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‘Cloak of culture’ veils women’s sexual desires in Hindi cinema

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A still from "Lipstick Under My Burkha". (IANS Photo)

Mumbai, March 8 : Rewind to 2000 – “Astitva” saw Tabu questioning Sachin Khedekar if a woman’s desires are any different from a man’s desire. Cut to 2017 — progressive minds in the Indian film industry have the same question for the countrys censor board, which has refused a certificate to a film in which four fiesty women discover their inner desires.

Film historian S.M.M. Ausaja points out that the problem lies in how Indian filmmakers are becoming liberal with creativity and moving in sync with global trends in cinema, but the Indian censor board has not moved ahead.

“While our art and literature are so progressive, it is paradoxical how our cinema has not progressed,” Ausaja told IANS, adding that he is not optimistic about change.

“People have become so judgmental, and they don’t want to listen to a contrary view. I am not optimistic about things until there’s a radical shift in the ideological levels of those in power. We have to remove this cloak of culture to let cinema flourish by global standards,” Ausaja said.

Filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava, whose “Lipstick Under My Burkha” is in the line of fire for being too “lady oriented”, defends it by saying it is in no way “an explicit portrayal of what women may want”.

“For me, it is just the story of four ordinary women who try to live out their small dreams through secret acts of rebellion. We are so not used to seeing a film that is an honest telling of the intimate lives of women from their own point of view, that it seems so sensational,” Shrivastava told IANS.

Describing it as a “personal and intimate story”, she said: “I don’t see it an explicit film, but rather as an honest film.”

She noted how a common refrain in telling real stories through cinema remains, “Arre, the censors won’t pass it. Forget about that idea. This is India.”

Filmmakers and artistes have been rallying for a change in the Cinematograph Act — only allowing certification, not censorship, so that artistic creativity and freedom are not curtailed.

Over the decades, one has witnessed an upsurge in movies with women as central and strong characters. Some cases in point are “Mother India”, “Aandhi”, “Bhumika”, “Rajnigandha”, “Mirch Masala”, “Damini”, “Chandni Bar”, “No One Killed Jessica”, “Kahaani”, “Mary Kom” and “Neerja”.

Alongside, there have been the fearless souls every now and then, bringing subjects of women’s sexuality to the fore.

Back in 1933, Devika Rani had planted an impassioned kiss on co-star Himanshu Rai’s lips in what is believed to be the first on-screen kiss in Hindi cinema. Interestingly, the woman made the move.

In “Dev D”, Mahie Gill takes a mattress to the fields in anticipation of her lover and their moment of passion. Amrita Puri’s character was bold about calling her lover to the terrace and making love to him in “Kai Po Che!”.

Who can forget Vidya Balan’s “The Dirty Picture”, where her character uses her sex appeal uninhibitedly. Then, there’s the more recently released “Angry Indian Goddesses” to cite as an example.

Deepa Mehta’s brave 1996 saga “Fire” saw leading ladies Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das — both flag bearers of realistic themes in cinema — portraying homosexuality in an unapologetic way. The film is said to have been loosely based on Ismat Chughtai’s story “Lihaaf” — a supposed inspiration also for the alluded lesbianism seen in Madhuri Dixit’s and Huma Qureshi’s “Dedh Ishqiya”.

In a way, the “lihaaf” and “burkha” are metaphorical veils one needs in order to discuss women’s sexuality in Hindi cinema.

“I think we have dealt with sexuality as a whole in a very veiled manner through the years, whether it is male or female,” filmmaker Leena Yadav reflected.

Yadav’s “Parched” provided a window into how women live in a tightly-controlled “traditional” world, but in their private spaces they talk about love, sex and their dreams for the future.

Yadav told IANS: “I don’t know what has made people uncomfortable… Because we are also the culture that created the Kamasutra… So from where, we have reached where. I d’n’t even know how this trend started that we would rather show two flowers getting intimate with each other, but we are scared of showing human intimacy.”

Lipstick Under my Burkha

“Lipstick Under My Burkha” producer Prakash Jha says the movie “brings down the shallow and oppressing rules of our society, which says women can’t speak about their fantasies””

“What they don’t understand is that by refusing a certificate to a film, they (the censors) can’t oppress this thinking.”

By : Radhika Bhirani

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

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Bollywood mourns ‘brilliant, beautiful’ Sridevi’s demise

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Sridevi

Mumbai, Feb 25: Ageless beauty, vibrant, beautiful, brilliant and iconic — the Indian film fraternity outpoured its love for Sridevi as the news of her sudden and untimely death of the veteran actress left the country shocked.

Image result for sridevi

Hours before the news of Sridevi’s death surfaced, megastar Amitabh Bachchan tweeted: “Na jaane kyun, ajeeb si ghabrahat ho rahi hai (I don’t know why I am feeling uneasy.”

From southern movie stars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, veterans like Anupam Kher, Hema Malini and Madhuri Dixit-Nene and younger celebrities like Farhan Akhtar and Alia Bhatt — celebrities were in disbelief of Sridevi’s demise at the age of 54.

