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Portrayal of women in Bollywood then, now and in the past.

April 25, 2007

Bollywood in the seventies and eighties

Mulling over the portayal of women in Bollywood, one very significant aspect that I thought about was how Bollywood shows the character of women by the way they dress.

When I was growing up in the late seventies and eighties most of the Bollywood movies I saw showed girls in sarees as virtuous and the girls in jeans as naughty, or spoilt. I found this odd because I didn’t see this replicated in society. In fact the most “notorious” girl in our lane always wore a saree and never talked to boys freely in public. She walked with her head down. But her “night exploits” were well known to one and all. On the other hand, my friend and me always walked to college in jeans and a T-shirt and were pretty much heckled on the way, and had to put up with a lot of cheap comments. We talked openly with boys in our college, had coffee with them, but neither of us were sleeping around. In fact we often wondered why society thought girls in sarees were “good.” Why was virtue being confused with dress? Luckily both of us belonged to broadminded educated families and had no problems on that score.

In fact, because of false stereotypes (perpetuated by Bollywood) about dress, people often use attire to deliberately mislead people. For example a rapist could wear an orange robe and pretend to be holy, a woman or a man who lead bohemian lives may deliberately dress mutely to avoid attracting attention, a terrorist might deliberately wear western clothes to dupe the police, a traditional girl might choose to wear jeans to show the world how modern she is. What I am basically saying is, your clothes may be you, or they may not. In any case, everything western is not bad and everything eastern is not good.

Ofcourse we know that. Otherwise why should we love cricket with so much passion, why is our IT industry moving forward at such a fast pace and why do Indian men wear pants and shirts and shorts with so much ease? Unfortunately, women in our society are not appreciated if they are ‘western’. A sight I will never forget is one I saw on my honeymoon in Goa – a bride decked up from head to toe in a saree and jewellery sitting on the beach looking enviously on as her husband romped around in the sands and the sea half naked.

Bollywood underlines what is already prevalent in our tradition bound society – that women need to uphold the cultural traditions…like wear the Indian type of dress, visit temples, conduct poojas, maintain relationships with family (both own and in-laws), but men can generally do whatever they want. And this “morality’ is reflected time and again in Bollywood movies. Bollywood tries to uphold some sort of unrealistic and artificial “ideal” which unfortunately can be used as a stick to beat women with in real life.

Bollywood movies often imply that girls in western clothes neglect the home and do not work hard. There was this movie called Maine Pyar Kiya (released 1989). In this film Salman Khan is shown as a rich boy who falls in love with a simple hardworking girl and she is shown in Indian clothes always – and fluttering her eyelashes at every opportunity. The ‘bad’ girl, a girl who is mean, calculating, lazy and a gold-digger (the daughter of the villain), is dressed by the director in smart western clothes. I find these ridiculous stereotypes to be false in real life. Maybe it is because of the work ethic of the western world but I found that girls around me who were more tuned in to the western culture were more hardworking, while girls from a more traditional background were dependent on servants, and helpless without them. If there were no servants, they would shirk the work. I am ofcourse talking only of middle and the upper classes. I have no personal experience of rural girls, except from hearsay. But my guess is that rural women work very hard indeed.

True, the “traditional girl” is more of a homebody and often not interested in a career, but this does not necessarily mean that she worked harder or paid more attention to the children or was sweeter to her mother in law. That was very individual. Again, this is my observation only and certainly not any sort of survey.

Girls who dress “western” in Bollywood are often shown to be “spoilt”. They drive cars rashly, are arrogant and it requires a “decent” Indian man to come along and teach them a “lesson”. Soon this spoilt brat is “tamed” by the hero and she becomes obedient. Out goes the western attire and in comes the Indian. Very odd indeed, considering that most girls who drive, drive carefully. It’s the rich boys who tend to drive rashly.

However, it is true that girls who are more westernized tend to “speak up.” That is not considered a good thing in our society. A woman is supposed to take insults meted out to her – as if she is some sort of sub human! The man, if slighted by any his in-laws can bring the house down and it is unlikely that he will go out of his way to be nice to that person again. If a woman behaves like this she will be accused of breaking up homes. The ideal Bollywood heroine is long suffering.

Bollywood Recently
Bollywood movies started to improve in the last decade or so, in this sense. They don’t always show girls in western dress as sluts, but the sluts invariably wear western clothes. Funnily, even if a heroine wears mini skirts, she often has to prove her Indianness. One such example is of the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai [1998]. When Rani Mukherjee arrives from London in a micro-mini, its alright, as long as she proves her Indianness. And she does this by singing a devotional Hindi song!

Bollywood Now
We have moved on since then. Take Dhoom 1 (2004). Abhishek’s wife (played by Rimi Sen) is shown to be sexy, dressed in skimpy western attire but hardworking and loving and thankfully does not have prove her Indianness by conducting poojas and dressing in sarees! That was like a breath of fresh air and broke the stereotype. However a lot of other Bollywood movies show heroines who wear western attire, but change it after marriage. As if that ensures their life long devotion to their husbands!

Bollywood nowadays also has girls speaking up and doing their own thing. Like Kajol in Fanaa (2006) for example. In this movie she goes against society’s norms right from the start, and finally decides to shoot the man she loves because of his terrorist activities. But there are still too few movies which show women in strong roles.

We often don’t realise that the struggle for womens’ rights is not a western concept. If we want our women to be treated like human beings, its nothing to do with being western. Its humanity. In any case we have had social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who fought for women’s rights. He played an important role in abolishing Sati. He also advocated the study of English, Science, Western Medicine and Technology and this was as far back as in the nineteenth century. There are many other social reformers in India who fought for women’s rights.

I am not a feminist. In the sense that I am proud of being a woman and proud of women’s work. It really bugs me when the media calls a woman who is working outside the home as a woman of substance, because I think a housewife can be a woman of substance too and not all women who work outside the home are. I think a woman who looks after the home and brings into the world normal, healthy adults is a woman to be admired. She is a woman of real substance because there is nothing more important than bringing up children. And please note, I have not said “for a woman.” I mean for both men and women, bringing up of children is the most difficult thing and if the couple has any children, the most important thing.

Again, I do not think that women who wear saris and are at home the whole day are necessarily good mothers and nor do I think that women who go out to work are necessarily women of substance. It’s all individual.

Bollywod back then
Oddly when I see the Bollywood movies of the fifties and sixties I see something different. Less misrepresentation of women. True, I haven’t seen too many old movies, but I can never forget that incident in Mughal-e-Azam (1960). When Madhubala falls in love with the Prince (played by Dilip Kumar) she is terrified of the King who is also the the father of her lover. She cows down and compromises. When the Prince hears of this he is furious, and loses respect for her. Can’t she even stand up to his father? And so what if he is the King? Doesn’t she even have that much courage? He tells her that she is not worthy of his love…and that is what prompts Madhubala to sing that now famous song: Pyar kiya to Darna Kya in front of the King. She immediately wins back her Prince’s love. During those times, we valued courage! And even women had to have it.

Today, in many families (and not just in movies), a woman’s courage is a threat to men. If a woman stands up to her father-in-law or her husband, and actually talks back to him, she will be seen as bad.

I have seen some other very old Bollywood films where the “good” women are shown in western clothes, but a few years after Independence this started to change. I think it was a kind of rejection of anything that was western because of the colonial past…but in the process I think we forgot about humanity and about reality. Today thankfully Bollywood is improving.

There are those who feel that Bollywood caters to the masses and well, I guess they are right. That is where tradition rules. Bollywood has to make money. Catering to the masses means that women have to be shown this way, otherwise the films and the women characters will not be accepted. However, cinema should not and cannot be retrograde, it needs to look forward. If our society is changing, cinema should go a step further. Average cinema either reflects society or it harks back to the past, or highlights (sensationalises) a dark aspect of society to titillate audiences. It is only the great film-makers who avoid the beaten path, blaze a new trail, and introduce new ideas.

(Photo credits: Photo from maine pyar kiya from Eros

Related Reading on Women: What feminism means to me
Is the saree a modest or immodest garment?
The Devaluation of Cooking
Do children affect the health of a marriage?

Read all posts on Women.
Read all posts on the Movie Industry
Read all Movie reviews of both Bollywood and hollywood movies
Read all posts on Bollywood

94 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2007 4:19 pm

    Nita….Lovely write up!!!Hope that this will serve as an eye opener for people living in a’Blind World’.Esp…those lines starting with”iam not a feminist…..its all individual”word by word its absolutely correct.

