Imagine a script for a Bollywood cop movie (no, not the often insufferable Rohit Shetty universe version), a conventional crime thriller with a cat-and-mouse chase plot. What sort of lead comes to mind while thinking about such a project? You must be picturing a tall, hunky masculine police officer, I wager.
It’s because of this broad gender prejudice, which is deeply ingrained in our minds, that we tend to think of men as people of power. Even though we have seen female actors portray police officers in films and shows multiple times, and they have done an outstanding job of it, we would still picture a male police officer.
In a poignant moment in the movie Thursday, Dimple Kapadia, who portrays the Indian Prime Minister, responds appropriately to such a notion. When Maya Rajguru (Kapadia) worries about the defenseless children Naina (Yami Gautam) is holding hostage, her personal assistant sends out a word that she won’t visit her in person before even notifying the Prime Minister.
He justifies the choice by pointing out that she is a woman and experiences emotional outbursts in these circumstances when he is questioned about it.
The scene reveals how, regardless of their status, society confines women to being overemotional and does not expect them to make crucial choices.
Recently, results from a study of 194 nations conducted by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum showed that women leaders “clearly reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities”. The report indicated that their nations endured, on average, half as many fatalities as those led by men. And yet, people still think that women are less suited than men to hold leadership positions.
While we are explicitly discussing women in police forces, Neha Dhupia plays a pregnant police officer who is dealing with children in a hostage situation in the same movie (Thursday).
Although one would think that her maternal instincts are likely to take over in such scenarios, the character and plot are crafted in such a way as to emphasise that women are equally capable of doing their jobs as rationally as men, if not more.
In a discussion about her experience, Richa Chadha, who portrayed a cop in the crime drama series Candy, noted that she found prepping for parts to be more difficult than actually doing them.
It demanded a very different mental make-up. I was lucky enough to hang out with some female cops and understand the dual pressures of managing the needs of the family in the Indian social set up, and working as a law enforcer.Richa Chadha
The Netflix series Delhi Crime has to be the most recent venture that accurately depicts the tribulations of women in the police services, both personal and professional. In the crime drama, Shefali Shah and Rasika Dugal, who portray IPS officers, present a realistic viewpoint that debunks numerous stereotypes. And the series has addressed a significant gendered bias related to women holding positions of authority and the perception that they are feeble in any way.
However, the portrayal of female cop characters in Indian movies and shows up to this time has not been entirely seamless. With the advent and popularity of OTT content, such roles have only recently undergone a drastic change.
The title of the much acclaimed mainstream cop movie with Rani Mukerji as the protagonist, despite introducing a powerful and resolute police inspector, reeks of institutional sexism.
Despite a woman playing the lead, the film Mardaani, which translates to “courageous as a man,” makes it obvious that the character’s traits are exclusively associated with men.
Hopefully, the days are behind us when female cops were either scarce on screen or had thinly fleshed characters in comparison to striking male cop roles.
The way that female police officers are portrayed in today’s crime dramas differs greatly, giving the characters considerably more nuance and believability. To be precise, Raveena Tandon’s Kasturi Dogra in Aranyak is indeed very distinct from Aditi Sudhir Pohankar’s Bhumika Pardeshi in She.
Without resorting to stereotypes, the characters have been written in a unique way, and they are also depicted as women from different walks of life. By being shown as more real and as individuals beyond their profession, such characters become much more convincing.
Only a handful of female actors who played police officers can be spotted in classic Bollywood movies, if any at all. Though they are still remembered for their remarkable performances, Hema Malini in Aandha Kanoon and Rekha in Phool Bane Angaray both thrived from a stereotypical portrayal of women in the force.
Intriguingly, both of the protagonists were depicted in the crime dramas as “revengeful angels,” barely paying attention to their own storylines. On the other hand, now narratives and character arcs are carefully crafted in a way that makes them compelling and relatable, rather than being merely vaguely constructed.
In addition to tackling the issue of the man-eating tigress, Vidya Balan, who portrays a strong female role in Sherni, also fights against the misogyny that is pervasive in our culture. In many ways, the character is more relatable because she deals with issues that practically every woman in our society encounters on a continuous basis.
Rajshri Deshpande, who played a relatively minor role in the series The Fame Game, portrayed the character of officer Shobha Trivedi. It not only depicts her battles with the patriarchal system but also the difficulties faced by homosexual couples in our culture. In the series, which encouraged inclusivity through her character, Shobha is seen battling for social equality with her partner.
We are all surely aware of the widespread belief that women are too frail to hold roles of power. Gender norms influence social roles and the behaviour that men and women are expected to exhibit beginning at an early age. When it comes to leadership, old gender biases are the baseline, and these prejudices are then imposed on women in the workplace.
Although it only makes up a small part of our lives, cinema is unquestionably a powerful tool for reshaping such notions. The continual refutation of stereotypes and the realistic portrayal of characters can inevitably make an impression on the audience.
Despite the fact that the contribution might appear minimal at this time, the outcomes are likely to be for the betterment of any and all.