but a closer look at the character of Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh) would reveal that Mishra's perception of women is in stark contrast with most of his contemporaries.
Of course, he portrays sensuality but that derives its inspiration from the powerful class of ladies rather than submissive women, even if submission happens that takes place due to some kind of philosophical leaning not because the heroine is floored by the male character's charm. He described his 'Inkaar' heroine in an interview given to IBNLive, "She portrays a kind of sensuality which comes from intelligence and independence. I mean, see, these are the traits of the women I write, don't confuse the persons with the characters. I am not claiming to depict her in her real life but she portrays the aspects of the female characters I write in my films."
This answer leads to a speculation that Mishra doesn't want to feature weaker female protagonists on screen, but that doesn't clarify what he means by independence, so let's have a look at his films.
'Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi' demonstrated the grit of a lady who had to fight against the patriarchal mindset but she was educated enough to boldly stand in front of the male domination, remember the scenes between Chitrangada and Ram Kapoor and Chitrangada and Police officers. She kept loving the ideals despite her men swapping spaces. Do we normally see women taking such a stand in Hindi films!
'Chameli' faced all sorts of prejudices but maintained her stand, further Mishra casted a mainstream actress like Kareena in the lead which sent the message that 'don't take Chameli lightly'.
Nirmal Pandey found himself hanging in between two ladies of entirely different traits in 'Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin' but none of them were unaware of the circumstances or were ready to be fooled by Pandey. It's a rarity as the Bollywood directors generally try to give male leads the motive to date two women at a time!
'Dharavi' may not be categorised as Om Puri's wife's story but the character always knew what she is searching for. Similarly, 'Yeh Saali Zindagi' presented Priti in grey shades but Arun's obsession for her was due to her intelligence and non-availability rather than unconditional submission in love.
'Khoya Khoya Chand' is an important film in this regard as it described what Mishra thinks about women working in films, a field which has a reputation for making people compromise on their principals. The guilt free actress Nikhat (Soha Ali Khan) was a rebel against conservatives who looked down upon the film heroines of 1960s.
In the wake of changing thinking patterns of modern day India, the viewers are probably going to see more straightforward women in near future but Sudhir Mishra will remain the pioneer in this regard as he thought of doing so in an era when presenting a strong woman was seen as a compromise on the commercial front of a mainstream film. Happy birthday Sudhir Mishra, the man who doesn't despise intelligent women.