  2. April 26, 2007 12:15 pm

    Satelte TV has played a major role in this transformation. Foreign channels were showing all that was considered taboo in our films. Traditional dresses in any case were not very comfortable for the fast pace and active life in our metros. Imagine how difficult it is for a saree clad woman to board a local train or bus during peak hours. Good for women.

  3. April 26, 2007 2:47 pm

    True, the sari does restrict one’s movements. However the Maharashtrian saree does not. It is more like a comfortable pant! It also keeps the ankles free. Unfortunately this saree is not in fashion anymore…otherwise I would have worn it! My dad always said that when the “gol” (round saree that is worn today) came into fashion, women’s legs and bodies and minds were tied! He believes that the original Maharashtrian saree gave freedom to women. Both in mind, spirit and body.
    In the north, the salwar kameez also gives a fair amount of freedom of movement to women.

  4. Brijesh permalink
    April 26, 2007 5:08 pm

    nice nitaji…..
    good writing, ur issue and topic is and way of explanation is very good. U r right some time it seems that film making standered or rules for socaity that not fail…….films are just for entertainment or some time to raise some issue not for making sociaty. I also feels look of a person can not say exactlly about any person’s thinking or charactor(but films saying they can). good keep it up 🙂

  5. axinia permalink
    April 26, 2007 7:34 pm

    Nita, i read your article with the great interest!
    Sitting here in the middle of Europe i dream of a day when ladies will start wearing sarees and similar togs 🙂 I am so fed up with these trousers and short skirts, you can not imagine!
    I really like your observations and especially the idea that stereotyping of TV does not reflect the tendencies in society.
    I was always wondering that what one can see in Bolliwood films can not really be found in daily life in India – the western stuff is more realistic, i feel.
    The reason for that could be the Indian theatre tradition and the easy-going attitude to life (life as drama, play) – in the West things are taken more seriously.
    As for women in India, – and in general, – i think it is always a question of being Lakshmi and Durga and Saraswati in one person – would be great but how many can really be so? May be one day…

  6. April 30, 2007 6:57 pm

    I will be back to put in my response. I am a Nigerian who avidly watches Bollywood cinema (grew up with it and am hooked on it). I

  7. vishnuvardhan permalink
    May 2, 2007 6:10 pm

    after i have read ur article i found one interesting thing u haven’t mentioned. my version of now and then : then – women are potrayed as homely and calm. they are shown as dumb and always dependent except in a very few films. now – women are shown cheap and mindless in the name of culture.

    what the bolywood needs is open mind and dare to experiment to show the other side o women : good or bad…..

  8. July 19, 2007 6:55 pm

    Its great to see so many bollywood women opening up and people accepting them. But I believe there needs to be some realism in the whole boloywood script and the role of women. See, in most Indian movies, the heroine is always a good charactered woman. And i think the director wants us to think they’re virgins. Now these girls dance seductively showing off their skin, but they’re virgins. The reality is we’re still a conservative society. There are terrorists in the name of activists or religious fanatics. These people think that revealing oneself is a big crime. And moreover..look at some hindi movies.. No girl walks in the middle of the street in broad daylight wearing a mini skirt. Indian women are beautiful and ya they wear minis at parties and discos..but not in the middle of a market place. Can any director give a good challenging role to all these talented women actors we have in the industry???

  9. July 19, 2007 7:05 pm

    Pradeep, I do not think that realism is what one expects in commerical Bollywood films. If they show girls who are clad like ordinary women on Indian streets, who will go to see the movies? 🙂 After all, its the masses that the directors and producers want to attract…but thankfully some realistic films are also doing well of late.
    at the same time there are women in India who do not think anything is wrong with showing skin. It does not mean that they are immoral in any way, whatever the fanatics think. So if the film is trying to give the message that you may show your skin but you are a good girl..well, I think thats great.
    In fact if you go to rural india you will see women showing skin…and no one considers them immoral.

  10. July 20, 2007 10:16 am

    Now i do not say that women who show off their skin are immoral in any way. You made me look like i’m a chauvnist or something. Well, i’m not. My point was that i do not relate to any character in any bollywood film. I do not see my girlfriend, or my mother or my sister in that movie. And if that is case then why does bollywood brag about showing Indian culture to the world through its films ? In real India, i see smokers, alcoholics, people beating up their wives, rickshaw wallas fighting over 5 rupees, divorces, infidelity, prostitutes, gigolos, perverts and yet i see these men and women fights for their own cause, a cause to live in a society and survive. If they had represented that and more in Indian movies, i’d would have applauded them and said that that’s the real portrayal of our culture.
    And that word “Indian” is so significantly brought forward. I dont see any “Nagas” “Mizos”, “Garhwalis” or “Khasis” in bollywood movies. Or do we have only people who look like SRK or Hritik Roshan in India??? Bollywood is misleading. Its like a big fantasy i accept and people forget their worries for 3 hours. But I do not relate myself to these films. So if these films are Indian..i am not.
    And Bollywood women also means “Hema Malini’ “Jaya Bachan”, “zeenat Aman”..If Amitabh can still play a hero, why do these women have to play just mothers????

  11. July 20, 2007 10:19 am

    Dear Nita,
    I’m quoting this from what you wrote, “If they show girls who are clad like ordinary women on Indian streets, who will go to see the movies?”..does that mean all Indian guys wanna see some skin in movies. Does that mean we’re pervs??

    • Abdullah K. permalink
      August 2, 2009 11:03 pm

      @ Pradeep
      No, it means we are males of the homo-sapien species. I think it is time Indians (men and women alike) accept that having desires or wanting to watch women showing off skin is not perverted or depraved.

  12. July 20, 2007 10:21 am

    I am sorry Pradeep, that is not what I meant. I have written:
    //It does not mean that they are immoral in any way, whatever the fanatics think.//
    I meant the fanatics, not you.
    But I have answered your point about the lack of realism…only when our audience becomes mature will realistic films make as much money as the other kind of films…

  13. July 20, 2007 10:23 am

    No no, you are misunderstanding me…I mean the masses. There was a smilie after that comment! Hey, please!!
    And immediately after that I said masses. Relax!
    And if you want to deny that the masses want to see song and dance and half clad girls, well, the box office figures speak for themselves. This is not even my original opinion! Its generally believed that these kind of masala movies make more money.

  14. July 22, 2007 12:53 pm

    I’m sorry, guess i was a little frustrated when i thought about how many times i have heard “Item songs” and “item girls” in almost all television programs. Isn’t the word “Item” supposed to be a cheap slur? I personally think that “My brother Nikhil” was a better movie than “Murder”. But thats just my opinion. I was watching Abhishek and Ash wedding being covered by all the major news channels and it got me sick. So i believe we have a long way to go before we start seeing any realistic films in Bollywood.
    I do know that regular masala movies make a lot of money in Bollywood. And the producers also invest a lot. These movies could have been better, if they stopped shooting songs in foreign locations and invested that money into finding a good script writer instead. They could probably figure out a way, where there could be an amalgamation between fantasy and realism. It could work !! what do you think Nita?

  15. July 22, 2007 3:50 pm

    I think this is already happening, the trend has started. I know its not significant enough but I see Bollywood making better films. For example cheeni kum was a good movie and it had some masala as well. Metro too was very realistic though a little dark and depressing. Take khosla ka ghosla also. if you compare today’s bollywood to the previous decade, I think we have gone ahead.
    as for trash, there will always be trash films be it bollywood or hollywood. as long as people (producers) have the money! i believe that quite a lot of black money goes into making films…so if there is extra cash people who have no idea about film making or script writing tend to pick directors and scripts based on their personal likes and dislikes. They have the money so they call the shots!

  16. Faz permalink
    October 8, 2007 6:41 pm

    Hey some good points made..glad to finally hear someone who has similar views to me 🙂

  17. Ajith permalink
    March 5, 2008 1:06 pm

    Hi excellnet article. i agree that from being exploited as homely doormats, women are now being explited for skin show. how dare anyoe call a dance number adn item number? it Does have a cheap slur of course!

