Madonna-Whore: A Bollywood Story June 16 2017, 0 Comments

I am from India.  Hence, befalls upon me the duty to blog at least once about the industry that is the beating heart, deep soul and the throbbing pulse of India-The Indian Film Industry aka BOLLYWOOD.

 

Indian film industry is based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai).  It is fondly known as Bollywood, possible name origination from Hollywood.  It is massively influential not only in the home country but has a growing popularity internationally as well.  With India being on the global map, Indian cinema’s popularity has exponentially increased.

Bollywood churns out twice as many movies as Hollywood in a span of one year.  With movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and exports like Freida Pinto, an increasing number of Western audience are becoming familiar with not only the colorful song and dance routine that is so integral to Bollywood movies, but thanks to the portrayal of slums, the debilitating poverty in India as well.

For the purposes of this blog and because I am an insider, I will introduce you to a quintessential theme in Indian cinema that is patently latent for the foreign eye, yet prevalent in most Indian movies.  It is also a little insight into the pre-disposition of the Indian brain, especially the male brain.

It is the Madonna-Whore theme on celluloid.

Women are an integral part of Indian cinema.  In most Indian films women are portrayed in two ways.  Either they are shown as a pious, sacrificing, maternal figure or Madonna.  Or they are depicted as the wanton, sexy, lustful, glamour doll or whore.

The sacrificing maternal figure may as well be called a sacrificial lamb.  The adversities of her life are higher than Mount Everest and insurmountable; not even Edmund Hillary in flesh and blood could peak the heights of such misery.

The hardships start at a young age when she is coerced into marriage against her will to a much older man and from there on the misery chapter of her life starts.  The script usually goes like this-she gets pregnant after marriage; one of her kids is born without a limb and is handicapped; the burden of taking care of this child falls entirely upon her slim shoulders; the husband is an alcoholic loser who drinks, gambles and at the end of the day beats her up; she works like a dog doing menial jobs where again she is abused and exploited by her employer and then the poverty, oh such cruel   poverty that two square meals will be considered to be a banquet.  Despite all these calamities, she is able to educate her handicapped child who in turn becomes a famous doctor and just when one would think that the anguish is about to end, she gets cancer and dies.  Throughout the movie she is dressed in a white sari, the color of grieving.  It is a perpetual saga of despondency, melancholy and wretchedness.

One of the great classic Indian movies of all times named Mother India, is a perfect example of this ideal, sacrificing woman.

The audiences come out of such a movie with tears rolling down their cheeks and a renewed respect and reverence for a woman.

This mother or “ Madonna” figure is the signature illustration of an ideal Indian woman in Bollywood.  She is pious, sacrificing and wallowing in eternal suffering.  The audiences bow to her-she is Madonna.

In the opposite extreme you have the woman depicted as a seductress.  She is an enchantress, a femme fatale, a temptress, a vamp all rolled into one tight package.  She oozes sexuality and lust with flat abs, protruding breasts, luscious lips, cascading ravenous hair, skimpy clothes and a husky voice.  Most of the camera frames are angled to focus on her anatomy, especially the sexually stimulating body parts such as the plump lips, heaving breasts and swinging derriere.

 

The sexuality interpreted through this woman is so over the top that it makes all the Victoria’s Secret models look like nuns.

The audiences come out of her movie panting with lust and sexual tension.  This woman is purely objectified as a sex-object-she is a whore.

You must have noted the dichotomy in Bollywood movies by now.  Women are either put on a pedestal and given the veneration and respect of a Madonna or simply portrayed as an object of lust.

Interestingly, most Indian cinema is hesitant to portray Indian women as both being a mother and also a seductress.  The two concepts appear to be diametrically opposed and do not seem to merge in a Bollywood woman.

In all honesty, the tides are changing in Indian  cinema.  Modern cinema is becoming trendy, issue based, somewhat intelligent and more realistic.  But for the past many decades the true and tried formula of the Madonna/whore theme has been a sure shot success at the box office.

What is your opinion?  Can meaningful cinema depict a woman both as a Madonna and a sex object