If we need to deconstruct Baahubali and add a tag of misogyny to it, we will probably have to bring down the entire culture of popular cinema and television and analyze it scene by scene.

In India, cinema has always been divided into two distinct halves. One is that of commercial films which are not made for social messages and are lapped up by audiences for pure entertainment. And other is the art film, social-message variety. I am not sure Baahubali tried to portray itself as an essential tool for social change. The allegation of it being masculine is funny because the popular posters have the hero in pretty aggressive postures (it is not that it tricked anyone to watch it).

What are we women complaining about? The searing dance between the leads or Avantika’s falling for the man? What we fail to notice is Avantika is an ace swordswoman. Is it possible that she misses to injure a man who is unarmed on purpose? Or was it done deliberately because the entire sequence was that of lust and attraction? I, like everyone else, found the female lead suddenly transform into a coy woman who entrusts her dreams to her man. However, to call the film a show of masculinity is wrong. Also, I did not hear any man sitting in the theatre sigh when Prabhas lifts the Shiv Ling. It was us, women, screaming and rooting for him.

Indian cinema and television have grown on the traditional narratives of the docile woman and the aggressive hero. I wonder why there is just one film that has rattled our feminist psyche so much. If women and their place in society are of utmost importance to us, why isn’t there a nationwide outrage to correct the narratives running on television? Every second film has a gyrating woman with scores of starved men trying to get closer to her. Instead of pulling up single scenes from films how about a blanket ban on item numbers?

Or let us look at the shaming of women through language. The pile of abusive words is so tall in popular discourse that women might begin to wonder if they are anything more than a mere mass of genitals. As Kausar Munir nails it in Mardaani, “Jis duniya mein maa behne / Rishte nahi, gaali hain” (A world where mothers and sisters are not relations, but abuses). The misogyny is wrapped up in rampant cuss words where you would even curse a man by calling his female relations a whore, bitch or slut. These go uncut by the guardians of feminism as these are said to be part of realistic cinema.

We saw lesser offended columnists this January when a live show allegedly used offensive, vulgar and violent language against women. Unsuspecting celebrities and relations of actors were bashed with the use of despicable language. And when the online telecast of the same was banned, there were too many people offended. It was supposed to be a high point of muzzling of Freedom of Speech.

Popular comedy shows on television (with anchors winning it big at award ceremonies) effortlessly portray women as dimwits. Could we please take offense and remind them about how irresponsible they are being?

In the past years, there’s been this surge of movies crossing the 100-150 crore benchmark. However, it is difficult to find too many strong women protagonists in these films. Women have either lost out to the more gharelu (homely) heroine or have needed a heroes hand to catch a train, or fight a cop. And then of course we’ve had rosy dialogs like ‘pyar se de rahe hai rakhlo/ warna thappad maar ke bhi de sakte hai’(You better keep it when I’m offering it with affection, or I could even slap you and force you to accept it). Or it gets even better with ‘jab aurat hovat hai tees, oo saali ban javat hai cheez’ (When a woman turns thirty, she becomes a commodity).

Bahubali’s mating dance or Avantika’s not emerging as the feisty woman that she could have been, is not for the first such instance in Indian cinema. In a recent movie, a woman filmmaker (who makes movies with a difference) suddenly breaks into a jig mid road and merrily dances to Mann jaa ve… mainu shopping kara de / Mann jaa ve… romantic picture dikha de / Requestaan paayiaan ve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeBnmwiWzA

Popular cinema and television haven’t even outgrown the myth of Suhaag Raat and the deflowering of the virginal bride. Or even the overnight transformation of female leads – from western wear or salwar kameez to a saree and ghoonghat clad bahu.

For a country that takes no offense in even teasing with Laal dupatte waali tera naam to bata (Tell me your name you, the one with red dupatta) and Gandi baat, the sudden tearing apart of a single movie is a little out of place.

If we need to deconstruct Baahubali and add a tag of misogyny to it, we will probably have to bring down the entire culture of popular cinema and television and analyze it scene by scene.

That one debatable scene in Baahubali has a much lesser impact than all the misogyny already present in our popular culture. Unless we get to the bottom of real narratives of misogyny, this outrage over Baahubali looks a little orchestrated.

P.S – Also isn’t it amazing that we see more outrage over the banning of 50 Shades of Grey than the making of it? The heroine’s complete loss of self-worth is underplayed, and her actions justified as a quest for an insatiable sexual pleasure!

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