  18. March 22, 2008 7:56 am

    excellent post, i must say.
    however, i have to ask: why don’t you consider yourself a feminist? i thought this analysis of the position of women in indian media was a very feminist thing to do & say! 🙂

    i also believe that the lack of women directors & producers in bollywood is a shame; women are, of course, well-represented in bollywood as actress & models, but i have yet to see a woman direct or produce a successful bollywood film. if i have, please do correct me.

    Radhika, I don’t mind if you call me a feminist! 🙂 Often men use this term in a derogatory way, that’s why I don’t like it. In fact I like to fight for human rights, but certain men who hate women think that fighting for human rights in fighting for women or something! That’s why I don’t like labels. Thanks for your comment Radhika and thanks for visiting.
    P.S. Yes here are women who have produced successful films but right now I am on holiday so can’t reply to that now! – Nita.

  19. March 22, 2008 7:57 am

    also, sorry to double post, but do you mind if i link to your blog?

    You are welcome! 🙂 – Nita

  20. Ravi permalink
    March 22, 2008 12:04 pm


    Please do not categorize yourself as feminist. They are sick 🙂

    Ravi, feminists have got a bad name and that is why I don’t like to be called that. Actually I am proud of things what are called like woman’s work like looking after and producing children, looking after the home etc, and therefore I would not really qualify for the label! that is, I am not what feminists are generally thought to be but at the same time I believe that women should be highly respected for the work they do and I believe their work is as good as any work! Women get a raw deal in our patriarchal society and I will strongly support women’s issues, just as I support childrens issues and all human rights issues. Including that of language! 😉 – Nita

  21. joininglate permalink
    July 2, 2008 9:46 am

    …enjoyed your writing Nita. True, Bollywood women have changed over the decades. …have you noticed a couple of other changes? almost all the movies(at least the blockbuster ones) have to show a big traditional (read generic,north Indian) wedding with plenty of jewelry, costume and decorations. It is amazing how this has influenced the weddings nowadays, s and they are also becoming much more extravagant than the weddings of the 60s and 70s. (whoever heard of a ‘wedding planner’ those days?) ….another change I notice is that both male and female lead roles are much more slim than they used to be before. Must be all those vigorous dance scenes =)

    Thanks. I guess you are right. Cinema does influence but also the other way round. Cinema also imitates reality so it’s a vicious circle. And this slim fad, I think now we are getting to the western idea of beauty and wanting to discard our curves! 🙂 – Nita.

  22. July 2, 2008 10:53 am

    but i have yet to see a woman direct or produce a successful bollywood film.

    Radhika, a small sample size, and while the definition of “success” is subjective, here are some that are considered successful:
    Aparna Sen (Mr. & Mrs. Iyer), Sai Paranjpe (Chashme-Bud-door, Katha, Sparsh), Farah Khan (Main Hoon Naa, OSO).

  23. menkyi permalink
    September 11, 2008 7:20 pm

    well people…. India is lacking female directors and producers because of its customs and traditions. In India, patriarchal system rules. Womens are not allowed to go beyond the four walls of kitchen,(then), they are demoralize by the traditions like ‘women are confine within the home only n its only the man who go out to hunt for their n family’s livelihood’, ofcourse mans have the priviledge n women does not have. If women were given an opportunity, they too will hunt, who knows they might come back with a good catch! let hope n turn this to reality..up up womens!

  24. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 12, 2008 12:54 am

    @ Amit:

    Sorry I didn’t see this post earlier. You are dead right about the definition of “success” being subjective; but the definition of “Bollywood” is not: it’s just another word for shit.

    And of the three directors you have named, the first two are certainly not “Bollywood”. About the third one, I did not know this name until now maybe that is an indicator that she is “Bollywood”] 🙂

    On the other hand, I can add a few more names to your list of women directors who have given us meaningful (i.e. non-“Bollywood”-even-though-in-Hindi) cinema.

  25. September 12, 2008 9:20 am

    Mr Khadpekar

    Perhaps you have your own definition of bollywood, which only you understand..for me and everybody else, any Hindi film made in India is bollywood

  26. Amit permalink
    September 12, 2008 11:35 am

    Vivek Khadpekar, you’re entitled to your opinion on bollywood – and probably for good reasons – but I don’t quite share it. 🙂

    I like to watch quality movies, and if I find them in bollywood, then I’ll watch them, even though the standards of movie-making as well as content in bollywood, for the most part, are not up to my tastes. Still, a small percentage of them do deliver.

    The debate on what constitutes “bollywood” has been hacked to death, but presently, I go by “Hindi movies produced in Mumbai.” Also, the realist parallel cinema of the 60s-90s no longer exists – what we have today is new directors who are making movies that boldly combine elements of realist parallel cinema as well as traditional bollywood, and succeeding (at least critically, if not always financially). So, the boundaries between “bollywood” and what was once “parallel cinema” have blurred considerably, to the extent that “parallel cinema” is nearly non-existent. I don’t even know when Mani Kaul released his last movie.
    And I would consider Sai Paranjpe as bollywood, though she has her own distinctive style. Again, it depends on your definition of bollywood, and how broadly or narrowly you want to define it.
    You are correct that Aparna Sen is not a bollywood director – I took a bit of liberty to include her in the list.

    Farah Khan, in my opinion, is quite brilliant, and maybe you’ll enjoy her movies (two so far), as she is adept at parodying bollywood and poking fun at it. But I wouldn’t bet my life on it. 🙂

    Who else were you thinking of? I know there’s Kalpana Lajmi from the 90s, and Gulzar’s daughter Meghna directed a movie recently, as did Reema Kagti. But I’ll have to wait and see some more movies by them before forming an opinion.

  27. Amit permalink
    September 12, 2008 11:42 am

    PS. I don’t really care much for the definition of “bollywood” – define it however you want, but at the end of the day, what matters to me is whether a movie was good (my subjective definition) or not – whether it’s in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Bhojpuri, French or Japanese.

  28. September 12, 2008 12:41 pm

    @ Amit

    I am with Amitabh Bachchan on this terminology issue. He says Bollywood is a word that somehow presumes that Hollywood is all superior and others its derivatives. He once almost scolded a BBC reporter while being interviewed live. It was pretty cool 😉

    Indian film industry is far more prolific and serves a wider diversity of audiences – from the chavanni-throwing crowd in the front row to the we-take-ourselves-seriously-intellectuals who patronise only indies and nothing more. That is a trick and a half. I think nearly all Indian films make profits which cannot be said of Hollywood products all the time. That is also an achievement. I cannot always sit through the songs and I do not get to watch many Hindi films but I sought out and watched Omkara, not for the Shakespearean story line but for the ‘Beedi’ song! Much of the old music in my collection actually was born as cinema sound tracks. But it is good music, and the musical and lyrical creativity of the likes of Madanmohan, Naushad, Sahir Ludhianvi etc far exceeds much pop music I have bought.

    In a country of 1B people are hardly going to agree on the ‘good-ness’ of a film. But yes, calling it all ‘shit’ is just Vivek’s now-reliable way of expressing disagreement 🙂

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, Dum Maaro Dum is the world’s most sampled song. BBC4, a serious TV channel for ‘intellectuals’, recently used the tune to promote a new season of programmes on Presidents. Hardly ‘shit’ I would say.

  29. September 12, 2008 12:43 pm

    @ Nita:

    Sorry to digress so far from the topic, but I cannot stand broad-brush dismissal of things and sometimes will defend just for the sake of providing a counter-argument. :-/

  30. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 12, 2008 1:16 pm

    V Mittal,

    //…for me and everybody else, any Hindi film made in India is bollywood…//

    It’s OK if you have a different opinion than I. But please don’t claim to speak for “everybody else.” It is just another example of the “broad-brush” that Shefaly is referring to.

    Let’s be very clear that (1) Hindi cinema is not representative of all Indian cinema; and (2) the term Bollywood, with its pejorative connotations whether you like them or not, does not include all Hindi cinema.

    Just because a film uses the same talent and infrastructure as the 99.99% trash that Bollywood dishes out, it does not automatically qualify as Bollywood. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, film is a director’s medium. It is the director, and the director alone, who can relegate it to or protect it from the Bollywood stigma.

  31. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 12, 2008 1:19 pm


    As far as my information goes, Bollywood does not produce films in Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, French or Japanese.

  32. September 12, 2008 2:26 pm

    Mr Khadpekar

    \\ As I have said elsewhere on this blog, film is a director’s medium \\

    I dont agree, would have agreed to some extent if the director’s job was to essentially include that of a script writer too..