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“I’m shocked and very disturbed. I’ve lost a dear friend and the industry has lost a true legend. My heart goes out to her family and friends. I feel the pain with them. Sridevi, you will be missed,” tweeted Rajinikanth, who featured with her in the memorable “ChaalBaaz”.

Kamal Haasan, her co-star from “Sadma” — one of her most evocative performances — said: “Have witnessed Sridevi’s life from an adolescent teenager to the magnificent lady she became. Her stardom was well deserved. Many happy moments with her flash through my mind including the last time I met her. Sadma’s lullaby haunts me now. We’ll miss her.”

Actress-politician Hema Malini wrote: “Sridevi’s sudden passing away has left me in deep shock. Can’t imagine how such a bubbly person, a wonderful actor, is no more. She has left a void in the industry that cannot be filled. Boney is a good friend and I’ve seen their daughters grow up. My prayers are with the family.”

Filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli wrote: “The first Lady Superstar of the Country. Fifty of those 54 years as an actress par excellence. What a journey…and such an unexpected end. May your soul rest in peace.”

Before her entry into Bollywood, the actor had been a known face in South Indian films. She made her debut as a child artiste in Tamil film “Thunaivan” in 1969. She also worked in Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada films.

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Sridevi was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour, in 2013.

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Actor Anupam Kher, who worked with Sridevi in a multitude of films like “Lamhe”, “ChaalBaaz” and “Karma”, said: “Am I having a horrible dream. Sridevi no more? This is so so sad. And so so not fair. One of the most brilliant, elegant and talented actresses ever. The queen of Indian cinema. And a friend. Worked with her in so many movies. So many amazing memories.”

He said he wants to remember her as “happening, vibrant, brilliant, beautiful, bestest and unique”.

Sridevi was in Dubai with husband Boney Kapoor and younger daughter Khushi when she breathed her last. Her elder daughter Jahnvi, who is due to make her Bollywood debut, was in Mumbai.

Sridevi and the rest of the family was in Dubai to attend a family wedding, and she exuded elegance in her appearances — photos and videos that are now being shared on social media as her “last”.

Author Chetan Bhagat wrote: “She never seemed to age, and now she is suddenly gone. We grew up watching her, and she was still going strong. Can’t believe she’s not there anymore. God bless her soul.”

Actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar recounted his time with Sridevi from “Lamhe”.

“My first job in 1990 was on ‘Lamhe’ and this song ‘Megha re megha’ was the very first time I saw this legendary actor create her incredible magic on screen. From ‘Sadma’ to ‘ChalBaaz’, from ‘Mr.India’ to ‘Chandni’, it was impossible to take your eyes off her when she appeared on screen.

“A true star. A gifted actor. A woman with tremendous dignity. Gone too soon. RIP Sridevi. Sad sad day.”

Her “Chandni” co-star Rishi Kapoor wrote: “Woken up to this tragic news. Absolute shock. Sad. Heartfelt condolences to Boney and their two daughters!”

Madhuri Dixit-Nene said, “The world has lost a very talented person who left behind a huge legacy in films”.

Akshay Kumar tweeted: “Shocked beyond words to hear about the sad and untimely demise of #Sridevi. A dream for many, had the good fortune of sharing screen space with her long ago and witnessed her continued grace over the years. Thoughts and prayers with the family. RIP.”

Actor R. Madhavan described her as a legend of Indian cinema.

“Our industry will never be the same again. She was the kindest soul apart from being a Giant performer. The heavens are lucky.”

Actress Alia Bhatt tweeted: “Nothing makes sense. I have no words… just completely shocked. RIP Sridevi. My icon forever. Love you.”

Composer Vishal Dadlani wrote: “Srideviji was a megastar in her own right. She put the early cracks in the glass ceiling and paved the way for female megastars that came after her. Her reinvention and comeback has been brilliant too. We lost more than a star, today. We lost a pioneer.”

Actor Vivek Oberoi described her as a “legend, an enigma, a superstar whose brilliance dazzled us for decades”.

“Srideviji, you will live forever in our hearts,” he added.

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India stunned by Sridevi’s death, body expected to reach Mumbai this evening

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Sridevi

Mumbai, Feb 25: Veteran actress Sridevi, 54, passed away in Dubai, plunging the entire country into a pall of gloom as her fans and admirers expressed shock and disbelief.

The actress breathed her last on Saturday night at around 11 p.m. She was rushed to the nearby Rashid Hospital but pronounced dead on admission.

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Her body is expected to be flown to Mumbai via a special chartered flight on Sunday evening for the last rites but the timings were not confirmed yet, according to official sources.

Sridevi was in Dubai to attend the marriage function of actress Sonam Kapoor’s cousin Mohit Marwah, along with husband Boney Kapoor and younger daughter Khushi.

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She exuded elegance in her appearances — photos and videos that were now being shared on social media as her “last”.

Confirming the news of her death, Sridevi’s brother-in-law and actor Sanjay Kapoor, told IANS: “Yes, it is true.”

