Throwback Thursday: Women’s Sexual Desires Were Systematically Suppressed By Bollywood’s Facade of Sanskaars
Sexual desires are as biological as menstruating. We have hormones that give us the hornies so why does the world feel so uncomfortable with women’s sexual desires (and period!)? I have grown up watching the superhit family dramas that rocked the 90s and I don’t see the women in these films getting hot and horny. Do they think women are a species of asexual reproduction or what? Or we are just here to serve the sexual needs of our husbands and then go on to wrap ourselves in the dupatta of sanskaars?
Ratna Pathak’s character in Lipstick Under My Burkha exhibited our society’s perception of women’s sexual desires. When she develops the hots for a guy, she is shamed, humiliated, and disowned. Her dignity was shredded like she committed murder. Why? Because our culture sees women as either chaste, non-sexual Godesses or fallen with sinful desires. Men on the other hand “will be men” and that definitely includes not being able to keep it in their pants.
Lipstick Under My Burkha producer Prakash Jha told HT that the movie “brings down the shallow and oppressing rules of our society, which says women can’t speak about their fantasies. What they don’t understand is that by refusing a certificate to a film, they (the censors) can’t oppress this thinking.”
Bollywood today has been trying to break that disgusting mindset as filmmakers are fighting tooth and nail to get their movies through the censor board with minimal cuts. Let’s just say our censor board has been infamous for not being quite liberal. PS: The cuts you guys demand make you uncomfortable and not us. We are okay with those scenes and people who are not, must get out of their comfort zones.
Radhika Apte shed her clothes as she pursued her suppressed sexual desires in Parched. The scene where she is enjoying sex after being frustrated with her impotent husband who blames her for not being able to conceive – it is a breakthrough. In that moment, she is a free woman engulfed in the utter bliss of maximizing her orgasms and satiating her desires. We need that in cinema and not women acting like they don’t need sex.
Back in the 90s, there were such courageous films as well but those didn’t have enough audiences. The movie-goers comprised of families and unfortunately, even a bunch of adults would feel uncomfortable watching it with their parents. Today, the youth has already been consuming content containing nudity, sex scenes, and a very liberal pov of sex.
Maine Pyar Kiya was a blockbuster hit with the mind-numbingly chaste Suman radiating sanskaars like nobody’s business. Untouched and lacking sexual desires, Suman wouldn’t even share a kiss with her lover Prem because that’s not what the good girls do in Bollywood. Hum Aapke Hain Koun would show men having sexual desires and their wives and girlfriends shooing them away because hello, women are not supposed to “give in”. So the hero chases the heroine around trying to steal a kiss but given that she’s not pandering to her lust, she keeps herself virginal and chaste. She will not let him sneak in even a kiss.
Speaking of which, Pooja and Prem in Biwi No 1 probably made an adorable family but it does seem like they had a dead bedroom. Bollywood doesn’t see a good character and sexual desire to be in the same woman. Pooja has to wrap herself in a saree and instead of seeking the length of her husband’s manhood, she is more interested in her mangalsutra and maang ka sindoor. She is a good woman and hence she must devote herself to the needs of her family and forget about her needs as a woman. In fact, what needs? A woman only has mamta and that means she becomes the person-in-charge of making sacrifices in the house. The woman who has sexual desires, Rupali, is the fallen one.
However, her mother in law reminds her that sometimes the wife must also be the girlfriend and by that, she means that she should abandon the heavy sarees for sexy blouses so that the husband’s desires maybe raging for her again. Of course, this is when she steps away from being the mother and the wife and is now purely a sexual object. However, the feeling cannot exist in the same woman at the same time.
Hum Saath Saath Hai’s three women never displayed even a shred of sexual desire, not even for their own partners. So how do we show attraction between two people? Prem will look at Preeti and say nothing. Preeti will look down like she has dropped her pennies and refuse to look up while smiling shyly. Vinod will try to get a hold of Sapna but Sapna has to playfully get away. Sadhana will want to go on honeymoon to Rampur with the entire khandaan because it’s not like she needs to sex it up with her husband. And despite these lust-killing langoors hanging around with them constantly, it doesn’t take them too long to annoucne their pregnancy. It was possibly only two songs before which they were, khee khee, we make sex.
Prem Aggan – a movie forgotten about until Kanan and Biswa made a review – was about these two people talking dirty and sexing it up. But hello, they will not lose their virginity because that’s a treasure. Okay, I have no clue what the movie was about but the review was pretty much about this. In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, the actress is on all fours asking for a ‘haseen dard’ that she cannot share without anyone again. But because the boy is such a upstanding citizen of our culture, he refuses to touch her before the threads of holy matrimony tie them together. I imagine that it would be extremely awkward for the character when she’s dismissed by the boy for being lusty because how can you be that as a single woman?
While on one hand, women’s sexual desires were systematically hidden from the big screen, men violating a woman’s boundaries were encouraged. Akeli Na Bazar Jaya Karo had Ajay Devgn and his troop manhandling Sonali Bendre. The number of such songs is huge!
ALSO READ: Throwback Thursday: 90s Bollywood Songs Were All About Ignoring Consent And Convincing Her To Say Yes
Film historian S.M.M Ausaja told HT, “While our art and literature are so progressive, it is paradoxical how our cinema has not progressed.” Ausaja said. He further added, “I am not optimistic about things until there’s a radical shift in the ideological levels of those in power. We have to remove this cloak of culture to let cinema flourish by global standards.” While Bollywood has definitely progressed but even today films like Lipstick Under My Burkha, Angry Indian Goddesses, Parched, etc face a lot of trouble to make it past the censor board. Women’s sexual desires make everyone uncomfortable and Bollywood not using its full potential to bring about a change is disappointing. Hopefully, soon.