    A script writer creates the scenes and dialogues which run in front of us for a 4 line story..

  33. September 12, 2008 8:39 pm

    As far as my information goes, Bollywood does not produce films in Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, French or Japanese.

    Vivek Khadpekar ji, I thought my intent with that comment was quite clear – I *love* movies of all kinds and from all countries and all languages (including “bollywood”). I find all this debate on what is “bollywood” and what is not, irrelevant, and might I add, boring. Let the director and producer decide whether their movie is “bollywood” or not. What matters to me is not whether a movie is called a “bollywood” movie or not, but whether it is well-acted, has a good story to tell, either entertains me, makes me laugh, moves me or gives me food for thought. Others may have a different criteria, and that’s fine with me. And “bollywood” still produces some that qualify – it always had.

    I think “Manthan” is a beautiful and complex movie which reveals its layers at repeated viewings, the likes of which are quite rare – not just in Indian cinema but world cinema, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a pot-boiler like “Sholay” or laughing when I watch “Angoor” or moved by “Shankarabharanam.”

    I realized that my mentioning of Aparna Sen could’ve been misinterpreted – that was not an attempt to classify her as a “bollywood” director.

  34. September 12, 2008 9:13 pm

    Shefaly, I knew about Amitabh Bachchan’s comments related to that, and I tend to agree.

    Once one has seen enough non-Hollywood movies from around the world, it is easy to realize that so many of Hollywood movies are re-makes, formulaic and rehashes with hackneyed stories. But high standards in editing and special effects, among some other factors, compensate for these weaknesses and are enough to wow most viewers. 🙂
    With few exceptions, critically acclaimed Hollywood movies do not do well at the box office.

  35. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 12, 2008 9:30 pm


    I am surprised to see “Manthan” credited to Bollywood. And Bollywood credited with the ability to handle complexity!!! That is really the limit!!!!

    So now you are branding Shyam Benegal as Bollywood, the same as you earlier branded Aparna Sen, and are now branding K. Vishwanath (I admit that the last couple of minutes of “Shankarabharanam” seemed inspired by typically cheap-popular-thirdrate-shit-Hindi-filmi-Bollywood-melodrama, but that does not damn the whole film).

  36. September 12, 2008 10:10 pm

    I am surprised to see “Manthan” credited to Bollywood. And Bollywood credited with the ability to handle complexity!!! That is really the limit!!!!

    Aha…formatting issues. I see how you misinterpreted my comment.

    The line “I think “Manthan” is a …” should have started as a separate paragraph of its own, and is not a continuation of the thought expressed in the previous line “And “bollywood” still produces some that qualify – it always had.“.

    Nita, could you please fix that comment? Thanks.

    Vivek Khadpekar, seems to me that you are quick to jump to conclusions. I admit my formatting mistake, but seems that you totally glossed over my first sentence “I thought my intent with that comment was quite clear – I *love* movies of all kinds and from all countries and all languages.”

    That is the limit!!!!!!!!!! 😀

    typically cheap-popular-thirdrate-shit-Hindi-filmi-Bollywood-melodrama, but that does not damn the whole film).

    Say it loud every day in the morning when you wake up. I’m sure it’ll make you feel better for the rest of the day and give you great happiness. 🙂

    I bow out of this debate, as it’s getting really silly at this point and quite tangential to the post topic.

  37. Krishnan permalink
    September 13, 2008 5:39 am


    I don’t agree with you at all here. Showing women in strong role doesn’t mean they have to show the lead actresses almost fully naked or very skimplily clad (which has now become the norm in “Bollywood” cinema). The two angles have nothing in common. If anything, I feel that films that show women scantily clad (although the dress or lack-of-dress makes no sense in the story or the setting) actually use naked-lead-actresses for publicity and hype. It works very well.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not against films showing nearly completely naked women if it makes sense in the story or the setting. But in Bollywood movies, naked heroines almost never make sense in the story. In Bollywood naked women look completely out of place. Actresses look like dolls put in the film for exhibition to attract grown up “children”. And they are very successful in doing that.

    I prefer movies like “Khosla ka Ghosla” or “Dil Chahta Hai” anyday. A simple movie like “Khosla ka Ghosla” inadverently shows a strong woman character who stays, works and lives independently, in a different city from her divorced parents, and who is brave enough to choose her own husband, although that woman is not the main focus of the film’s story. It does not have to show the actress prancing around in a bikini to do indicate a “strong woman”.


    I have no idea what you are talking about. If you are addressing the comment to me, kindly quote the lines which you disagree with. – nita.

  38. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 13, 2008 7:40 am


    I plead guilty on most of the counts you have enumerated. No, it’s not formatting issues; as an editor, I can handle those even in my sleep.

    I do realise the import of that first sentence of yours, but if I had not glossed over it, the wholeraison d’être of my comment, and the provocation to keep comments flowing, would have been lost.

    You are right. this debate is getting silly and tangential to the topic of the post. But isn’t that in keeping with a basic law of nature about anything — absolutely anything — to do with the keyword “Bollywood”? Nita gave fair advance notice when she said “I do not think that realism is what one expects in commerical Bollywood films.” At least she was clear about what this post was to be about. It’s people like me (and you, and perhaps Shefaly) who steered it off course.

    (Speaking for myself, sorry for that, Nita).

    Which brings me to Nita’s comment, “cheeni kum was a good movie and it had some masala as well”. I specially took the trouble of seeing that movie (even though it was primarily in Hindi, even though it was on TV, even though it was frequently and rudely interrupted by that stinking excrement of predatory corporate capitalism and the much-hyped “art” of marketing — commercial breaks. On the whole I liked the first half of the movie (except the irritatingly precocious cancer-afflicted pre-teen brat with the stupid nickname “Sexy”), and was very impressed by the actress (NOT “star”) Tabu and the redoubtable Zohra Sehgal (she, of course has her roots on the stage, not in Bollywood, so by a law of nature she HAS to be good, even if the sript is bad). But…

    …Change locale from London to Delhi, and you are back with Bollywood shit. It was almost as if a different director had taken over. With the exception of Tabu, even the cast suddenly change over from acting to hamming. I felt sorry on the one hand, but also felt delighted that my bias against Bollywood was not ill-founded; rather, it was vindicated.

    (Back to Amit): Like you, I too love “good” (though our definitions may differ) films, in languages familiar and unfamiliar, and I don’t think it fair that you should bow out of this debate just because I made some deliberately provocative and ridiculous statements.

    Elaborating slightly on what I said earlier to Mittal, contrary to what many Indians believe and many foreigners are led to believe, Hindi cinema is not representative of all Indian cinema; and the term Bollywood, with its pejorative connotations whether you like them or not, does not include all Hindi cinema. Just because some good films utilise the same talents as Bollywood trash, it does not make those good films “Bollywood”. And while Mittal is entitled to his own opinion, most people who are serious about film do see it as a director’s medium.

    Vivek, As a comment space is conversation there is never any problem if a discussion veers “off-topic,” the only problem is when it becomes unpleasant. I think this conversation has just about managed to keep to civilized discourse! 🙂 In any case, what one looks for in a movie is very subjective. Glad you liked the first half of cheeni kum though! The first half was certainly the better half! There is hope for you yet! 🙂 And the no “irrelevant” comments allowed is not meant for conversations like these as you probably have guessed. There are some jokers who come from search engines, do not understand what they have read, and write some thing awfully irrelevant. – nita.

  39. Guqin permalink
    September 13, 2008 10:12 am

    I will offer my view as a non-Indian: I found most Bollywood movies unspeakably FOOLISH!! But remember, “most”, not “all”. Yet those “most” seem unsympathetic for reality, childishly imitating western kitsch (that is kitsch of the kitsch!), and sometimes even a supposely serious drama still turns out like a comedy. For instance, I saw one which was supposedly an epic based on recorded ancient history, but it truned out an immitation of Hong Kong Kung-Fu movie! (Camera work, fight sequences, even language.) And as indicated at the beginning of the movie, it was supposed to be dedicated to Dalai Lama! Unless Dalai Lama is a fan of Jacky Chan, otherwise he would feel puzzled if not mocked.

    However I did see a very good one, “Swades” (unfortunately, the male lead is the same fellow in the above movie), it was about a NASA scientist returning to India to serve his motherland. The movie was long, developed itself quietly but confidently. I was most impressed by the director’s handling of the natural setting of the Indian villege constrasting the noble yet humble air the female lead carried along (The male lead failed to respond to her effective acting.).

