Gist of a series of fruitful discussions with actor, activist and psychiatrist Dr. Mohan Agashe
For the better part of the twentieth century, literacy was measured in terms of the ability to read and write, not by the facility to watch and listen.
As a result,
The last word was etched in print
Key for Learning was instruction, not instinct
Sounds, images, gestures were blurred in the maze of words
Those who knew how to read and write exploited those who did not.
While the innovators and activists of film and television media actively took up social awareness and awakening issues, the ‘news channels’ made news entertaining by including elements of drama and intrigue in news bytes.
Although the need for audio visual literacy was universally marginalized, region-specific cultural sensitivities made a huge difference in the manner in which such information was received by end users. Unlike the West, Asian and Indian populace is more rooted in sensory perception.The conduit for receiving communication in this part of the word in invariably emotional.It naturally helped makers and broadcasters of media smartly reconstruct their versions of truths in line with their respective agendas.
Makers & Takers
Makers of Audio Visual media in India: Vested interests found it easier to promote their own twisted ideologies and causes
Takers of Audio Visual media in India: Vulnerable viewing consumed messages without interpretation and introspection
Gender in films
Gender is an inevitable component of any filmic plot and characterization.
Love stories necessarily highlight gender issues on celluloid but very few films explore gender realities in the specific context of social expectations and constraints governing gender roles and relationships.
Most Indian films portray gender issues as stories of:
Oppression & Suffering (problem is the key word)
Resilience & Triumph (solution is the key word)
Personal fulfilment amidst social obligations & expectations (strife is the keyword)
The three principal themes give birth to sub themes which are often a fusion of the three in varying proportions:
Emblematic gender relationships that define boundaries, expectations, aspiration and compromise in marital and family life or in choosing a life partner
Vulnerability of women: gender-related challenges of overcoming adversity, either individually or collectively
Nurturing role of a Woman : as the source of strength, within families as also in unconventional settings
The Rebellious woman: who wields power in political and other settings, typically challenging expectations and surmounting limitations of gender stereotypes
In each of these themes and sub-themes, cultural aspects of vulnerability are depicted vis-à-vis opportunities for resilience, independence and power.
As with any social issue rooted in controversy, the filmmaker may:
either pander to expectations of the status quo, or question the status quo citing alternatives, thereby stimulating reflection, discussion and debate about how things are and how they should be. Region-specific cultural sensitivities made a huge difference in the manner in which cinematic information is consumed
Mainstream Films often tend to promote:
Social/cultural/religious beliefs rooted in tradition
Archetypes and Stereotypes based on gender and sexuality
Vision and mission of the establishment
Commercial objectives of business & industry stakeholders
Pet media Stereotypes: Timelessly Hypocritical
A lady is either hailed as a goddess or condemned as a vamp, strictly a binary characterization.
Housewives are necessarily shown as ‘nagging’ and the prime reason why husbands ‘look’ elsewhere.
A fair complexion is still sought after, and dark skinned people are yet an object of ridicule (The recent anti-fairness cream wave - though more of an advertising ploy than a social movement - is heartening, given that it helps debunk fairness-related myths and prejudices)