I was in my seat stuffing popcorn and drinking chilled Coke while trying not to freeze in the cold theatre. With the climate crisis one would hope they would increase the temperature because the last time I checked we needed 24°C to sustain ourselves and not minus 4°C! Clutching my jacket close to myself, my focus shifted from the screen to the woman sitting beside me who said something about all girls being dumb when the female protagonist in the movie couldn’t figure out something simple.
The feminist inside me wanted to tell her off and talk about the internalized misogyny that she was displaying right there while the guy agreeing with her said the classic, “True. Good you’re not like OTHER GIRLS.”
Yet the social contract simply compelled me to sit still and not react while she went to blabber on about how females made her shudder.
I realized that her generalized statements aside, in movies, most female protagonists do lack character, not in the moral sense but in the purity and subservience that’s all they seem to have to them. They’re the eye candy, the prize for which the hero fights off everyone while they wait to be saved.
I remember watching the movie Kabir Singh waiting for the heroine to speak, to show some depth, yet all I got was silence and crying when the screenwriter remembered that the actress is being paid to work as well!
Most Hindi films that aren’t female-centric have heroines who act like dead fish, looking pretty and pining for the guy to do everything. Now I don’t mean that they have to have the dominant role and carry the script forward; what I mean is it’s time for screenwriters to write female characters that portray a little more than just something pleasing to look at.
Sobhita Dhulipala’s character in Made In Heaven is a classic example of a well-written female lead in Hindi cinema, without being perfect yet having layers to her that you want to unravel.
Sometimes I wonder whether the reason for the poor writing is the screenwriters being males or whether it is the females that share the same opinion as the woman sitting beside me did.
I await the day when writing strong female characters stops being a niche field but instead transcends into being the norm itself.