    Another moving one that I saw recently was “Raincoat”, only at the end I realized that the story was transformed from a famed French short story (“Neck Lace”?). But still, it was an effective one. And even Aishwarya Rai’s acting was acceptable in it.

    However, I should point out a unique quality of Bollywood movies, that is, to inspired viewers they do reveal a secret that, India is a free society of the soul while the west is only a free society of the mind. One can see this most clearly by contrasting Bollywood movies to U.S. or U.K. movies. In a bad U.K./U.S. comedy, actors pretend to laugh. In a bad Bollywood movie, actors still laugh heartedly. People in the west “decide” to be free. Freedom to them is a concept, they follow the command of that concept. For people of India, freedom is a quality, they live that way without even knowing it. So one can see that even the foolishness in Bollywood is still a natural and innocent one, like a child’s, it can be annoying, but never offensive, while the foolishness in Hollywood as I found it is unhealthy and offensive.

    It was great to hear your views on bollywood movies! Not many foreigners like them and it’s good to hear that you liked swadesh. It had a nice story. And yes Raincoat was a powerful movie too, although a copy. Aishwarya did a good job in it. Interesting to hear your take on freedom! Never looked at it that way. thanks Gugin. – nita.

  40. Krishnan permalink
    September 13, 2008 10:25 am


    I would have to quote your entire article then. The theme of your article seems to be pointing that more skimpily a woman is clad, more “strong” she is. Which is what I disagree with. And honestly, I can’t see how you can call a woman wearing skimpy dress in a 2007 movie as a “breath of fresh air”. Seriously, that is hilarious. It seems as if you are coming out of time-warp where Bollywood movies are concerned.

    To quote you: “We have moved on since then. Take Dhoom 1 (2004). Abhishek’s wife (played by Rimi Sen) is shown to be sexy, dressed in skimpy western attire but hardworking and loving and thankfully does not have prove her Indianness by conducting poojas and dressing in sarees! That was like a breath of fresh air and broke the stereotype.”

    Let me ask you this. How many films did you see where yesteryear heroines like Madhuri Dixit or Juhi Chawla or Dimple Kapadia acted as characters dressed in decent saris, conducting poojas (compared to the number of movies they acted as college-going, western-dress-wearing, “modern” women)?

    The Bollywood that you are talking about (showing heriones conducting poojas) was gone in by 70s itself (with the release of Bobby). You might find exceptions here and there. But the trend, since then, has been exactly the reverse of what you are saying. Characters (men or women) valuing Indian traditions are generally cast as comedians (downright heckled at) and even worse as villains too. This is especially true in Bollywood. How many commercially-successful movies have been released in the last 20 years that have shown the herione as “pooja-conducting-woman”? “Choli ke Peeche” was shown to be sung by a woman of very strong character in the movie “Khal-Nayak”. And that movie was released 15 years back.

    There are countless Bollywood movies which show Orange-robed Swami’s as villians (mostly wolf in sheep’s clothing – Halla Bol is a good example). Think yourself, how many recent, mainstream Bollywood movies have shown Swamis to be really holy, doing something good for society and mankind?

    I shudder to even think if you consider Bollywood as anti-women because they show heroines conducting poojas (which to my eyes, they have rarely done in the last 30 years), what you would say about the movies of the South.

    Dress of a heroine has little to do with her potrayal of a woman as strong or weak. RGV’s movie Sarkar (based on Godfather) was actually a remake of his own Telugu movie Gaayam (meaning wound or bruise). In that Telugu movie, the role of Katrina Kaif was played by an actress called Revathi. You couldn’t find diametrically opposite potrayals of more or less the same character. Revathi never wore bikinis or skimpy dresses, yet her character strongly projected the aura of a really strong, independent woman. Katrina Kaif, despite the western dress, was relatively useless in the Hindi version.


    When you say:

    I would have to quote your entire article then. The theme of your article seems to be pointing that more skimpily a woman is clad, more “strong” she is.

    it is sheer nonsense. If you continue to misrepresent me, I shall not publish any more comments on this subject. Yes Rimi Sen was a breath of fresh air but the reason I have given is also clear. Also when I said strong woman I have mentioned the movie fanaa and mugale azam. I don’t even know why I am bothering to clarify when instead of aplogising for your mistake you are contining to misrepresent what I said. I am very surprised at your attitude. Please read my comment policy before you post any further comments. While I publish contrary views, I do not publish comments that twist my words. Thanks in advance for not continuing to twist my words. Your lack of understanding of my article is also clear when you mentioned the orange robes villains! Please read my sentence carefully. I have not said that bollywood does not show them as villains. If you are not bothered to read my article properly or cannot understand it, kindly desist from posting comments.
    P.S. Just to clarify about Rimi Sen’s character in Dhoom, I have not seen any bollywood movie where a woman (as a married lady ofcourse, this is obvious to anyone who has seen the movie) is dressed in skimpy clothes, is sexy, seductive, and yet shown as hardworking, cooking and cleaning and being a good human being, a loving wife. If there are movies where women in bollywood movies are shown this way, it is more now than earlier, I don’t know any seventies movies or even early 80’s where married women were shown like this. – nita.

  41. Guqin permalink
    September 13, 2008 10:27 am

    One of the commentators above wrote: “Please do not categorize yourself as feminist. They are sick “.

    Same reason for the disticntion between Bollywood foolishness and Hollywood foolishness. The later is only a concept, people follow the command of the concept. That is how they turn sick.

    Though still very imperfect, China is the true “feminist” nation since her “feminisim” is a hearted one but a minded one. But only poeple who have been to China can really understand what I mean.

    You said it Gugin! I agree China is truly the real feminist nation if you take feminism in its holistic sense, as a fight for the rights of women. I am totally in awe of China because of this. – nita.

  42. Guqin permalink
    September 13, 2008 1:04 pm

    To Nita,
    I just noticed that you always spelled my name as gugin though it is in fact guqin, and I also noticed others spelled it some other ways too. In order to avoid confussion, do you mind from now on, I use my first name jian instead?

  43. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 13, 2008 1:20 pm

    Slightly off-topic and certainly esoteric: I am currently reading Dileep Padgaonkar’s “Under her Spell: Roberto Rossellini in India” (Penguin/Viking, 2008; 262 pages; hardcover Rs. 550).

    While it does inevitably include the scandal involving Rossellini and Sonali Dasgupta, it is a fascinating revelation of India 10 years after independence, of how Rossellini perceived the differences and similarities between Indian and Western civilisations, and how one of the most outstanding European directors of his time went about making the film in the harsh conditions obtaining in India and in the midst of the mess he had made of his personal life.

    The characters of Rossellini himself, his by-then estranged wife Ingrid Bergman and, in a cameo appearance, Pandit Nehru, are the real stars of the story. For those interested in scandal and titillation, of course, there is Sonali Dasgupta, but by today’s standards, 50 years down the line, that part of the story is quite insipid.

    A must-read for anyone who would like to understand film as something beyond what Hollywood and Bollywood dish out. Padgaonkar’s own insights into the medium are amazing, as is his lucid writing.

  44. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 13, 2008 1:52 pm


    I just read your comment of 10:12 am above. Some of your observations on the differences between India and the west are amazingly similar to those of Rossellini as described by Padgaonkar in the book on which I have said a few words (1:20 pm).

  45. September 13, 2008 5:51 pm

    Lovely post Nita. I hope it is fine if I link this post to one I wrote about ‘Changing Times’, and how our advertisements and movies depict women better now.
    One sentence struck me though, you say //I am not a feminist. In the sense that I am proud of being a woman and proud of women’s work//
    For years I too defended the fact that I believed that all humans should be treated humanely, men, women and children. I believed in justice for all humans but was reluctant to call myself a feminist. Then I read this post by Alankrita. I think you might wish to take a look at this.

