Chapter 1IntroductionThe status of women in India is a hot topic fordiscussion till today with womenbeing part of society, politics, culture.
etc. The status of women inancient India is a very complicated one as there are some contradictions instatements in different religious scriptures. According to Vikash Mehra (2014) women enjoyed the freedom fully and even considered morepowerful than men and in some other, they were treated like animal. “Kollywood”cinema is becoming increasingly more visible all over the world. It made mewant to examine the matter on a deeper level. In particular, I felt the need to look at the construction of womencharacters, because it is this construction that perpetuates Indian society. Ialso intend to investigate whether the way in which women characters areconstructed has changed over a period of time. Filmscholar and author Shoma Chatterji (1998) says, “Women in Hindi cinema havebeen decorative objects with rarely any sense of agency being imparted to them.
Each phase of Hindi cinema had its own representation of women, but they wereconfined largely to the traditional, patriarchal frame-work of the Indiansociety. The ordinary woman has hardly been visible in Hindi cinema.”(p 3) 1.
1.Women’s status in different periodsWoman’s status inIndia can be discussed in different period, viz. Ancient, British andIndependent period. A study on Women in India: Status, Position and Conditionof women in India by Vikash Mehra (2014) states that theAncient Indian women enjoyed a comparatively high status during the earlyVedic period. In Rig Veda, it is stated that the highest social status weregiven to qualified women of those days. Women were appointed at importantpositions. When the British entered inIndia in the latter half of the 18th century, Indian women were suppressed andoppressed.
The impact of the British rule and of new ideas brought noticeablechanges in women’s life. Throughout their life,in one or another form they are ill-treated and disrespected. Because of many factors such as female infantmortality, deprivation of certain basic needs like nutrition, access to healthcare, educational and employment opportunities. Gender discrimination in Indiais deep-rooted. To uproot this gender inequality, the Indian Constitutionconferred equal rights on men and women in the year 1950. He adds that thoughIndian Government has taken many steps to eradicate this problem, women arestill victims of violence like dowry death, rape, sexual abuse, unequal wages,domestic violence etc (Chakrapani and Kumar 1994).The same thing is reflected in Mediaalso. Cinema is an important media that brings a great impact in social andpolitical events.
According to Urvashi Butalia(1984), Indian cinema is the single largest medium of communication. Filmindustry in India is largely male dominated. The heroes play an important roleand they are shown as powerful, whereas the heroines shown as a commodities andsexual objects to fulfill the audience desires. The Indian film industryis a male-dominated industry where women are playing very few roles likeactresses or playback singers. Due to the women’s movement, which spread revolutionand awareness, in recent years women have emerged as choreographers, costumedesigners, editor’s screenwriters and lyricists or composers.
According to ParthaSarathi Dasgupta and Belle Monappa Hegde (1988), many commercial films havehighlighted “ideal women” as submissive, self sacrificing, chaste,and controlled. 1.2.Women in patriarchal societyIn an online article by InternationalWorld History Project states that from the birth of civilization the women wasnot given a high standard of living in any of the civilization from the Harappacivilization, Egyptian civilization, Chinese civilization etc. It was a patriarchal form of society as thesociety was based on men and it was under men’s control. After marriage womenbecame subordinate men in all forms of life and she had to spend the rest ofher life in husband’s house.
In Mesopotamian civilization women came control oftheir parents. After marriage her husband was head and he controls the entirefamily. In Egyptian civilization women enjoyed as exceptionally high status.Such a high status was not enjoyed by the women of any other civilization.Women had equal share in the ancestral property. Marrying own brothers andfamily men were common in royal class families.
The ancient Egyptian Vizier, Ptahhotepstates about women status that they were fortune to their husband fulfill alltheir wishes. Women treated as sexual objects in China; often she was used asan object for sexual relationships. Womenshould be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access toinformation technology (Sudarsanam, Jawhari 2005). TV programmes are portrayingwomen in derogatory manner which has the minimize the respect and dignity ofwomen (Punwani.J. 1988).
Many directors are focused on the women issues such asmarriage, widowhood, dowry and rape. (Butalia 1984). Women should be given thedemocratic space where she can talk about her problems Kiran Prasad (2005). Sheadds that we live in democratic country where each one rights are respected inthe society.
