INTRODUCTION A treatise purporting to deal with the Indian Media’s, more specifically the Indian cinema’s treatment of women, cannot but take into account the background and history of the status of the Indian woman. The images we have of women and the roles that they play in society are not merely a biological or social development but are also a result of the myths, legends, culture and religion of the society we live in. This is more especially true of Indian culture.
Although in the west, the Virgin Mary is revered and respected, she is however not presented as a role model who ought to be emulated. While in India legendary figures like Sita and Savitri are considered just that. The Indian woman has long been an object of fascination both to westerners and to Indians themselves. She has been the subject of countless works of art and literature, from the ancient epics and cave paintings and voluptuous statuary of the Ajanta and Ellora caves and the temple art of Khajuraho to the modern day novels, calendars and cinema.
Whether bejeweled and ornamented or concealed behind a veil, revered as mother and goddess or despised as a widow, she has most often been portrayed as a graceful, sensuous and mysterious creature, loving and gentle, in need of protection and guidance, yet strong and hardworking, bearing with dignity and patience the cruel blows of fate. (a) HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Research through ancient Hindu texts and traditions reveals that until 500 BC, women in India enjoyed considerable freedom in all spheres of life. The status of women in Hindu society at the start of what is called the “Vedic Age’ (c. 500 – 1500 BC) was much better than what we ordinarily expect it to have been. There was not much distinction between boys and girls. Girls were educated like boys. The marriageable age of girls was considered to be 16 or 17. Naturally educated girls of this age had an effective voice in the selection of their partners in life. There was practically no seclusion of women and there was complete freedom of movement. Women had an absolute equality with men in religious ceremonies and in fact held a prominent position in social and religious gatherings.
The position of the wife was an honored one in the family as marriage was considered to be a religious necessity for both men and women and neither could reach heaven without the other. The custom of ‘sati’ whereby a widow had to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre was not in vogue at all. In fact, a widow could if she liked, contract another marriage. From 1500 BC onwards gradual changes took place in the position of women. There was a steady decline in the education of women, the system of sending girls to learned teachers or famous centers of education began to be discouraged.
Hence, this led to a decline in the religious education of women which in turn led to a curtailment of the privileges that a woman enjoyed in religious ceremonies. Although ‘Purdah’ (veil) was altogether unknown, women had practically stopped attending public meetings. By 500 AD, the position of women had deteriorated considerably. The marriageable age of girls was lowered to ten, which put an impediment in their higher education. In fact all education of girls was discouraged. Brides being too young and inexperienced thus had no say in the settlement of their marriages.
Widow Remarriage was discouraged as well. Even worse, the custom of Sati was introduced. It started with the warrior classes but soon spread wider in society. From 500 AD onwards, women began to be considered inferior to men in all spheres of life. In the writings of this age, popularly known as the ‘Smriti Age’, was embedded the notion that a woman must always be subordinate to men. (Altekar, 1983) However, it is interesting to note that unlike Christianity, Judaism or Islam, the image of God in Hinduism is not exclusively male.
The female principle compliments and completes the male. The polytheistic Hindu pantheon consists of divine couples such as Shiva and Shakti, Purusha and Prakriti, Rama and Sita. In addition to this, several goddesses or ‘devis’ are venerated on their own. It is significant that the deities of knowledge (Saraswati) and wealth (Lakshmi) are female. (Chitnis, 1988) The concept of the female in Hinduism presents an important duality. On the one hand, the woman is fertile, benevolent – the bestower; on the other she is aggressive, malevolent – the destroyer.
A popular statement characterizes the goddess in all her manifestations thus: in times of prosperity she is indeed Lakshmi, who bestows prosperity in the homes of men; and in times of misfortune, she becomes the goddess of misfortune and brings about ruin. (Wadley, 1988) Throughout India, the concept of motherhood is revered. The words mata and ma (mother) connote warmth, protection and life-giving power. For instance, the cow sacred to Hindus because of her usefulness as a producer of milk, dung and bulls, is called Gao-mata (Mother cow) even today.
The most powerful local goddesses responsible for the care and protection of whole villages and regions are known as Mata. (Jacobson and Wadley, 1977) Normally, sexuality must be assumed as a prelude to motherhood. Yet, is as a sexual being, that a woman is most feared and despised. Brahmanical tradition views women as shameless temptresses lacking in self-control and likely to go astray unless controlled by their menfolk. A goddess gains power by controlling her sexuality, a mother goddess is thus not a mother in the normal sense.