    Thanks IHM. Ofcourse you can link this post…and about the post you mentioned, like the writer says feminist is not a bad word. I myself have never thought so…never once. Others think so. That is why I don’t want to be called a “feminist” by people, because it could well be an insult. And it is an insult because those people take a few extreme example of feminists and use it as a stick to beat feminists with. And to be frank with you, I am not a “feminist” because a few I have spoken to think quite differently from me. While I respect their views, I personally don’t like any labels put on me. – nita

  46. September 13, 2008 9:30 pm

    Vivek Khadpekar,

    Yes, I am aware that not all Hindi movies are “bollywood” and I do not equate Hindi cinema with Indian cinema. That’s why I mentioned Viswanath’s movie in my list. I was exposed to non-Hindi Indian movies while growing up, and I continue to watch such movies even today – to the extent that they are available here. I don’t simply dismiss a movie because it’s not in Hindi. But it is true that many do equate Indian cinema with “bollywood,” just like many equate American movies with Hollywood – both are ubiquitous and heavily promoted, and there are much better movies to be found outside these two if people chose to go looking for them. My definition of “bollywood” that I mentioned earlier is simply a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule, and I am quite happy to leave it to the director to decide.

    Thanks for the book recommendation – it looks interesting and I’ll see if the library has it. Though I enjoy movies by Antonioni, de Sica and Bertolucci more than Rossellinni or Fellini, among Italian directors. Have you read “Our films, their films” by Satyajit Ray? It has many interesting essays on Indian cinema as well as world cinema.

  47. September 13, 2008 9:56 pm

    A few busy days at work and I miss the dirtiest mud-fight on this blog since the North-South/Hindi battle!

    Even though late into this “debate”, I would love to throw a punch or two, at bollywood of course.

    Firstly, of the last 10 hindi movies that were recommended to me, only 2 were good. One was a rip-off, scene for scene (Bheja Fry). The other (Khosla Ka Ghosla) was finally one that broke a huge streak of disappointments (no thanks to the acting of Tara Sharma).

    But the fact of the matter remains, if I get to see 1 good movie in every 10 that I do watch, I would be highly inclined to call the entire industry a load of crap. It is pure and simple statistics and population sampling. I also think it is imperative to add, most of the movies that I have watched, have been recommended highly and have been “critically acclaimed”. This includes Taare Zameen Pe/Par(?), Chak De! India, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Corporate, Cheeni Kum, Nishabd, Aaja Nachle and Metro.

    When the day arrives that we start making movies like Chatri Chor (even though it was a kids movie), Maqbool, Being Cyrus (though it is debatable if this movie is in fact bollywood), and the like more frequently, (1 in 10 just isn’t good enough), I might be inclined to recant my branding of the entire industry.

    On a slightly different note, Bollywood loves calling itself an “industry”. Now, I can’t seem to fathom why! The objective of industry is to re-create a working formula, making a 100,000 cars, or half million cell phones! Their objective is to deviate as little from the pre-set requirements. Sure there is research in Industry, but it is least associated with industry and most of the time (at least in the US) is only funded by industry!

  48. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 13, 2008 11:39 pm


    //I enjoy movies by Antonioni, de Sica and Bertolucci more than Rossellinni or Fellini, among Italian directors.//

    …then, I am sure, you will find this book very interesting, as most of the people you name, besides Godard and Truffaut from across the border, seem to have had ambivalent views about Rossellini. Except de Sica and Antonioni, who were both about the same age as Rossellini and had longer careers. The rest, on the one hand looked up to him as their guru, but also developed serious differences with him as their own careers developed.

    I myself don’t recall seeing anything by Rossellini other than “Stromboli”. I look forward to receiving a restored copy (on DVD) of his “India Matri Bhumi” by next month, courtesy a ciontact in Dublin.

    //Yes, I am aware that not all Hindi movies are “bollywood” and I do not equate Hindi cinema with Indian cinema.//

    I know you are, and I know you do not; that barb was aimed at the several people on this blog, in various posts, who are not, and who do. While on the topic, it is not only the last few minutes of Shankarabharanam that I found Bollywoodish. A lot of loud and garish treatment at various points in it leaves me cold. But it cannot be denied its rightful place as a landmark film, at least in Telugu. And its subtle political subtext, which not too many people discuss, makes it all that much more attractive.

  49. September 14, 2008 1:47 am

    To make it more interesting….

    When the day arrives that we start making movies like Chatri Chor (even though it was a kids movie), Maqbool, Being Cyrus (though it is debatable if this movie is in fact bollywood), and the like more frequently, (1 in 10 just isn’t good enough), I might be inclined to recant my branding of the entire industry.

    And do you come to the same (or similar) conclusion when you sample movies that Hollywood produces? Why? Why not? 🙂

  50. September 14, 2008 6:37 am


    Yes I do. I use the same standards (be it high or low) for both “industries”. I know I am very hard to please when I watch mainstream movies, and even movies like The Dark Knight often fail to please. However, the amount of movies that I find entertaining (or other criteria for my liking a movie) within Hollywood are far greater as compared to bollywood. I use these terms loosely, as I often forget that some movies are British made. I have tried to make sure I have eliminated all such movies, but if I have failed to do so, I apologize in advance.

    If you want to gauge my treatment of Hollywood movies, here are my last 10. The Shining (I realize it is unfair to pit Kubrick against most bollywood directors, The Dark Knight, Fracture, Dan In Real Life, Reservation Road, 27 Dresses, Definitely Maybe (Don’t judge me on the last two… I was going through a brain dead phase), No Country For Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Hancock, Into the Wild. I might have missed some movies… so I apologize if this isn’t the most accurate list. Also, if you are wondering why there are 11 movies, it is because I think it is unfair to count The Shining in that list.

    Now off that list, I hated two of them (quite obviously), absolutely loved Fracture, No Country.. and Reservation Road. The other 5, were entertaining to various degrees and none of them left me feeling drained or worse, wanting to shoot myself in the genitals to make me forget the pain they were causing. Oh yeah, Hancock sucked too. so thats 3 crappy movies out of 10, 3 great movies and 4 watchable movies and only two of those movies came highly recommended (Dark Knight and No Country…)

    I hope I have adequately responded to your question(s).

  51. Jian (Guqin) permalink
    September 14, 2008 7:06 am

    To Vevik

    My initial observations were made between China and U.S., then I saw the similarities in the India/west case. But I think the China/west case is even more pronounced.

  52. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 14, 2008 7:19 am


    You said that there was “hope for [me] yet” because I liked half of a Bollywood movie.

    Along comes DD’s latest comment (13/9; 9:56 pm) and I find three names (besides Cheeni Kum) of movies that I have heard of and two that I have actually seen at least in part (if only because someone had the idiot-box on, and my normal escapes — to the bedroom with book or i-pod, or out to visit friends — were not feasible).

    I found Maqbool very much to my liking, with nuances and complexities, and not trying to wish away its non-cowbelt “madrasi” setting and identities (Hey! It did NOT even have a character called Raja — Raju by his girl friend and mujrim Raja in the last-but-one reel by an apoplectically screaming prosecution lawyer and by a judge spouting heavily Farsi-laden-Urdu). How can a film like that qualify as Bollywood?

    Chak De, despite the heart-warming main storyline, thoroughly turned me off with its blatant propaganda line, trying to make the viewer feel guilty about multiple cultural identitities and loyalties in order to promote unidimensional, Hindi-dominated chest-thumping nationalism. Now that was typical Bollywood.

    Maybe your optimism about me is premature. 🙂

  53. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 14, 2008 7:30 am

    @DD (14/9; 6:37 am):

    WOW! I am impressed! (In fact I am out of my depth). You are a natural misfit in the Bollywood-loving classes. May your tribe prosper! 🙂

  54. September 14, 2008 7:54 am

    Vivek, you took a light remark I made rather seriously. I personally loved all those movies DD mentioned because I can love a movie despite its flaws, a movie doesn’t have to be perfect for me to enjoy it. I always can see its flaws though as you will realise if you read my movie reviews. And I don’t care about the “thumping” propaganda stuff, not in a movie. For me a movie is not reality…its entertainment. Maybe your idea of entertainment is different. Like DD mentioned the word “watchable.” That’s what I mean. I may not give a movie 5 stars and if you see I don’t give stars at all. There are very very few movies which I think are worth 5 stars anyway…and As good as it gets (hollywood) is one I would give this honour too. I would give dark knight about two and a half stars and the latest mummy movie one and a half star (all these hollywood). 27 Dresses was the most awful movie i have seen in a long time and I would give it half star. A bad hollywood movie makes me grit my teeth in pain (I don’t know why) but a bad bollywood movie simply bores me.
    If you ask me honestly, no I don’t think you will enjoy bollywood unless the movie is perfect and fits in with your other requirements. I don’t know about DD.

