• New Heroines Are More Real: Javed Akhtar at Jaipur Literature Fest

    “As society changes, so too will our films” Javed Akhtar said, while speaking about the changing role of women in Bollywood on a panel discussion at the Zee Jaipur Literature festival.

    In a conversation with Rachel Dwyer, a professor of Indian cultures at SOAS UK, Akhtar said India women don’t have to portray the ‘perfect’ in new films. In earlier Bollywood films the heroine was traditional and embodied what we call the ‘perfect Indian woman,’ Akhtar said nowadays society didn’t quite need women to embody these roles. Cinema changes as society changes, said Akhtar, and we cannot keep portraying these ideas of what a good Indian woman is.

    Cinema changes as society changes, said Akhtar, and we cannot keep portraying these ideas of what a good Indian woman is – Akhtar

    However, he said as society changes it will take time for us to find another suitable set of conducts. We will have to negotiate gender roles. An important issue is how men will behave. In this new world, what will men have to give up and let go of? asked Akhtar. Women had nothing, so the question is easy for them, they are going to gain, and as they get empowered, society will have to re-negotiate gender roles, he said.

    Akhtar said that with this new paradigm, heroes and heroines will be portrayed differently. Films will focus on the stories of real people, who are nuanced, and have flaws. More films like Dangal will be made, he said. Gone are the days of the super hero and the ‘bharatiya nari,’ the villain and the vamp. Just look at Katrina Kaif, and how she could play the role of a diving instructor, wear a swimsuit and have nobody look at her figure, he said, citing son Farhan Akhtar’s film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

    Women in films are more real than what they were, Akhtar said. And this trend is likely to continue. It will take time, since all the sections of society do not move in a linear line, but films are moving towards portraying stories of common people, rather than archetypes, he said.

    Akhtar said as a writer in the 70s, it would have been unimaginable and unthinkable for anyone to suggest the kind of films that are being made now, back then.

    Kapoor sons it would have been unimaginable.

    “Audience is a bigger influence on cinema now,” he said.

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