The benevolent goddesses in the Hindu pantheon are those who are properly married and who have transferred control of their sexuality (power/nature) to their husbands. Symbolically, a woman is ‘a part’ of her husband, his ‘half-body’. Rules for proper conduct mandate that she transfer her powers to the husband for his use. (b) MYTHS AND LEGENDS Hindu mythology is replete with stories of the properly chaste wife who aids her husband in winning his battle by virtue of her proper behavior and ensuing transfer of power.
Mythology, written and oral, in Sanskrit and the dialects, provides many examples of female behavior and its consequences, thus setting up explicit role models for the Hindu woman. Folklore yields yet other beliefs about female behavior. Finally, social organization and structure weave, sanction and reinforce these beliefs about the proper conduct of women. The dominant norms for the Hindu woman concern her role as wife. Classical Hindu laws focus exclusively on this aspect of the woman. Role models and norms for mothers, daughters and sisters are less prominent and are more apt to appear in folklore and regional traditions.
In addition, in most written traditions, they only appear in relationship to men: wife/husband, mother/son, daughter/father, and sister/brother. Women are thus conditioned to revere the father and to serve the husband as a devotee serves God. Devotion to the husband is cultivated among girls of all religions but it is particularly idealized and firmly institutionalized in the Hindu concept of Pativrata. The term Pativrata (literally translated as one who is vowed to her husband) connotes a wife who has accepted service and devotion to the husband and his family, as her ultimate religion and duty.
The ideal of the Pativrata is romanticized through legend, folklore and folk song and reaffirmed through ceremonies of different kinds. It may be pertinent to illustrate this here with one of the legends – the legend of Savitri and Satyavan. According to this legend, on the death of Satyavan, Savitri the virtuous wife, or Patrivrata followed Yama, the god of death, imploring with him not to take her husband. Yama tried to reason with her but when she refused to turn back, he offered her a boon if she would comply. Promptly Savitri asked for sons.
As Yama agreed to grant her wish, she pointed out that as a true wife she would have to bear them by her husband and no one else. Yama could not go back on his word and was forced to yield. Thus Satyavan was saved. To this day, Hindu women commemorate Savitri with a celebration and a ritual performed annually on a fixed day. Even educated urban women follow the practice devotedly. Similarly for both men and women in Hindu society, the ideal woman is personified by Sita, the embodiment of wifely devotion, the heroine of the epic Ramayana.
Her unique standing in the minds of most Hindus, regardless of the region, caste, social class, age, sex, education or level of modernization, testifies to the power and pervasiveness of the traditional ideal of womanhood. Sita, of course, is not just another legendary figure and the Ramayana not just another epic poem. It is through the recitation, reading, listening to or attending a dramatic performance of this revered text that a Hindu reasserts his or her cultural identity as a Hindu.
Sita, the wife of the legendary hero Rama is worshipped as the virtuous wife who not only followed her noble husband into 14 years of exile, but suffered indignity and suffering that he, as a just king was forced to inflict upon her in deference to the wishes of his subjects. From earliest childhood, a Hindu has heard Sita’s legend recounted on any number of sacral and secular occasions, seen the central episodes enacted in folk plays like the Ram Lila, heard her qualities extolled in devotional songs, and absorbed the ideal feminine identity she incorporates through the many everyday metaphors and similes that are associated with her name.
The ideal of womanhood personified by Sita is one of chastity, purity, gentle tenderness and a singular faithfulness which cannot be destroyed or even disturbed by her husband’s rejections, slights or thoughtlessness. The legend of Nala and Damayanti provides a variation on the ideal of the good wife. Damayanti cheerfully accompanies her husband Nala into the forest after he has gambled away everything they own, including his clothes. When he deserts her in the forest at night, taking way half of the only garment she possesses to clothe his own nakedness, Damayanti has not a single word of reproach for him as she wanders through the forest, looking for her husband. The ‘moral’ is the familiar one – whether treated well or ill a wife should never complain. Though these legendary heroines exhibit sharp wit, intelligence, resourcefulness, tenacity and affection, yet these qualities have never been held up for emulation. Tradition has only emphasized women’s self-sacrifice. However, Hinduism also includes women who are totally malevolent, who never change from an evil maliciousness.