  55. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 14, 2008 8:35 am


    You didn’t notice the smiley at the end. 🙂

  56. September 14, 2008 8:40 am

    Great one Nita! As I told earlier, our cinema gains a world wide recognition only if the female characters are realistic enough. As long as they show them as bimbos nothing’s gonna change. Unfortunately, not many heroines ae fortunate enough to pick and choose the roles, like how Kajol does. I think th heroines have to be careful with the way they choose the roles right from the beginning of their career. That was what Kajol did. She never played any useless role and that is why she can choose roles today.

  57. September 14, 2008 9:06 am

    How can a film like that qualify as Bollywood?

    It can if one thinks of “bollywood” as non-static, and changing with the times and with new (next generation) directors with new ideas. 😉 🙂

  58. Jian permalink
    September 14, 2008 10:13 am

    I wonder if Nita would write a seperate post on Indian films from different times that depict India truthfully. It would be very helpful for foreign viewers like myself.

    Excellent idea for a post and will certainly keep it in the draft folder. One movie of recent times that comes to mind is Satya which is of the Mumbai underworld. But this idea excites me! There is so much to say…! – Nita.

  59. September 14, 2008 10:53 am

    Jian, if you are looking for realism, among Hindi directors, look up movies by Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, MS Sathyu and Mani Kaul. Check out imdb for their movies, though you may have a hard time finding them on DVD or VHS – still some should be available on Netflix or the library. Or you can also watch movies by Satyajit Ray to get another sense of India. Or Ritwik Ghatak.

    I’m sure others can add more directors to the list from their regions/states as each region/state has its own story to tell.

  60. Jian permalink
    September 14, 2008 11:19 am

    Thanks, Nita and Amit.

    By the way, Nita, in case you missed my earlier note. I am just Guqin. I just decided to use my first name from now on….

    I figured out you were Jian a long time ago! 🙂 You left a note in Chinese on one of my China posts and that was when I checked the IP and found a similarity with yours. That was why I approved the comment despite not being able to read it! 🙂 btw, isn’t the “J” silent when you pronounce your name? – nita.

  61. Jian permalink
    September 14, 2008 11:56 am

    Thanks for trusting Nita. The j isn’t silent. Though there is no equivalent in English, it is similar to the j in “jade”. The whole word somewhat sounds like “jen”.

  62. September 14, 2008 12:59 pm

    Nice post Nita. I liked the way you have put it across. Just to put across the other side of Bollywood too: The way men are portrayed in Bollywood – Over protective of the women around them and hence leading to a position that all good men have to fight and ensure that there is no ill done to their women. I don’t have any objection if men fight but if that results in the marginalization and suppression of women, that is not correct.

    I wish all mothers are like the mother of Jai in the movie “Jaane Tu ya Jaane Naa” when she says that if the police officer was talking nonsense to her, it was her problem and her son need not intervene with that. Especially as he was about to hit a police officer in duty. Women have their own ways of dealing with people just like men do. My school principal told the entire school one day when he got calls from a couple of companies asking him not to send girls for sponsorship for the school culturals that – “The companies do not understand that girls are much more powerful than boys. I told them straight that I am not afraid of any thing happening to them because they can handle situations much better than boys” I wish the society can understand this.

    Destination Infinity

  63. September 14, 2008 5:50 pm

    DI, important point you raised! True, men have this huge responsibility to be protective towards their women, to the extent that they are supposed to give up their life…remember that film Karan Arjun where the mother exhorts the sons to take revenge on her behalf? This may not the right example for everyday situations and at times men are required to protect men due to their greater physical strength (for example from a rapist) but in a general way you are right.
    I manage the men on this blog quite fine don’t you think? 🙂 99% of those who have abused me or otherwise harassed me on this blog are men and all are Indian men. I haven’t mentioned even one incident to my husband as it will hassle him a great deal! 🙂 and he might feel obliged to do something! 🙂
    But by the way there are people who advise to partner with men on a blog as it scares off potential abusers, specially if the blog writes on sensitive subjects. I think it is true, men do get scared off by other men. I remember my first abuse incident on this blog, and at the time I was also on Mutiny and a lot of people (men) came to my defense, and that sort of made the abusers run away. If you are a lone woman they come at you again and again, I have to resort to block their mails otherwise they don’t stop. In fact there are some people who write against me on their own blogs! I can never understand the necessity for anyone to do this as everyone has a right to their opinion on any issue in India. – nita.

  64. September 14, 2008 9:05 pm

    @Vivek: While we seem to think almost along parallels as far as Hindi movies go, I disagree with your position over Maqbool. I do hope you were just joking.

    As for Chak De, the “heart-warming” storyline was a sappy attempt at pop-patriotism, and that really irks me. The movie was REALLY REALLY bad, a poor script, a theme rip-off from A League of Their Own (where the coach gets injured, I believe), and really poor performances from the entire cast. The only reason i gave it a 2/10 is that there was finally a mainstream movie that wasn’t about cricket.

    @Nita: While I am usually very difficult to please, I will often allow for a little suspension of reality. For instance, with Wanted, I suspended some reality with “curving” bullets and adrenaline-induced Matrix-like reflexes. Those were critical to the fictional world of Wanted and I granted it those concessions. But I can’t and don’t grant concessions when it comes to plain and simple logic and attention to detail. For instance the fight scene between the butcher and the “hero”. The butcher shoves a blade (while trying to attack) into mcavoys gun. Mcavoy then fires the gun into the butchers chest, and goes on to kick the blade into him completely. Note, the sharp end is sticking OUT of the butcher and not vice versa. So when Mcavoy kicks, he is essentially skewering his foot. That earned some huge negative points for the movie. The same goes with The dark knight. They expected me to suspend all reality while trying to “explain” the comic.

    Hmm, you are talking of mistakes. It shows incompetence, and I do agree that hollywood movies have less of these instances. However, my enjoyment of a movie has not much to do with these things unless it is very stupid or there are too many of these little mistakes. A couple of small mistakes do not take away my enjoyment of the movie. Ofcourse neither would I give a movie like this 5 stars. For example in the movie I saw yesterday, A wednesday, the vehicles going towards “Juhu” were going round and round the same road and anyone familiar with Mumbai would realise that. It was irritating and insulting to the viewer and also showed laziness on the part of the director. – nita.

  65. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 14, 2008 10:02 pm

    @ DD:

    I cannot comment on your disagreement with my position over Maqbool, as I am not clear about the exact points on which you differ. I think I clarified my position adequately, however cock-eyed it may have sounded to some readers.

    Regarding Chak De, I think we are really on the same wavelength. You have put it better than I, especially by placing “heart-warming” in quotation marks (wish I’d thought of that; and also of pop-patriotism). 🙂

  66. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 14, 2008 10:12 pm


    //…if one thinks of “bollywood” as non-static, and changing with the times…//

    The biochemical transformation of crap to manure to compost is also “non-static and changing with the times.” And it contributes to sustenance, which bollywood doesn’t.

  67. September 15, 2008 12:05 am

    Vivek, you’re a funny man and your comments are quite amusing. 🙂

    Looks like “bollywood is shit” is your gayatri mantra that you recite every day. 😀

  68. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 6:40 am


    Not as religiously as all that, but certainly, save retreating to the Himalayas, there is no way one can entirely escape the defiling shadow of Bollywood. Hence my Pavlovian responsse to it (since Pavlov’s experiments were with dogs, you would understand that my attitude to Bollywood is the same as that of a dog to a lamp-post).

    Since you mention the gayatri mantra, its last five words … धीमहि, धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात् … addressed to the as[s]trals of Bollywood, certainly seem to determine the life-fulfilment and the weltanschauung of a vast proportion of our countrymen 🙂

  69. September 15, 2008 7:24 am

    @Nita: I don’t think that is a “mistake”. I believe it to be more a case of lack of attention to detail. A mistake is probably the shadow of a mic, or a reflection of the crew in a window or something as subtle as that. Often these elements can be found at the extremities of the viewing area and hence are missed by people “proofing” the scenes. However, what I mentioned about Wanted was integral to the scene and it shows the laziness of the crew and their estimation of the audience’s intelligence.

    As you might realize, I feel more insulted by lack of attention to detail in movies as compared to mistakes. Also, no matter how crappy the movie, it doesn’t take much to ensure the integrity of the movie. Failure to do so, for me, indicates the “artists” estimation of his own work; so in conclusion, why should I respect the work when the artist him/herself does not?

