This evening I had a really interesting chat with Raj & Pablo on the BBC Asia Network focusing on Body image in Bollywood. To prep for this I asked s few people from Team MissMalini for their thoughts and the answers were so well crafted I kind had to blog them for you :) I didn’t warn them that I’d do this so SURPRISE!
Please leave your own thoughts for me in the comments below, I’d love to know what YOU think too! Their main question was:
We simply want to know maybe your experiences of Bollywood body-image, the pressures on young women and if you think Bollywood reflects diversity enough.
Here’s what team awesome had to say about that!
Q. How do you feel Bollywood compares to Hollywood in terms of reflecting diversity?
Marv: Bollywood, of late, has stepped up in terms of their story lines. The majority are still films that are targeted to the masses but low on content in terms of quality and thought. But audiences now have a good choice of films with positive messaging like PK and ones with stronger female imagery like Mary Kom that have proven successful, both in quality and numbers!
MissMalini: I also loved how Queen was a first-of-its-kind female centric coming of age, out and out chick flick, without going the Mother India way. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Mother India but I sometimes feel the only time female actors get their share of the spotlight is when they’re playing some down-trodden, repressed survivor of India’s repressed society. Case in point Prem Rog. Either that or they’re living out some amazing revenge fantasy like in Zakhmi Aurat, Prem Granth, Damini or choosing the thug life in Phoolan Devi or Gulaab Gang!
Priyam: And let’s not pretend that big women in Hollywood have it THAT easy. As talented as she is (and funny), Mellissa McCarthy couldn’t find a designer who wanted to dress her for an award ceremony because her body isn’t nice enough. Jennifer Hudson‘s weight loss got her more acclaim than her jaw-dropping performance in Dream Girls. Rebel Wilson always plays the funny fat chick. So is there diversity in representation of body image in Hollywood? Yes! But does the representation make weight the focal point of the plot? Also yes.
Q. Do you think Bollywood should support older actors / actresses more?
Marv: Yes. Totally. We have an army of actresses like Sridevi, Manisha Koirala, Pooja Bhatt, Tabu and veterans like Lillete Dubey, Kitu Gidwani and Shabana Azmi. Who, I feel, could do more in the industry and they have immense potential as senior actresses that should be tapped. Similar to actresses like Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench in the west.
MissMalini Also it was awesome to see Sridevi make a killer come back with English Vinglish!
Rashmi: More actresses than actors – older actors still get a lot of work and pass off playing roles of characters half their age. However, it’s not the same for the ladies. While actors can go on and on playing lead roles, actresses, unfortunately, have more of a shelf life – we’re okay with seeing our 45+ year old men playing guys in their 20s, but we’re not okay with that happening for the women. Support for older actors/actresses would come about naturally if we had more diversity in our characters in films – in this way, older actors/actresses would fit into roles naturally and not have to be forced into a character several years younger than they actually are.
Priyam: Support them in a way that tells them ageing is a natural process and not make them feel like their acting career has a shelf life.
Q. Do you believe society or the media is to blame for younger people feeling pressure to look a certain way?
Marv: That’s one way of looking at things and there is also some truth to it. But accountability has always been an issue here. Though, the media and society pressure younger citizens with content and moral policing at lightening speed, it isn’t balanced with a substantial direction. With the world spinning faster than it did 5 or 10 years ago, we need to curate and educate younger audiences in a language and with an intention that impresses them and doesn’t threaten or dampen their spirits. But as consumers of information, we can’t sit and complain. We should come out and question.
Rashmi: Yes, but it’s a cycle. Celebrities feel the need to look a certain way because the public slams them when they don’t. The public has unrealistic beauty standards because they see celebrities looking a certain way in films/the media. Again, the cycle can only start breaking when more diversity is introduced – and when it looks normal. Now, even if we have someone slightly heavier in films, they’ve been cast for comic relief/a specific reason – and references are always drawn to their weight. That makes it look like their weight is a very big deal, instead of something that just is.
Priyam: Because society and media influences our perception even when we don’t realize it, portrayal of women in the media and society does add to the pressure of looking a certain way. More realistic portrayal will be a welcome change – in terms of weight, size, colour of skin, hair texture…
Q. Have you experienced any prejudice regarding imagine on your journey within the media?
Priyam: Not in particular.
MissMalini: I can’t think of an overwhelming instance. But I’ve probably grown up dealing with the same prejudices most Indian kids deal with who aren’t “fair and lovely”! I remember older relatives commenting on how “dark” I’d become after living in West Africa for 4 year! Or received the odd back-handed compliment (or insult?) one which I’ll never forget; “you look so nice beta! Pehle kitni kaali si sukdi si hoti thi!” *literally, you used to be so black and skinny! Hahahaha (I’m looking at you Maya Mausi!) #TrueStory