Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
Mine is filled with fragrant flowers. Welcome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Not another Hindi movie

Jessica Laal was working as a celebrity bar-maid in one of Delhi's crowded, underground club when she was shot in the face, twice, for refusing to serve drinks to customers. She was packing up the bar with her colleagues as it was about to close, when three young men dashed in and demanded to be served. A quarrel lead to one of the customers pulling out a loaded gun from his pocket and fired the fatal shots in front of Lall's colleagues and customers. He was none other than Manu Sharma, the son of a wealthy, influential politician from the state of Haryana, whereas his friends were young, successful members of the corporate world. At the time of the shooting, more than 300 people were still in the club, some cited hearing gun shots and were able to identify the suspects as they fled.

Laal was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital while Manu Sharma and friends managed to evade the police for about one week, when one by one of his accomplices were arrested that lead him to eventually surrender. The case was brought to court one year after the murder happened and due to lack of cooperation by key witnesses and tempering of evidence, which includes a missing murder weapon, Manu Sharma and friends were acquitted.

The court's ruling soon caused a huge uproar in India, especially considering the manner of Laal's death. But her tragedy was not the main reason for my entry today. It was the sensational Bollywood homage to the case, that starred Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan in one of the best performances in their career that moved me to finally update my blog tonight. 

Rani played Meera Gaity, a no-nonsence journalist from an investigative TV station and Vidya, as Sabrina Lail, Jessica's younger sister who fought against the tyrannical and corruptive legal system in India. It was the portrayal of two strong female characters in a mostly patriarchal and sex-dominated industry such as Bollywood, the cracking open of centuries old wall that had prevented such roles to be celebrated in the industry for fear that it would trampled box office results. There was no conventional Indian hero in the film, no thick moustached, Ray Ban-wearing policemen who can split bullets and lift cars, nor was there a need for him given the two strong heroines. 

Meera, the go-getter, can easily be misunderstood for being rude and snobbish, but is a woman who can go to the lengths of assembling a fake interview session to reveal a deception of the court, a journalist who climb on her editor's car to convince him and let her pursue the potentially explosive story about corruption and bribing of witnesses in the case. Sabrina, did not look like your average Bollywood heroine: be-speckled, unkept and always seen in blouses too big for her size, she dwells in her sadness of losing Jessica and eventually other people she loved. She is an average citizen, with no special contacts of high standing nor financially capable to bribe any, continuously disappointed by the government and the system by which it functions. An average citizen, like the rest of us. 

It was evident that Bollywood is shifting its ways and over the years, slowly, have taken the shape of a mirror to reflect the modern and traditional Indian society today. 

I can't help but wonder when will our so called 'Malaysian film and television industry' (the term is debatable according to a friend) venture into such path instead of serving up cliche, uninspiring, masochistic, abusive relationship-ridden stories without proper thought into how their works could affect the viewers. 

Here, almost everyday our viewers are laden with TV dramas depicting masochist male characters, with utterly no respect for women (but good looking and rich) and female characters who would bleed, cry, fall and fight a bear to win their heart despite continuous abuse, whether physical or mental (and sometimes both) by the their counterpart. Is this what we are trying to show our women what they worth in the eyes of the society? Always craving for love and only...that? what happened to respect and other stuff...like going to space for example?

Anyone who have seen a local drama (especially Malay dramas) would be able to relate to the plot given above. It is unacceptable for female viewers to be forced fed masochist storyline just because SOME part of the viewing community adores such writing. What about the young generation who also watch TV? Will they be influenced to fantasize the life of a 'poor, abused leading lady' or be encouraged to follow their own dreams?