Throwback Thursday: Om Jai Jagadish Promotes A Sexist Definition Of An Ideal Wife And Bahu In India
I’d like to believe that most of you reading our articles are smart, independent, and woke women. And being one myself, I can say that misogyny is something that doesn’t hide from my eyes. We are women who can point out when something reeks of sexism and bias and I am proud of that. Though when we were young and naïve, we didn’t know that the movies we loved back in the day had so many things wrong with them. That is why I have been revisiting these films every Thursday.
However, today is not about in-your-face misogyny. Today I want to talk about the kind of bias that has casually existed in our society since forever under the guise of traditions and sanskaars. That’s the kind of misogyny I found in Om Jai Jagadish starring Waheeda Rahman (mother), Anil Kapoor (Om), Fardeen Khan (Jai), Abhishek Bachchan (Jagadish), Mahima Chaudhry (Ayesha), Urmila Matondkar (Neetu) and Tara Sharma (Pooja).
As the film begins, it is important for the audience to know just how it’s going to be marinated in sanskaar. Jai’s obsession with praying at a particular time slot so he feels closer to his mother, who is miles away in India sets the stage for that. In the first two scenes of the film, Jai has prayed twice and shown immense sentimentality because without these two things, can you even be a character in a family drama? Not a positive character for sure.
Next, we move to Om, the oldest son who has taken on the responsibility of the family head and provider. His mom is so excited about getting him married, that without asking him, she submits an advertisement in the newspaper. Typical Indian mother. She gets a call from one of the candidates and she is impressed that the prospective bride has done a course in computers and floral arrangement and that is fair. Erm, seriously? There you go, that’s what I am talking about. The guy is supposed to be a successful money-maker while the girl’s best quality is her light skin tone and her ability to arrange flowers.
Jagadish’s entry shows him playing football recklessly on the roads, railway tracks, inside the train, and almost getting killed. Why is he acting like he is Captain America who’ll live forever?
Om meets Ayesha, they fall in love and get married. Jai too meets Neetu in the US while studying there and falls in love with her. She is sassy and likes to speak her mind. However, later you’ll see how the film desperately tries to convince you that’s a bad thing.
Jai has a problem with unhealthy attachments and a lack of practicality in life. She should have known when he would bring his best friend literally everywhere with them and she got no personal time, that’s a major red flag. Even after he tops his university, his over-emotional family asks him to come back home and work in India. The fact that he would earn much more in the US and be able to pay back the loan amount much faster didn’t strike them. So, like a fool, he went back to India and eventually married Neetu.
Now, they painted Neetu as if she was a spoiled bitch who had no family values and manners. Maybe her way of saying things wasn’t the sweetest but she wasn’t wrong. She left her home and this family didn’t do anything to accommodate her or make her feel welcome. In fact, there were offended if she stuck to her old habits. They got offended when her mother sent her juices and other healthy items but as she pointed out, it was completely okay if Jai’s parents sent him food items in the US when he was away from his family.
Neetu got taunted on her healthy eating habits when she preferred food with less oil and spice and was expected to change those habits. How unfair is that? Sadly, that is reality. On top of that, she had to hear taunts from the youngest one and why would she entertain that? Yet when she answered back, she was painted as a woman who doesn’t value family.
Speaking of family, these people thought it’s completely alright to eavesdrop on conversations. Their mother walks into an argument Jai and Neetu were having and Jagadish eavesdrops on her conversation with her mother and then mocks her for it in front of everyone. I think any woman would want to go back to her home if she is getting such cold treatment from her in-laws. Neetu was a progressive woman and these people didn’t like it. All she did was advise Jai to not let go of his US work permit. I mean, that’s extremely practical. It was because of that advice that he was able to build his dream car and sell it for two million dollars. But she was painted as a housebreaker. So much for family values.
ALSO READ: Throwback Thursday: Joru Ka Ghulam Shows Women As Livestock And Liabilities That Need To Be Married Off, At Any Cost. Why?
The family looked modern from outside – the bahus weren’t saree-clad women who weren’t allowed to have opinions. But if you look closely, you will notice that these bahus were expected to leave their lives behind and live in the shadow of their husbands. They were expected to change according to the lifestyle of this family and forget about where they come from. Ayesha left anchoring and Neetu was criticised for her lifestyle and choices. As long as you blindly follow your husband, you’re a good wife. Otherwise, you’re the woman who is responsible for making him move away from his family. Did they forget that the wife left her house, family, and country for you? The least you can do is make her feel at home.