Women must play an important role develop the society as well asbreakdown the bending down attitude. Rise above from the difficulties, womenmust be portrayed superior not as inferior to men and their rights need torespected. Theissues which are related to women are not discussed in the media rather womenare used as a commodity (Dr.Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, 2005). Sharma (2005) also statesthat newspaper give no place to rape, crime, politics, scandals, seriousdebates and discussions on issues related to women. Most of the newspaperpublishes only the gossips about the TV serials or film actresses. Discussingthe modern issue of feminism has opened a new angle to think about theequality, freedoms or liberties for the women (Choudhury, Maitrayee, 2000). Therelationship between media and women only giving important for sex role,stereotype, dependent on men, decision making in home, always dependant onfinancial help from men.
(Ranu Tomar, 2011). Some focus that modern women who stand for vales and convictions butfinally only hero can save her from the dangerous situations. (Courtney andLockeretz, 1971). Modernwomen shown in films is a complete transform of patriarchal tradition women whois well educated beautiful independent but still needs a hero to save her frompetty thieves. New cinema and the portrayal of women may lead to myth insociety (Laxmi, 1986). According to Meera Uberoi (1990), representation ofwomen in Indian popular art has two aspects. The first is women are being usedin the cine field as a commodity, second feminine aspect over all culturalcontexts. In the cultural activities women are prominent object of male desireand possession.
Two things in which hinder women are not able to exercise theirfreedom. One is marginalization of women in the male dominated society. Media focusonly women bodies such as advertising and film. 1.
3. Historicalbackground of Tamil Cinema Cinema as a popular medium of entertainmentis now more than a century old. Only recently our society has realized cinema’sgreat potential as an instrument of entertainment, instruction, motivation andconstruction.
The arrival of the Tamil cinema industry was with celluloidtechnology in the year 1897. This happened when M. Edwards held a cinematographshow in Victoria Public Hall near the central station in Chennai.
This was thefirst ever show in the south India. And the interesting thing is that this wasjust a year after the Lumiere brothers had demonstrated their inventions inParis. Little did it manifest that this would advance as a big, reputedentertainment industry and become a commercial possibility in our society.Duringearly period of cinema industry, silent films, where the film does not containspoken dialogues, used mimes, gestures and title cards to unveil theirdialogues. During this silent film era (1916 – 1932), most of the films wereshot based on the accustomed stories from the Puranas. For a silent film,moreover every actor was from stage drama.
Tamil women didn’t want to act infront of the camera for fear of their society. So Tamil silent films in thatera had American and European women acting in them. In 1915, E.J.B.
Greenwood, made the utterancethat the cinema could be both physically and morally harmful for the public (PerianayagamJesudoss, 2009). Thefirst cinema theatre of Tamil Nadu, named as Gaiety was built in Chennai in theyear 1913. The forerunner of the industry was Mr.
R. Nataraja Mudaliar. Thefirst studio made film, named Keechaka Vadham was produced by him in 1916. Afterthe entry of sound into the cinema industry, Mr. R. Nataraja Mudaliar gainedautonomy in the market. In 1928, the Indian Cinematograph Committee describedthe Tamil cinema as an entertainment for the people. The censorship was placedunder scrutiny but not the trade.
In 1934, his general pictures corporationproduced films in four major South Indian Languages namely Tamil, Telugu,Malayalam and Kannada were released along with Hindi. In Fact, at this time,not even Hindi films made such progress in this field. The leaders of highcaste saw the cinema as a cultural menace which could ruin the society.
MahatmaGandhi stated in 1939 as “Cinema among evils like gambling andracing”. This same antagonistic approach towards the cinema can be seen inthe remarks of Nehru that “The cinema industry was not a priority of a newnation”. It was noticed that cinema often got negative reactions. So bypassing the Indian Cinematograph Act in 1918, they empowered the authorities toexamine and permit or deny the certification for films as suitable for publicexhibition. In due course, police also were assented to examine films, but thepolice just enjoyed the film rather bothering about the examination. The policetook part in their duties with many vested interests rather than doing theirduty thus paving path for corruption to enter into Tamil cinema industry. From1915, controlling the cinema became a muddle for the Indian Government. Thusthe cinema entered into the India and Tamil Nadu; saw the consolidation of thecensorship machinery to regulate the new technological medium and thepotentially menacing space that it enabled.
