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Ashwiny Iyer Talks About Why Panga Didn’t Do Well. It’s Because Of The Inherent Misogyny Of The Cinema-Going Audience

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I had gone to watch Panga the very next day of its release and I don’t regret the hours I invested in it. After a long time, Bollywood got a movie that was so well-made, especially since these days all we’re getting is misogyny on a platter. Most of the times, the humour is sexist or the film is encouraging toxic masculinity with movies like Kabir Singh. Yep, that film was the biggest disappointment of 2019 and I am not even talking about the content but the fact that it was such a hit. On the other hand, a female-centric film which talks about the guilt women feel when pursuing their dreams, found little success at the box office. This, inspite of the fact that Panga has been applauded by the critics and those who watched it.

Which makes me wonder, this movie deserved so much better. Why is it that most people didn’t move their ass and head out to watch it? Panga’s director, Ashwiny Iyer told The Huffington Post, “The film came in a very cluttered environment. We had Street Dancer and Tanhaji, which was doing really well. Which, from an industry point of view, is great. Then there were South Indian films, a T20 match. Maybe all of it played a part. But frankly, it’s all a gamble. Even the films that we think could do really well fail.”

She further spoke about how Panga was a full package and yet failed! “In this case, everything was so good. All the actors were great, there was no commotion on and to be very honest. Kangana too respected me as a director and was a great partner on this.” Ashwiny’s belief in the film is as firm as ours. She said, “I also feel like that there’s nothing that went wrong with the film, everything was correct. Every department from writing to production to our budget, the marketing and distribution, was all on point. But what can you do when there’s only so many screens and so much competition?”

I feel this shows that how little people care about a woman’s plight in our country. It’s not like people has temporarily stopped going for movies. They flocked the theatres to watch a period drama, with men at the forefront. They also went to watch a movie on dancers. So what stopped them from taking time out to watch the story of a woman who pursues her dreams – a real tale?

Nobody feels responsible in our society for its current state. People blame the government, the government is questioning what the people are doing to change things and we can’t even go watch a movie with a feminist message. Most men, if you notice, call you a “feminist” with the intention to insult you. If you refuse to accept their sexist jokes and patriarchal ways, they will simply say you’re being an extremist and taking offense at a joke or that you don’t have a sense of humour. These are the very people who don’t even know what harm they have done.

Even Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak failed to garner enough numbers at the box office. People blame it on her political stance, but she is an individual and what she believes in her personal life is not related to the movie at all. DC’s female-led Birds Of Prey turned out to be the lowest earning of all its movies. Why? Because the women in it couldn’t care less about the male gaze and fulfilling a sexual fantasy revolving around female badasses.

What is this lukewarm response to female-narratives that intend to cause a stir, for our own good? Ashwiny Iyer expressed, “I’ve wondered a lot about this. We say that we are progressive and we are moving forward, we want to believe that and we have a lot of men who are feminists. But if we really look deep, are we that progressive? It’s known that women have to try much harder than men to succeed.”

She further added, “Till the time we have categories such as ‘women-centric’ and ‘women-led’ that will always be the case. True equality will be when these labels become unnecessary. Just because I made a bunch of films that have women in pivotal parts doesn’t mean I can’t direct, say a condom ad or an action film. These assumptions need to vanish.” Well, technically a condom ad can be a “women-centric” one too but that’s another story for another time.

I loved the movie and it had such a feel good element to it. Especially because we are so tired of the misogyny and oppressive men in real life and watching men actually being empathetic and supportive was a fresh change. Only if men actually watched the movie and learnt something out of it, instead of getting inspired from characters like Kabir Singh. Iyer said this was deliberate, “It was a wish-fulfilment fantasy.” She also said, “Show what the best versions of men can look like. If we, as storytellers, do not show this version, how are men going to internalise that whole thing? I want men to watch the film and shift their ideals of what masculinity means.”

With this movie, Iyer also redefines intimacy and spells out what women actually need from their partners. “Reintroducing intimacy doesn’t always have to be about sex.” She further added, “What do people long for? That one moment of intimacy. Where the husband says that hey, everything is okay, just come here and hug me. After her boss screams at her and she comes home, the first question she asks is if their son has slept and that he didn’t even talk to her. But the husband just comes in and asks for a hug. What else do you need at that point of time?”

ALSO READ: Panga Review: It’s A Film About Self-Love, Sisterhood And A Refreshingly Woman-Friendly Society We Wish We Had

Taapsee Pannu’s Thappad is slated to release on 28th February, 2020 and it’s based on how it doesn’t matter if it’s a slap and nothing more. It doesn’t matter if it’s happened just once. Abuse is abuse and it shows how there’s a lack of respect there. When I watched the trailer, I just made up my mind I had to watch this movie. We keep blaming our entertainment industry for making misogynistic movies but if we, as an audience, are not even open to receiving female-driven, revolutionary content then it’s a shame and we’re to blame.

ALSO READ: Panga Director Ashwiny Iyer Said Indian Women Feel Guilty When They Prioritise Work. The Men Need To Step Up


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