Rahul Bose may not be seen much these days, but he creates ripples with his strong opinions. Known for doing niche movies and avoiding the limelight, when this man speaks about gender equality people really want to listen. He is currently the global ambassador for Oxfam India, a global movement against poverty and injustice. He speaks his mind if need be, and is unapologetic if he thinks he’s right. He had quite a lot to say about gender roles in an interview with Oxfam.
He was in complete agreement that gender roles do play an important role in cinemas. Male and females actors are judged and selected on completely different criteria. Oxfam and MAMI Mumbai Film Festival are coming up with an award for ‘Best Film On Gender Equality’. When he was asked if such an award will result in changes in the way men and women are perceived in the film industry, he said it will take time, but change will come. It’s the first step towards making people question why the same rules do not apply to men and women.
Bose voiced that movies that change gender stereotypes make a direct impact on the box office. He particularly talked about Queen and Neerja saying that one could see the changes happening in the women-centric films of Bollywood. With time, we can definitely expect these to reflect on movie scripts ahead.
It seems his ideas of gender and its fluidity was something instilled in him from a very young age.
“I grew up in a house seeing reversed gender roles between my parents. Every morning my father packed our lunch boxes, while my mother encouraged me to play rugby. I never saw my mother walk behind my father… There is no surprise about the way things are in the industry – it’s a reflection of how women are viewed in society. The commodification of women is near absolute, be it on the cover of a magazine, music video or an item song. To me the idea of gender equality is two-fold: one, for women to have power to make their own choices, and two, to be treated as anybody else would, regardless of gender.”
He nailed the two-tier gender equality issue right there with that statement. And the man was on a roll, because he did not stop at that. He went on to further comment upon the item songs and their treatment in Bollywood. The brevity of the statement explains everything wrong that happens when there’s an item song.
“Doing an item song in front of fifty men in a bar, is a woman’s choice. I’m fine with it. But she should have complete awareness and knowledge of the consequences of her choices. The moment a film chooses to include an item song that has nothing really to do with the narrative of the film, it means they don’t know how to take the story forward and the only way to interest the audience is by titillating them with a woman’s body. There is a large section of women who unwittingly, unknowingly buy into that.”
Rahul completely backed the necessity to address the gender roles propagated by society and he feels that cinema is the way to the Indian audience’s hearts. That’s the extent to which we are influenced by the film industry. As a first, his directorial film Poorna has a sexual harassment code on the sets. A dialogue with gender sensitive filmmakers is important, as it can lead to gender sensitivity in their films, but be commercially successful at the same time.
It’s the likes of him that our movie industry needs!