The micro picture on the issue of woman empowerment is changing every single day, only because someone out there is taking small steps to make a big difference
By Manjulaa Shirodkar
What does woman empowerment mean to you? Oh, no! You must be thinking, ‘Come International Women’s Day and here comes another annually-done-to-death clichéd story on a clichéd and done-to-death topic of woman empowerment.’ Where the macro picture usually looks at commonly raised and even more commonly discussed women issues like Gender Equality, Patriarchy, Educational Inequality, Sexism, Economic Inequality and Power Imbalances. Sigh, that just went flying past didn’t it?
Then there are honour killings, child marriages, genital mutilation, acid burnings, domestic violence, rapes, marital rapes and general lack of respect for the caregivers of our children, parents, spouses and extended family which also make daily headlines. They are but statistics which annoy or make us feel sad and then we move onto the next headline. Don’t forget the commodification and objectification of the woman – which angers one too many – including you and me. But what do we do about it?
Closer to the bone are issues like navigating career and motherhood responsibilities, financial discussions which start and end with men in the house – irrespective of whether the woman is earning or not. Every single one of the issues mentioned above deserves its own time and space.
And still, one misses the micro picture which is changing every single day, only because someone out there is taking minute steps. Most men or women (especially the common souls out there and not the activist types) are taking small steps towards changing things(not with the intention of changing the world) but things which will impact matters for girls and women in the long run.
Look at the case of the short film Bittu, which revolves around the friendship of two young girls set somewhere in the Himalayas, directed by Karishma Dev Dube. The film is making waves around the world, participating in various film festivals and the latest feather in the cap is that it has made it to the Live Action Short Film shortlist for the 93rd Academy Awards. The leading duo, Rani and Renu Kumari are both non-actors and from Himachal Pradesh.
Indian Women Rising (IWR) is a cinema collective and which counts among its members Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana and Ruchikaa Kapoor Sheikh, has decided to not only promote the film, but also support the young leads by collecting funds for their education. Priyanka Chopra Jonas, too, is on board to support the cause.
In an interview to a leading daily, Chopra-Jonas says, “Bittu is moving, raw and real. It takes a devastating incident and presents it from a unique perspective. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to help and give it the attention it deserves. It’s a great example of how women supporting women can make anything possible. World over, cinema needs more women to bring their voices, stories and perspectives to the fore, and this is one step in that direction.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Sakshi Malik who has successfully won a defamation suit that she filed against the makers of V – a Telugu film, for using her photograph in the film without her permission. Not only did the High Court take cognisance of the complaint, it has also ordered the exhibitors Amazon Prime to either delete the scenes where Malik is mentioned or take down the film completely.
Sakshi Malik who rose to fame with her provocative moves in ‘Bom Diggy Diggy’song in Kartik Aaryan-Sunny Singh starrer Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety filed a defamation suit against Venkateshwara Creations Pvt Ltd. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Malik’s picture had been used without her consent, the scene where it appears refers to her as a sex worker when her picture is shown on the mobile phone to another character.
The High Court ruled that, ‘Simply using another image, and most especially a private image, without consent is prima facie impermissible, unlawful and entirely illegal. In a given case, it may also be defamatory, depending on the type of use.’ The film has since been removed from the OTT platform. What is important is that the incident not be seen in isolation. It sets a precedent in how women choose to see themselves and are willing to take a stand for it.
The two events – unrelated though they may appear point to a small but steady trend of how things are changing around the world, one move, one step at a time. And its important that we continue to keep taking these steps till one day, issues of women empowerment would be accepted reality and not just dreams to be pursued.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.