From then cinema space was regulated highly and, considered as anenvironment that is highly suspicious, which is constantly under threat of lawand order. The producers lent money from the people who are rich and as therewas no security for money return, they gave up on the value-based films andproduced very low budget films for quick money. This became a chance forillegal funds and underground criminals to enter the film industry. The film industry became a gateway for all theevil like black money, black marketers and smugglers to invest theirunaccounted money which would be tax free.
During the British rule, this was considered to be a patriotic act. The industry was controlled by the moneylenders and the distributors until it was taken up by famous stars. Then therecame the time where the film’s success was based on the star values. In thistime, the stars rose to the top but all other artists and film makers found ittough to get through in the industry. The sound Engineers, cinematographers,editors, laboratory technicians, and junior artists were poorly paid. Theunskilled artists and workers of the film industry, most of them are poor lowcaste artisans, earned even less.
Itis worth to notice that M.B.Srinivasan who wrote that the cinema industry isruled like a zamindari. Today much ofthe rise of the production of the popular cinemas can be accounted to outdoorshooting, which indicates the huge amount of money and time spent behind that,to be more precise, the songs and the sequences, whose costs are often high.
The technology and the industry cinema’s realism, from the beginning had thepowers to move the audience. For instance, the scene of the contemporary Tamilactor Kamal Haasan shaking hands with Shubash Chandra Bose in the Tamil film isa typical example of the Tamil cinema in making the unreal appear real. InTamil cinema, the heroes are portrayed as supermen who are able to do so manythings at a time which they are actually not capable of doing – like talkingmany languages, fighting singing, dancing, handling weapons etc. The illiterateand common people consider this as real whereas the educated elites take it asjust a cinematographic language. The cinema industry has achieved far moresuccess than the other arts in a very short span.
The production of cinema istypically an industrial process, which means it calls for a huge investment ofmoney and personnel, a well-built framework, and an industrializedinfrastructure in the society. India is the second largest commercial filmproduction industry in this world and possesses a highly developed andsophisticated film industry. It is worthy of mention that Tamil has its uniqueplace in the national worldwide film industry (Jesudoss 2009). The popularityof cinema is very much dependent on the camera which imitated thatrepresentation, and it is served as the artist’s tool for many centuries. Sound and color absolutely altered not onlycinematography but also the society as stories already present in the societyin the form of novels and literature are translated into the new technology.This reproduces the system of morality and reality already present in the oldersystems of the story telling in society. 1.
4. Portrayal of womenin movies Jain and Rai (2002)states that we have different means to communicate and in the mass media, filmand cinema are the commonly used mediums to communicate. Jain and Rai (2002) argues that “thefact that cinema is a mediator of social realities and personal dreams,collective concerns and individual aspirations make it assume a seminaldimension as a humanistic discourse which has the potential to redirect thecultural and material fabric of our everyday lives.”Women in films areportrayed as characters to support the male character. In fact, they are the ones who keep the flowand grace along with the male character. Women are being objectified and areprojected as sex symbols which male characters cannot represent. Indian womenin general bear the brunt of the negative representation of female charactersby being silent with enormous amount of sacrifices (Jain and Rai 2002). (SrividyaRamasubramanian, 2005) states that women arerepresented in many different ways like commodities and as sex objects andthere are character roles where the abuse of women is vividly represented everyday.
The abuses like the sati system, dowry- a real curse to the IndianSociety, rape- common phenomena in the Indian Society, dancing girl- especiallyin films, slavery, are featured in Indian films. The media manufacturesand sells the images of both male and female and therefore media can be termedas an industry of culture. Media does not give a true representation of womenin real life and instead gives a distorted and cheap projection about women.
Anorganized and proper platform is necessary for women to raise their voiceagainst gender inequalities because men, dominate the society. Reshaping theimage of women and empowering them is one of the most important aspects in theworld today. Jackson and Jacjie (1998) pointed out that”the study of the images of women in cinema were a central concern of the’second wave’ feminism of the 1960s and 1970s, criticizing women’s image infilm and women’s roles in the film industry.” According to Ritzer, (2005), for analyzingthe position and representation of women within power and gender relations in apatriarchal society, we need to consider the role of agency in women’s lives.”Agency” refers to the capacity of individual humans to actindependently and to make their own free choices.
Agency, thus, generallyrefers to micro level actors and to macro level collectives that act. Thisdissertation aims to examine how the representation of women in Tamil cinemahas changed over the past decade. And also to explore the portrayal of women inTamil cinema by applying the sociological approach which focuses onagency.