These are women who have lost control of their sexuality and cannot channel their actions towards any positive ends. These figures are primarily seen as ghosts of women who died in childbirth or in other inauspicious ways, but also as witches – the anti-thesis of the wife. (c) MUSLIM WOMEN IN INDIA The Muslim population of India is a mixture of descendants of the successive waves of invaders, immigrants from neighboring Muslim countries and the converts from the local population. A number of Muslim ‘castes’ are directly derived from their Hindu equivalents when conversions to Islam took place by entire caste-groups.
This directly affects the present status of Muslim women in India as their position is compounded by Islamic injunctions and Hindu traditions. Theoretically Islam bestowed certain personal liberties on women which were denied to their Hindu sisters. Mainly these related to widow remarriage, divorce and a share in property inherited from parents. However, in practice Muslim women were and are no better off than their Hindu counterparts. Their position in society remains the same today as it was before. Purdah the system of veiling, which started during the ancient Hindu period, still persists.
Marriages are still ‘arranged’ and the role of women is even today conceived predominantly as submissive, forbearing daughters and wives. Iqbal, one of the greatest poets of India, created a vision of ideal society, but in this vision the role of women was secondary to man. Women, in fact, had no part in his brave new world except as romanticized objects of men’s desire or as chaste and submissive wives and daughters. They remained confined, secluded, achieving nothing in or by themselves but only through men. CHAPTER TWO: HINDI COMMERCIAL CINEMA
The Bombay film industry is quite definitely the largest in the world and is supported daily by fifteen million Indian viewers (Indian news 1983). Approximately seven hundred full length feature films are produced in Bombay/Mumbai every year. With regional films included, the number rises over an astounding 800. Although for some time now, media portrayal of the sexes and their roles has been investigated in the western world (Tuchman et al, 1978; Ruth, 1980), in India, interest in the subject is more recent and is the by-product of the newly awakening consciousness about women’s status in society.
The few methodical studies that have been conducted on the topic claim that the social roles portrayed in the films are both dichotomous as well as stereotypical. Very few films show any cross over between the sex role boundaries. The traditional roles of the subservient female and the dominant male are repeatedly reinforced on the Indian screen. (Hegde and Dasgupta, 1984) The modal personality of the virtuous woman in Hindi films is resplendent with characteristics such as chastity, patience and selflessness. She is considered to be a Devi (goddess) by society, because of her readiness to sacrifice for the significant others in her life.
Society expects her to efface her desires, rights and even her life for others. Yet even the films do not reward her for fulfilling these expectations. The more she endures, the more she has to suffer. This is hardly surprising since the first Indian feature films were mythological epics. Tales from mythology especially from the two great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata have entertained and influenced cinegoers fright from the time the feature film made its first appearance in India in 1913. Quite naturally, the very first feature film Raja Harishchandra produced and directed by Dada sahib Phalke was a mythological.
Phalke, after seeing the “Life of Christ’; realized the artistic potential of this new medium and felt inspired to make a motion picture in India. To his audience, Raja Harishchandra and its successors Bhasmasur Mohini (The Legend of Bhasmasur), Savitri (Savitri), Lanka Dahan (The Burning of Lanka), Krishna Janma (The Birth of Krishna) and others – were a continuation of the myriad retellings of the ancient legends that they had grown up with. To them while the inhabitants of the Western films had been interesting they were remote and had no relevance to their own lives. In the Phalke films the figures of ong-told stories took flesh and blood. The impact was overwhelming. Men and women prostrated themselves before the screen when Rama appeared on the screen in Lanka Dahan and when Krishna made his appearance in Krishna Janma. (Barnouw and Krishnamurthy, 1990) Some 250 silent, mythological films were produced in India between 1913 and 1933. (Shimpi, 1988) Even when sound came to films and the moving picture began to talk in 1931, film-makers chose already tried and tested mythological themes. During the 20’s and in the successive decades, several Sati films were also made.
Sati, as an adjective is prefixed to a woman’s name to denote her extreme devotion to her husband. Following the tradition, innumerable Sati films were made in the twenties and thirties and continued to be made even until the fifties and sixties – Sati Anusuya, Sati Mahananda, Sati Anjani, Sati Sulochna and several Sati Savitri’s to name a few. These petered off by the seventies, although modern versions of these chaste and devoted wives continued to be produced, and mythology though not totally abandoned was relegated to the background.
The Sati syndrome, as one of the women directors of India, Sai Paranjpe, called it, to a large extent limited the general portrayals of women in the popular cinema, to uni-dimensional creatures with no personal ambitions of their own. Paradoxically, alongside these Sati stories, the story of a single woman of tremendous strength of character and physique reigned supreme on the screen from the thirties till well into the fifties. She was ‘Fearless Nadia’ – the stunt queen. She believed in action, not silent suffering and virtue. Her acts of daredevilry on the screen could put Tarzan, Bond and Rambo in the shade.
