It is said sex sells in Bollywood. But not completely. It sells only when it comes from the male character. A female character talking about drinking, hook-up, self-pleasure and sex is still a big taboo in Indian society.
“Mujhe jo chahiye uska maza sirf raat ko aata hai,” (The thing I need, is what can only give me pleasure in the ‘night’) this particular dialogue by Vidya Balan in Indian feature film The Dirty Picture raised many eyebrows. Or to put it straight, the movie came under the scanner for its bold content. But the irony is a male character’s desire for sexual pleasure is accepted outright while that of the female character is not.
In recent years, breaking the stereotype associated with female sexuality, a number of web series and movies have presented a strong take on the subject. Movies such as Parched, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Angry Indian Goddesses, Margarita with a Straw, Veere di Wedding and the recently launched net series, Lust Stories, have dared to celebrate female sexuality.
But it still has a long way to go. The Indian audience and Censor Board while open to the objectification of women on screen, are still reluctant to accept women embrace their sexuality. Casual sex, smoking, free swearing isn’t what our Sanskaari (cultured) society and censor board accepts.
A film dealing with this subject is often bashed with criticism and unwanted controversy. Who can forget the harsh criticism ‘’Lipstick Under My Burkha had to face? It was condemned by the CBFC for its bold and feisty content. The film revolved around four women wanting to explore their sexual desires and needs. The film was released only after a groundswell of public support and a number of cuts.
Talking about the recent releases depicting female sexuality, Veere Di Wedding and the net series, Lust Stories, both again fell prey to controversies and trolls because of female masturbation scenes in each of them. It took the internet by storm with trolls targeting the actors for choosing to play their characters. Is this behavior justified?
It is not the first time that female desire has been shown on screen, Paro in Dev D, is shown to enjoy an orgasm after a little tryst of self-love. All the new age female lead movies have shown women as people who curse, drink, smoke, talk about sex and orgasm, have queer relationships and also being open to bisexual relationships. But even after having a strong plot and a marvelous star cast, they have been shamed for giving voice to such a bold concept.
We are living in the 21st century, and still object to the natural needs of sexual pleasures. If men can have sexual desires, why are women not allowed to have the same? It is remarkable to see Bollywood taking up the subject so gracefully and rising above the typical notions. The first step has been taken, but the road ahead is still a long one.
Vidya Balan said, while speaking of her role as the protagonist in The Dirty Picture, “Women want it, need it and like it as much as men do.” It is high time society accepts female sexuality as natural as it is.
Megha Thadani is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.
This piece was first published on SheThePeople.TV. SheThePeople is India's first women's channel inspired by real stories and seeks to change the discourse on, about and for women. Fierce and firebrand, it's an independent platform for stories of women breaking new ground.
*Photo: Still image from "Lipstik Under My Burkha"