Movies are not just a source of entertainment but they have a strong influence in shaping people’s lives, their beliefs, behaviors, conversations and interactions.
From the script to the aesthetics, everybody involved in the process of making a movie including framing, cinematography, story, direction, and delivery is responsible for what goes on their screen.
Cinema influences lifestyle, language, fashion, accessories, and even hairstyles of the moviegoers.
We have seen Shah Rukh Khan’s haircut being imitated on every barber’s shop, to Salman Khan’s Dabangg shades overcrowding shelves of every optics' shop.
From people quoting ‘Don ko pakarna mushkil he nhe, na mumkin hai’ to movie scenes becoming netizens’ favourite pick for memes, there is no debate about the influencing power of cinema.
When Bhansaali makes a magnum opus that depicts women as objects, to be either ‘owned’ or ‘acquired’ by men, ‘protected’ by men and ‘used’ by men, then it is highly problematic.
The disclaimer falls out far behind when all this is ‘glorified’ with the signature aesthetics of Bhansali.
A movie scene that shows Satee or Jauhar in its entire visual splendor with rich scenes and dramatic music, and women, young old, pregnant running happily into the fire, the masses quite honestly forget the disclaimer that they had read in the beginning of the movie about how the film makers do not approve of the practice of Satee.
Instead, they look at the women willing to take their lives for God-like husbands with a feeling of awe.
The masses take home the face-value of scenes in which a ruler uses women to fuel his fantasies, his utter disrespect for his own wife, his obsessive lust for feminine beauty and how it is conveniently accepted by a brunch of his supporters.
They forget that at the beginning of the story, they were told that the movie is based on a poem.
Jauhar and Satee are part of social history. They were dramatic and shocking so was Nazi’s Holocaust and the two World Wars, which claimed lives of millions of innocent people.
Does that mean a movie should be made about it and in worst case, glorified so that the audience sympathises with the murderers?
Whether its Satee or Jauhar in 13th century or Female Genital Mutilation and Honour Killings in 21st century, all of them are entrenched in exceedingly patriarchal, misogynist and problematic ideas.
This mentality that believes the worth of women is only measurable if she is ‘owned or controlled’ by men, denies women of equality, humanity, personhood and the right to live and so we have a continued history of women being deprived of their sexual rights, killed in the name of preserving family honour, and out-casted due to menstruation, infertility and sexual assault.
Cinema has the power to take audience on emotional highs and lows and that is why thoughtless glorification of misogynistic practices should not be made part of screens and if they do, then a narrative or comment should be provided.
Given the rise in violence against women in our part of the world and the active feminist conversation around it, the mainstream media needs to come with a responsibility.