Between 1934 and 1950, Fearless Nadia starred in over 25 films, fighting with a vengeance along with her hero John Cawas. (Paranjpe, 1988) This strange phenomenon can however be explained by the duality of the concept of the female in Hinduism that I referred to in the previous chapter. A point to be noted however is the fact that Nadia was not an Indian, but an Australian actress born to a Scottish volunteer in the army. Perhaps this had something to do with her unique position on the Hindi screen. Mythology, folklore and legend continued to influence Indian cinema.
Stories about holy men and women, kings and queens as also the stories of legendary lovers like Heer-Ranjha, Sohni-Mahiwal, Mirza-Sahiban were oft repeated themes in Indian cinema till the late 1970’s. The breakdown of folk culture, the rise of an uneducated industrial working class coming into money, of middlemen who thrived on government spending, the increasing outward conformity of the noveau riches to a rough pseudo-western pattern, the increased mixing between men and women created the need for an entertainment formula that could cater to an increasingly common set of denominators. Dasgupta, 1981) The Hindi (read all-India) film formula caters to the lowest common denominators, helping to create and consolidate them, giving its audience certain terms of reference for its cultural adjustment no matter how low the level of that culture or adjustment may be. ‘The basic ingredients in the Hindi film comprise an all-encompassing range of spectacles, sentiments, melodrama, music and dancing.
In the absence of any other explanation of technological phenomena, it is the Hindi film which holds forth: “Look at the Twentieth century, full of night clubs and drinking, smoking, bikini-clad women, sinfully enjoying themselves in fast cars and mixed parties, how right you are in condemning them – in the end everyone must go back to the traditional patterns of devotion to God, to parents, to village life or be damned forever. “ The Hindi films give reassurance to the ‘family audience’ which is the mainstay of the Indian film industry. They pander to the puritanism developed in the dark pre-British period of superstition and isolationism. (Dasgupta, 1981) Jab Jab Phool Khile (When the Flowers Bloom) is a good example. Released in 1965, it compared life in the fast and furious city of Bombay to rural life in the idyllic surroundings of pre-militant Kashmir, to the latter’s favor. The hero, a houseboat owner, rejects the big house, the fast cars, and the exciting life in the city to return to his old houseboat in Kashmir, because he cannot bear to see his beloved – an educated, westernized city girl waltzing in the arms of another man at a party. “The West cannot meet the East “he sings “how I can forget I am an Indian and accept this Western culture. The heroine is forced to change herself, give up her way of life for her love and follow him to his village to spend the rest of her life as the wife of an uneducated houseboat keeper. Films in the 1950’s and 60’s also catered to the common man’s curiosity about the ways of the new world although they did not bother to explain them. Film landscapes changed dramatically from Bombay to Tokyo (Love in Tokyo, 1960) or Paris (An Evening in Paris, 1965) or Shimla or Kashmir, taking the viewer on a journey across the world. The songs were mesmerizing, the heroines glamorous and sexy.
Yet in the end, the movie goer could leave all that behind and return to his chaste and virtuous life, patting himself on the back for he had not sinned himself. He had merely inspected the sins of others and condemned them. The hero with whom he identifies returns to his true love, the chaste village belle/girlfriend and denounces the city siren. Sin belongs to the West, virtue to India. The increasing intrusion of the west into Indian society during this period and the consequent changes in norms, values and lifestyles created a conflict within the viewers.
On the one hand was the familiar comfort of traditional values and on the other the desire to keep pace with the modern (read Western) way of life. Films provided an imaginary resolution of this conflict. Scriptwriters not surprisingly gravitated towards stories that allowed audiences to look at the truth and escape to the myth, to enjoy the new while still clinging to the old. Thus since heroines had to be virtuous, modest and virginal; sexual excitement had to be provided through some other means. This is where the vamp and the courtesan came in.
