Girls like to have fun: What’s Wrong With That?

It is the generation of exploring millennial angst, sexual emotions and the prospects of an unpredictable future. It is not surprising that the cinematic paradigm is shifting towards more nuanced portrayals of the various, multi-dimensional realities that do not necessarily conform to societal norms or definitions of ‘righteousness’. Which brings me to my point of morality on the big screen and how it has been gendered and filtered for the masses to engage in a skewed depiction of actuality.

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Veere Di Wedding, Lipstick Under My Burkha, and Raazi are just a few examples of the prominent Bollywood female-centric movies that have driven the notion of female sexual autonomy and independence. But, like expected, there is always a fury or uproar when it comes to resonating womxn empowerment in the most humanist of ways: sexuality and intimacy. Misogyny creeps up from beneath when we hear of some of the male critics dismantle certain scenes because they are ‘obscene’ or ‘vulgar’. Indeed, female sexuality itself is hard to grasp, and as a womxn myself, I have been ingrained to seek permission before allowing myself to come to terms with this alien concept of intimacy. I mean, we refer to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls just want to have fun’ when we want to have fun, so why can’t we keep to only listening to her and not everyone else?

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In the film Veere Di Wedding, actress Swara Bhaskar enacts a scene where she is masturbating with a vibrator, which has caused the severe controversy amongst Indian audiences. Such hysteria over something that is of genuine concern, self-stimulation for sexual pleasure by an independent and determined womxn. It is a pity how permissive we ought to be when we consciously deny womxn their right to express carnal desires in the purest forms of display; something society has designated to men time immemorial. Throughout a cinematic timeline, we see Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Graduate slowly grappling with his own commitment and future, while maintaining an affair with an older married woman, to Shah Rukh Khan’s countless, ageing romances of promiscuity in Jab Harry Met Sejal- male characters have always been awarded the glory of being sexually available and aroused. It is this constant differentiation and dichotomy of power relations within cinema that exposes the dire marginality of womxn’s issues.

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No matter how their circumstances have played out, men in reel life and real life alike, have sexual supremacy and this defies the supposed holistic nature of equality in all available spheres of life. If we cannot tolerate a truthful depiction of womxn's sexuality, it is harder to imagine a society that reinvents the meaning of equality in the true sense.  Even if a good number of movies show the perplexed dynamics of an urban, upper-middle-class young population- there is still an atmosphere of awkwardness when it comes to issues on womxn, a perennial trauma of feminism.

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From the raging gender pay gap, misogyny and sexism; one thing seems clearer and clearer- patriarchy strangles us in more ways than we know it. From eroding our sexual autonomy to solely relying upon male validation for legitimacy, our narratives are vigorously being challenged by the denouncing norms of society that continue to burden us with external consent and critique.