Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Is modern Bollywood representing us well?

Karan Johar’s rendering of ‘unrequited love’ in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil speaks of anything but love. Systematic stalking and emotional abuse are not love. Trying to kiss your platonic friend when she’s clearly uncomfortable, and then resorting to domestic violence, is not love. Yes, breaking vases is also domestic violence. The characters stumble in and out of toxic relationships, and the audience is supposed to feel sorry for them and root for a happy ending.

Let’s take a look at all the characters without their glossy Bollywood faces. Alizeh is portrayed as a modern woman who makes split second judgement, assessing (even before meeting her) that Ayan’s girlfriend would only be with him for money. Feeding the golddigger stereotype is not doing us any good as a nation that consumes Punjabi rap about girls ‘selling their affections’- so to speak- on a daily basis. Also, in an era of strong women who want to stand up against not just physical but emotional abuse, Alizeh’s initial choices are hardly a beacon of hope for women suffering silently in their homes. But we have to give her due credit for extricating herself from one toxic relationship at least, which was her marriage. No such luck with ridding herself of Ayan though, whose re-entry is juxtaposed with the entry of cancer.

When it comes to Ayan, his caustic behaviour toward the people in his life has been excused by various write-ups and reviews by calling him a ‘Man-child’, but this just sounds like another version of “boys will be boys”. This excuse-culture needs to be stopped. People must be held accountable for their deeds and bear the consequences. To give Ayan a happy reconciliation with his ‘friend’, is an assurance that no matter how badly you behave you will be rewarded for persistence that borders on stalking and harassment. The lowest point of the movie occurred in the thankfully deleted ‘Evening in Paris’ song, when Ayan grabs a random stranger’s hand. Instead of calling out his groping and sexual assault, she playfully caresses his cheek. What does this convey? That it is okay to be sexually harassed when a ‘hero’ is doing it? The second problem in this blink-and-miss moment is the stereotyping of ‘firang’ females as ‘loose’ women who would not mind being groped.

Saba, played by the ethereal Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, breaks through the cacophony as a sole voice of reason when she dumps Ayan, on being used as shiny trophy to show off to his true lady love, Alizeh. Saba’s ex-husband played by Shahrukh Khan is very eloquent, and yet invades his ex wife’s personal space time and again. Do any women, even the happily divorced ones, want their exes to breathe down their necks in public? What are Bollywood movies subliminally planting in the consciousness of the populace? It is high time mainstream filmmakers woke up to the subtle hints in their movies that help develop a culture of abuse.

This review is by Ishmeet Nagpal who is a programme co-ordinator for Laadli -A Population First Initiative

Friday, December 9, 2016

16 Days of Activism | Entry 7

Nishtha Vashishta 

You tell me not to wear
The Saree
You are ashamed you see me in? It’s taught me to walk
With dignity, with poise Unapologetic 
You tell me the red bindi Is for women alone?
It’s anger worn with pride For the world to see 
You tell me I am lost? I know
That I have
Just found myself.

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 6

I Did Ask You Nicely 
Sudeep Pagedar 

I have nothing more to say –
at least not to you 
Would you kindly let me go? 
you will call my parents! wait,
how old 
do you think I am? 
Been around for a while now, not new to this place 
you don’t like me? I don’t need you to. 
Sir – I use this term very lightly –
if who I am offends, 
you need only close your eyes. 
will you please let me go? 
“Justice is Blind”?
I knew you’d say that!
but in my mind,
justice is blinded
a hot poker pushed through unbelieving eyes 
the blindfold is appropriate – you should wear one too, but I can see
you already are 
Now listen. 
I am not Kejri or Anna, there will be no dharna But when I tire of
this detention, 
I only hope you remember: I did ask you nicely. 
End Note: These are the words of an unnamed individual. Gender, age, religion unknown. Someone who is tired of oppression, and speaks with a politeness born of exhaustion. However, this is also the point at which we realise that this person’s resolve has not diminished, and from this point on, it can only keep getting stronger. It is, at worst, an idealist’s dream, and at best, a nightmare for an oppressive entity! 