These stereotypes have survived till date. The stereotypical heroine, beautiful, submissive, virtuous and courageous, fighting the vile conspiracy of the sensuous, waspish, villainous and often cowardly vamp, became a standard film formula. The Vamp was usually the villain’s accomplice employed to entice the hero and cause his destruction. While films like Dharam Patni (The Wife, 1953), Amar Pyar (Eternal Love, 1958) and Charnon ki Daasi (The doormat, 1959) amongst others eulogize the self-mortifying, dedicated wife, films like Bandhan (Bondage, 1956) compared “good” and “bad” wives. Rao, 1989) Similarly, since heroines had to be pure and virginal, they were naturally secluded. Hence the introduction of courtesans. However, despite the nature of the ‘courtesan’, Indian Cinema still could not come to terms with prostitution – sometimes even portraying them as self-sacrificing and noble. The high-class courtesan, dancing girl or court dancer fired the imagination of the film-makers. Several films were made on the romantic but ill-fated lives of different glamorous courtesans such as Chitralekha, Amrapali and Vasantsena, to name a few.
Although they were beautiful, well-versed in the arts and poetry and were sexually alluring the dancing girls almost always came to a bad end and the pure virgins triumphed. Mughal-e-Azam (The Great Moghul, 1960) one of the longest running Indian films of all times, and Anarkali, both based on the supposedly true but tragic love story of Prince Salim and the court dancer Anarkali, ended on the same tragic note, where the court dancer comes to a sad end. However, history is so muddled up that in one film Anarkali is bricked up alive as a punishment for daring to fall in love with the prince, while in another she is sent into exile.
In neither does she have a happy end. Much later, Muzaffar Ali produced his Umrao Jaan, but it too had a similar theme. The hero in the film, a nobleman returns to his virginal and submissive bride in preference to the dancing girl who would have made a more interesting partner. The image of the docile, demure and self-sacrificing Indian woman was reinforced through the hundreds of commercial films released every year during the following decades, even in the regional languages.
The urban Indian male who though has inherited the ideal of father-worshipping, brother-worshipping and husband-worshipping Indian woman, however, intellectually rejects this ideal image and is emotionally drawn to the image of the modern girl, free-thinking, accessible, sensuous and capable of making up her own mind about her future partner. Although he is attracted to such a girl, the young Indian male feels that the independence of such a girl threatens his ego.
The Indian film provides the perfect solution – the new film heroine modern enough to choose her own husband herself and often behaving with an exuberant informality, will after marriage fall at the feet of her husband and call him her – Kankanda Deivam ( the Palpable god). The female stereotype, fusing old and new, satisfies both the male libido and super-ego. And if the woman should dare to defy the normal moral codes of the Indian family or fail to keep within the social mores of Indian life and culture, she is severely punished and humiliated. This is exhibited in films dealing with marital discord.
It is almost always the wife who comes to apologize in the end even if the husband has been to blame. In Judaai (Separation), Thodi si Bewafaai (A Little Deceit), Yeh Kaisa Insaaf (What Kind of Justice is This? ), Suhagan (Married), Pyar Jhukta Nahin (Love Never Bows Down), Pyar Ke Kabil (Worthy of Love) to name just a few amongst the innumerable films in this genre, made during the seventies and eighties, it was always the woman who suffered, regardless of who was to blame. The heroines had to undergo unimaginable mistreatment from society for their ‘sins’.
In Ek Hi Bhool (Just One Mistake, 1981) the colleagues of a divorced woman spread rumors about her “immoral” character. As a result she suffers such public humiliation that she is forced to crawl back to her husband on his terms. Mistreatments in Indian films seem to regularly occur when women actively step out of their traditional roles. They serve the common function of returning straying women to their stereotypical and socially approved behavior patterns. In Ek Hi Bhool the heroine who divorces her husband and tries to lead an independent life is slandered, harassed, humiliated and ostracized by society.
To escape the relentless persecution, she offers herself back to her ex-husband and docilely accepts the role of the house-bound wife and mother. CONCLUSION “In a patriarchy the male ‘gaze’ repressed women through its controlling power over female thoughts and desires. The ‘gaze’ can be explained as: (a) Scopophilia or sexual pleasure in looking which is enhanced by the very way in which the film is viewed – in a dark room with moving images controlled by a projector making it seem like a dream. b) The gaze in dominant cinema is built upon notions of male-female differences created by a culture. The three ‘looks’ that derive from this gaze are – (1) Gaze within the film text – how men look at women; (2) The spectators gaze that identifies with the male gaze and objectifies the woman on the screen; (3) the camera’s original gaze that goes into the very act of filming. ” (Kaplan, 1983) Keeping this view of the male ‘gaze’ in focus the images of women on the screen can be discussed either sociologically or semiotically.