    Respect is one thing, enjoyment is another! 🙂 I do respect those who provide me with entertainment though. That’s a different kind of respect. I enjoy thriller novels for instance and respect the writer for providing me with a good time, although I might respect a literature writer more. However if you can’t enjoy then ofcourse there is no reason to respect. I have a very different way of looking at it. – nita.

  70. September 15, 2008 7:25 am

    @Vivek: I was indicating to your statement that because Maqbool was well made, it can’t be bollywood. Or maybe I just misunderstood you.

  71. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 8:42 am


    No, you didn’t misunderstand me. By cicuitous logic, everything “bollywood” is bad; if it is not bad then it is good; ergo it’s not bollywood.

  72. September 15, 2008 8:55 am

    @Vivek: rofl… Now I know you are joking… or just trying to get under someone’s skin!

    You just realised that Vivek likes to make provocative statements? 🙂 – nita.

  73. September 15, 2008 9:41 am

    @Nita: I realized on some earlier posts that Vivek would try to annoy the people that took themselves too seriously. But over here, for a moment I really thought he was being serious… until that last comment. I guess I was being too thick skinned.

  74. September 15, 2008 10:00 am

    Dear Mr Khadpekar

    \\ madrasi” setting and identities \\

    \\ Chak De, despite the heart-warming main storyline, thoroughly turned me off with its blatant propaganda line, t\\

    Reading above comments of yours i understand why you dont like bollywood..because it represent North Indian culture

    But i felt sad that in case of Chak De…you didn’t like it as it advocates idea of India as a united country…… and not as a country where regionalist scum are eager to cut each other’s throat 🙂

  75. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 11:20 am

    @ V Mittal:

    //…didn’t like it as it advocates idea of India as a united country…//

    Just add to that the words “…as perceived and ordained by the Hindi imperialist North Indian scum,” and you are bang on!

  76. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 11:23 am

    @V Mittal:

    I guess you still do not realise that what you implicitly hail as “nationalism” is just the regionalism of the north.

  77. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 11:29 am


    I notice that the first of my two preceding comments has gone into moderation, possibly because I used the term “imperialist scum” in it.

    Until now I have never raised a question about quite a few of my comments being thus subjected to pre-censorship, respecting your prerogative as the owner and moderator of this blog.

    But if it is all right for V Mittal use the expression “regionalist scum” I don’t understand why I should be subjected to discriminatory treatment.

    Vivek, I find that you jump to conclusions many a time. Both you and Vivek M are not on moderation, either by IP or by name and nor is the word “scum” or the word “imperialist” or the word “regionalist” so there is no question as to me putting you “on moderation.” I have made it clear several times on this blog why comments go into moderation but it looks like you have not read them. I had an unpleasant encounter with Raj on this issue where (on email) he accused me of being partial to Vivek M because Vivek M’s comment passed through while his didn’t. Frankly I am fed of these silly accusations. Please note that I am not reading comments the instant they appear, I don’t have that kind of time!! And now that both these comments are already on air, do you feel it is necessary for me to delete them? If you and Vivek M do, let me know. As you can clearly see, not a single word of your comment has been deleted. – nita.

  78. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 11:34 am

    V Mittal:

    Your diagnosis of my dislike of bollywood is wide of the mark. It is not “because it represent [sic] North Indian culture” but because it seeks to pass off that culture (or rather the dregs of it) as an all-India culture.

  79. vivekmittal permalink
    September 15, 2008 11:47 am

    Mr Khadpekar

    I dont mind “scum” you have made me and perhaps many others habitual of this term 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for your clarification for your dislike of bollywood…that it has nothing to do with the quality of Cinema… but has to do with your interpretation of it’s agenda

  80. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 1:00 pm


    I had no intention of offending you or insinuating any personal motive. I just pointed out what had happened, and also clarified that I had never raised this issue before this. I have no problem with your deleting my comment of 11:29 am; in any case it has now become irrelevant.

  81. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 15, 2008 1:04 pm

    V Mittal:

    You are right about my issue being with Bollywood’s agenda. About its cinematic quality, I never had the slightest doubt that it was anything but the pits.

  82. Segue permalink
    September 15, 2008 10:22 pm


    In reference to one of your early responses, it’s never too late to change the fashion and start wearing the saree that is most comfortable to you (if that is the Maharashtrian saree). Fashion is changed by courage and beauty and self-awareness. People confuse the clothing with the person. This is my experience; it’s not what you wear, but HOW you wear it.

    That’s a wonderful thing to say and I agree. But one has to have that extra special thing to carry it off. The inner confidence that some women have naturally. All can’t do it. – Nita.

  83. February 2, 2009 10:29 pm

    I liked this article. I’m pure foreigner. My son befriended a fellow of Indian Decent (I say Indian decent because this kid has been through several countries before landing in this one and taking up root.) He has lent my son some Bollywood movies, while we have lent him some Hollywood movies.

    This has been FUN!!! I have enjoyed almost all of them. They are fun and energetic to watch. After watching Bhool Bulayaah, (please forgive my spelling if I screw it up) I commented to my son about the use of women in these movies. In a typical Hollywood movie, a woman has become masculinized to the point of being a put off. Which may be why Hollywood women are constantly overshadowed by younger women after just a few years. The only way these women can attract men’s attention is by doing nude or sex scenes.

    I was looking up the names of these women in the movies and seeing that these women are 25-40 years old. If these women were this age and in U.S. these women would have their hair lobbed off, they would be dressed in business suits. They would show no sign of affection towards men except is it pertains to just meaningless sex. And every movie they were in, they would be portrayed as having no permanent relationship while hoping to fall in love.

    I haven’t seen the contrast between the women dressed in traditional clothes being good versus jeans being bad. What impresses me is how stunningly attractive and feminine these women are without having to be downright trashy. I’ve seen both of the Dhoom movies (#1 without subtitles but I still got the basic gist of what was going on.) I have also seen Jodaa Akbar and Asokah. These were some great pictures. They could easily sell anywhere in the world.

    Your blog is interesting. I’ll enjoy exploring it.

  84. Milind Kher permalink
    March 5, 2009 11:23 pm

    When you talk of modern bollywood women, one person genuinely worthy of mention is Katrina Kaif.

    What a professional. Never a catty comment. Never any cribbing. Just puts her head down and works. And the way she is working at her Hindi. Amazing. The lady is the best thing that ever happened to Bollywood.

    So how does this relate to Bollywood’s depiction of women? It does. Katrina has shown that you do not need skin shows, you do not need vulgarity to progress.

    We need more women like that.

  85. May 27, 2009 11:19 am

    ya its nice journyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  86. Tine M. Jakobsen permalink
    March 7, 2010 12:49 am

    Hi Nita,

    I just found your blog and I find it really interesting!

    I am doing a research paper on women in Bollywood and wondered if you could recommend some literature, articles, etc.? I will mostly focus on early Bollywood, around the 40s and 50s and try to compare with the situation for women in Hollywood at the same time.

    I hope you see this, and have the time to help me out with some recommendations!


  87. Bonnie permalink
    May 24, 2011 9:55 pm

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and original post, Nita.
    You have bolstered my faith in blogs! As one of
    the many non-Indian Hindi film watchers (who has converted both her
    children as well), I’ll just mention that Om Shanti Om, Swades, Kuch Kuch
    Hota Hai and Dostana are some of the films I would recommend to first-time Bollyviewers. My Name is Khan is a very flawed film but is one I would
    recommend to someone who wants something more serious and dislikes
    musicals. And don’t forget about one of the best films of all: Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dor. Now that’s a film for anyone who believes in furthering social justice and human rights.

  88. aditi permalink
    February 18, 2012 11:34 pm

    i like this n want to add – the evil n the good character doesn’t come from clothes . it depends on the people, how is the person? . is the person is good by heart or not ? these all decides the character of a person not the way he or she dressed.


    • April 10, 2012 12:34 pm

      Cloth shows the character of a person. A doctor can’t do the good job when wore police uniform. Dress sense is directly affected to a person. If a person is nude then what you say? You are arguing that character is depend upon person not on the cloth…..

      • Abhijeet permalink
        July 12, 2012 10:18 pm

        agree with u……. bt not totaly……
        anywaz…. gud ans……


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