Indian Cinema has been accused of being sexist for many years now. While men are glorified, women playing vital characters in Hindi cinema have not been many. A recent research on Bollywood movies conducted by IBM and two Delhi-based institutions, found out that, “Different features like occupation, the introduction of cast in the text, associated actions, and descriptions are captured to show the pervasiveness of gender bias and stereotype in movies.”
Researchers studied 4,000 Hindi movies released between 1970 and 2017 from IBM dataset of Wikipedia pages by extracting titles, cast information, plots, soundtracks, and posters. They also analysed 880 official trailers of movies released between 2008 and 2017.
The revelations are quite disturbing but not surprising. The data revealed that during introduction sequences, descriptors for males are profession-driven whereas women are associated with physical appearances, emotional states, or their relation to a man, such as the “wife of” or “daughter of” and so on. The study also reveals that women shared much less on-screen time as compared to men.
Although, over the course of time, this bias is slowly changing. Instead of embracing women-centric films as a part of commercial cinema, they have been thrown into a different genre altogether. According to the report, between 2015 and 2017, females were the central characters in 11.9% of Hindi movies released between 2015 and 2017. Back in the 70s, this figure was closer to 7%. Between 2016-2017 films like, Nil Battey Sannata, Dear Zindagi, Pink, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Akira, Mom, Simran, Haseena Parkar, Naam Shabana, Begum Jaan, Noor, Anaarkali of Aarah, Maatr, Kahaani 2, Bhoomi, Neerja were all women-centric and most of them were critically acclaimed but couldn’t do well at the box-office. While movies like Judwaa 2, Golmaal Again, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil with weak story lines but big star cast broke box office records. These just bring to light the fact that the audiences are still reluctant to embrace the change of breaking stereotypes and accepting women as leads. The success or failure of upcoming women-centric movies like Tumhari Sulu, Padmavati and Jia Aur Jia this year could give a better answer to the dilemma.