The Indian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Indian Consulate in Dubai were assisting the family to expedite the process to bringing her body to India as soon as possible.

The actress is remembered for her performance is some of the iconic Bollywood films like “Mr. India”, “Nagina”, “Sadma”, “ChalBaaz”, “Chandni”, “Khuda Gawah”, among many others in different Indian languages.

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The Padma Shri recipient, who made a comeback to Bollywood in 2012 with “English Vinglish” after a long break of 15 years, was last seen in “Mom” in 2017.

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Apparently having a premonition, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi’s co-star in half a dozen films, including “Khuda Gawah” had tweeted at 1.15 am on Sunday: “I don’t know, but I feel a strange sense of unease.”

The untimely death of the veteran actress has left the country shocked. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned her demise.

“Shocked to hear of passing of movie star Sridevi. She has left millions of fans heartbroken,” Kovind tweeted.

Modi also took to Twitter, saying: “Saddened by the untimely demise of noted actor Sridevi. She was a veteran of the film industry, whose long career included diverse roles and memorable performances.”

Southern movie stars and politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan also expressed disbelief.

“I’m shocked and very disturbed. I’ve lost a dear friend and the industry has lost a true legend. My heart goes out to her family and friends. I feel the pain with them. Sridevi, you will be missed,” tweeted Rajinikanth, who featured with her in the memorable “ChaalBaaz”.

Kamal Haasan, her co-star from “Sadma” — one of her most evocative performances — said: “Have witnessed Sridevi’s life from an adolescent teenager to the magnificent lady she became. Her stardom was well deserved. Many happy moments with her flash through my mind including the last time I met her. Sadma’s lullaby haunts me now. We’ll miss her.”

Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who has sung for Sridevi in 20 films including “Chaand Kaa Tukdaa”, “Khuda Gawah”, “Lamhe”, “Chandni”, “Nazrana” and “Himmatwala”, had no words to express her shock.

“Yakeen nahi ho raha ki itni choti umar mein Sridevi chali gayi. Kya kahun kuch samajh mein nahi aa raha hai. Boney Kapoor aur unki do betiyon ke dukh mein main shamil hun. (I can’t believe that Sridevi died so early, she was too young. I don’t know what to say. Condolences to Boney Kapoor and the daughters),” she tweeted.

Her “Mom” co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui wrote: “It’s a heartbreaking news, can’t even imagine in the worst of my dreams – World losses the best performer.”

Superstar Aamir Khan was “saddened by the untimely and tragic passing away of Srideviji”. He said he has “always been an admirer of the grace and dignity with which she conducted herself”.

While veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was “jolted” by the news of her sudden death, Sunny Deol, who has worked with her in films like “Sultanat”, “ChaalBaaz” and “Ram-Avtar”, said he is “going to miss her”.

Showbiz queen Ekta Kapoor tweeted: “The strongest women have the weakest hearts sometimes.”

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur said “with Sridevi gone an era is over”.

“Like life turning a new chapter. A beautiful story just ended. An amazing spirit just vanished leaving us with amazing love, memories, and incredible grief,” he tweeted.

Nimrat Kaur tweeted: “Absolutely devastated to hear about the passing of #Sridevi. What a dark black terrible moment in time. Gutted.”

“I just heard Ma’am Sridevi passed away due to a massive cardiac arrest. I am in shock…can’t stop crying…” Sushmita Sen tweeted.

Priyanka Chopra said: “I have no words. Condolences to everyone who loved #Sridevi . A dark day. RIP.”

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Sridevi had no history of heart disease: Sanjay Kapoor

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Sanjay kapoor sridevi

Dubai, Feb 25: Sridevi’s brother-in-law and actor Sanjay Kapoor has said the whole family was in shock with the sudden demise of the veteran actress. He also said that she had no history of heart ailment.

The actress, 54, died on Saturday night at around 11 p.m. after suffering a cardiac arrest.

In an interview to Khaleej Times, Sanjay said that she was in the hotel room here when it happened.

“We are completely shocked. She had no history of a heart attack,” he said.

Sanjay landed in Dubai on Sunday morning.

Sridevi was in Dubai to attend the marriage function of actress Sonam Kapoor’s cousin Mohit Marwah, along with husband Boney Kapoor and younger daughter Khushi. She exuded elegance in her appearances — photos and videos that were now being shared on social media as her “last”.

Her elder daughter Jahnvi, who is due to make her Bollywood debut, was in Mumbai.

Her body is expected to be flown to Mumbai via a special chartered flight on Sunday evening for the last rites but the timings were not confirmed yet, according to official sources.

Sridevi, who stepped into showbiz at an age of four, is known for performances in “Mr. India”, “Nagina”, “Sadma”, “ChalBaaz”, “Chandni”, “Khuda Gawah”, among many others in different Indian languages.

The Padma Shri recipient made a comeback to Bollywood in 2012 with “English Vinglish” after a long break of 15 years. She was last seen in “Mom” in 2017.

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