The film releasing this week, Angry Indian Goddesses, by Pan Nalin is a rare Hindi film about female bonding.
Apart from a handful of films Mirch Masala, Rihaee, Dor, Provoked, Filhaal, Mrityudand and Firesome substandard films like Kudiyon Ka Hai Zamana and Paisa Vasool there have been hardly any films about female bonding, while men continue to celebrate friendship in style, even in films made by a female director, for instance, Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara by Zoya Akhtar, or Happy New Year by Farah Khan.
In Avtar Bhogal’s Zakhmee Aurat, a cop (Dimple Kapadia) and a group of women get justice for raped women by castrating the rapists who manage to get away in court. Crude and sensational though it was, this was one of the few films in which women do not turn away from other women in trouble. The other such film was Damini in which the heroine (Meenakshi Seshadri) took on her in-laws family for the sake of a raped maidservant. In the recent Queen, the impromptu friendship between Rani (Kangana Ranaut) and Vijay (Lisa Haydon) was utterly charming, and quite real, even in a contrived setting.
Women are friends till they get married, and then they are supposed to cut off all ties with their old life. In reality too, between the responsibilities of marriage, motherhood and career, very few women are able to hold on to their female friends, even though women offer the best support system to one another, with understanding and empathy.
It’s really bad on television — in nearly all serials rooted in the Indian reality, if there has to be high drama, women have to be antagonistic towards each other in the joint family set-up. Thesaas-bahu, jethani-devrani, nanad-bhabhi are traditional enemies. If they get along, well, there is no melodrama. And then, there is the classic patni-sauten –wife-other woman—relationship which can hardly be anything but acrimonious. It is said women are women’s worst enemies, but the antagonism between women is something that is imposed by circumstances. The world of advertising thrives on creating competition between women—if they wear this perfume or make-up men will prefer them over other women; if they drink this juice a man will dump his girlfriend for them; their kids must have the whitest clothes or the healthiest teeth, their kitchens the gleaming-like-new vessels, their clothesline the cleanest clothes, their tables groaning with the tastiest food. All men have to do is spray on a particular deodorant and walk down the street.