In the previous chapters, I have discussed the sociological view centering upon role types i. e. housewife, beloved, vamp, the other woman etc. Semiology however views the entire film as a signifying system in which the woman functions as a sign. In other words, semiology applied to cinema speaks of how the film actually communicates. Every sign has of course a denotative meaning which is obvious and direct, and a connotative meaning which is a suggestive or an associated one likened with the existing values in society. For example, the color white.
At the denotative level, it is just another color whereas at the connotative level it signifies purity, chastity, virginity. The color black similarly signifies death, sin, evil at the connotative level. In Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ the heroine after she has committed the crime is shown to be wearing black underwear, to signify her lack of morals or her descent into crime. In Indian films, from time immemorial, the ‘bold’ woman has always been portrayed smoking. The image of a woman smoking would directly signify a woman who likes to smoke.
However, at the connotative level, a woman who smokes signifies liberation from traditional mores, defiance of society, with shades of sexual promiscuity. In the film Trikon ka Chautha Kon (The Fourth Angle of a Triangle) a woman smokes, reads Sartre and sneers every time she talks. At the denotative level this signifies only someone who smokes, likes reading and has a tendency to curl her lips while talking. At the connotative level however, this signifies an intellectual, liberated, modern woman who does not function by the normal codes of society.
The connotations in these signs are evoked from myths about women that exist in Indian society. (Lakshmi, 1988) In recent years, feminists have begun to draw upon semiotics to analyze cinema. Their claim is that Hindi Cinema presents woman at the second level of connotation; as a myth, portrayed as what she represents for man, not as what she actually is. Raj Kapoor, the doyen of Hindi cinema, produced well over fifteen films. The women in his films most often, functioned as signs. In Awara (The Tramp, 1951) Rita, the heroine, an uptown girl, symbolizes success and upward social mobility for the hero a tramp.
In one of the most spectacular dream sequences of the time, the hero dreams that he is at the bottom of a tower, engulfed in flames and surrounded by demons, while Rita, swathed in white waits to lead him up the steps of the tower. In Ram Teri Ganga Maili (Ram, Your Ganges is Polluted, 1984) the young heroine Ganga is a village girl living in the Himalayas who falls in love with, bears a child for and is abandoned by a city youth. She travels from the Himalayas with her baby to look for him in the city. The film chronicles her experiences along the way.
Ganga in the film symbolizes not only the river Ganges but the ‘motherland’ India itself as Raj Kapoor claimed. Ganga’s story is also the story of the great river starting out as they both do in the remote Himalayan ranges and ending up in the moral and urban wastelands of Calcutta, exploited and polluted by modern man. In Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957) the heroine is as usual an ideal wife, as submissive and chaste as Sita. The archetypal mother, she is indomitable when it comes to protecting and defending her land and the rights of her sons.
The nurturing-mother role is reversed at the end when she assumes the terrifying aspect of Kali/Shakti and shoots down her ‘wicked son’. In that last act, she transcends her own self, becoming in the process the protector of the whole community/land to emerge as the Universal Mother. The most common portrayal of woman on the Indian screen as Devi can also be explained semiologically. The Devi is an archetype who is an ideal woman with all the desirable personality traits of a goddess. Her experiences on the screen can be seen as an outpouring of social injustice, her behavior a subliminal retention of cultural continuity.
Consequently her identity as an individual becomes secondary to the larger issues of social concern or cultural identity. For example as a victim of exploitation it becomes necessary to abuse and humiliate her. However, her experience is a collective pain and not an individual suffering. As such fighting on her behalf becomes a fight for justice. Also as the romantic hero was replaced in the 70’s by the angry young man, the heroine was made secondary to his fight with society, to build up the macho image.
Further, the heroine had to be ill-treated by society herself for the cause to appear worth fighting for. Despite being educated and emancipated, she had to be unable to survive social hostility on her own. Thus emerged the heroine who was seduced, raped or widowed in violent action, who was sometimes herself provoked into violence as the reincarnated nurturing-female force, temporarily assuming the protective custody of society. Usually the hero is gradually transformed into the anti-hero by the sadistic violence perpetuated against the women in his life.
In Andha Kanoon (Blind Justice, 1983) the happily married hero is destroyed by the rape of his wife and her subsequent suicide. In Aaj Ki Awaz (Today’s Voice, 1984) the hero goes through the excruciating agony of being witness to the inadequacy of law to punish the rapist of his friend’s wife, followed by the rape and whipping of his own sister and murder of his mother to prevent his interference, before his militant awakening to set right social injustice. That the recipient of the whipping is a female is incidental to the larger motif of an awakened masculine protective force.