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 5

by Richa Shivangi Gupta

You slither
On freshly slaughtered
Smearing the crimson
Of life
On your numbing scales

You slither
As your coarse
Skin rasps against their
Tangerine, healing 

You slip
And hasten your
Pace when canopies
Of forbearance let the
Yellowed sun enter
Your darkness

You twine
Through the depths 
Of faultless green leaves
Who got caught in the
Wild wild wind
And were orphaned
For good

You fancy
Of flying above
The cobalt blue you
Touch in the lake you

You coil 
Into burrows
Of repression when
Children dressed in shades
Of violet, knock at your
Unwelcoming door looking
For the love you
Looted from their cradle

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 4

By Harnidh Kaur

I burnt my hand today, and my
mother clutched it, careful not
to touch my melting skin, eyes
wild with fear and borrowed
pain, as she mumbled about
how my happiness left me
open to hurt- my smiles just
evoked fear in her, because
the way my skin slipped off
my flesh was a sign of how
fragile I was in my construction,
how easy it would be to break
me in half, easy to bite off bits
till I'm left lying like a moth eaten
blanket, shivering under myself,
craving warmth but afraid of
being singed again- maybe that's
why I refuse to let my skin nestle
next to yours, that's why I refuse
to let our curves meet, preferring
to press against straight lines
that feel lukewarm at best, and
terrifying at least, this is why
I cannot allow myself to be
consumed by your softness, or
give myself some space to breathe-
what if the burns you leave on
me leave ugly scars that tell of
how I burned, of how I revelled in
your flames and watched them
consume all I had ever known?
what if I never find myself again
without that heat? What if the
passions that bloomed in as you
held my palm against your
breast all that I could ever need?
What if I was only kindling, and
would be left to ash? What if
these 'what if's are all I was
ever truly meant to have?

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism - Entry 3

Asexuality for Dummies
By Indian Aces

Setting: A regular pub. A girl is sitting at the bar alone, munching on cheese sticks, looking at people casually. She is asexual, a sexual minority so unheard of, that even the LGBT community doesn’t talk about it. During the course of the poem, we try to bust a number of myths that usually surround the topic of asexuality.
A heteronormative boy, largely unaware of such minorities, approaches...
Boy: Hi,
I noticed,

you were checking me out dancing.
Girl: Sorry,
You’re good,
But I was just glancing.
Boy: So I
just wonder,

you waiting for someone here?
G: Nah,
I’m solo,
for a chat, I’d lend an ear.
B: A pretty girl, like you,
with a charmer like me...
G: Haha,
we’d make
quite a pair, I agree!
B: So, where,
do you think,

is this night going to take us?
*The cake slice she had ordered appears, taking all her attention*
(It’s an inside joke within the global asexual community that we prefer cake to sex)
B: Umm, so I
was wondering,

where’s tonight taking us?
G: Don’t know about you,
but I’ll be catching a bus.
B: Let’s change those plans,
I’d love to be that cake.
G: While,
I’m flattered,
What’s the point you’re trying to make?
B: See,
look at us,

the time couldn’t be more right, I feel,
we could
really utilize this night.
G: *coughs* Ahm Well no,
I’m not sleeping with any men.
B: Oh sorry,
I usually

Easily spot a lesbian!
G: mm no,
I don’t
swing either way to be true.
B: Umm,
not homo?

then what exactly are you?
G: There’s more
beyond that spectrum,
ever heard of the term ‘ace’?
B: You mean,
A sexuality,

apart from straights and gays?
G: Well,
we have zero

sexuality, not even a trace, On this
hetero-homo scale,
we can’t really be placed.
B: Oh god,
A millennial,

trying to be a special snowflake.
G: I saw,
that coming,

I’ll go enjoy my cake >.>
B: Woah!
I’m sorry,
Didn’t mean to offend you maam, I’d love,
to learn more
if you believe that I can?

G: Like you,
Can be attracted

to genders one or many,
the asexuals,

we just aren’t to any.
B: So then,
you mean,

like having no libido?
G: mm well,
Some infact

have drawers full of dildos!
B: Okay,
But no,

I guess I’m confused much, You mean,
Some fap
And some like to be touched? Wait,
what’s even
the real difference then? I mean how,
Are they not like average women?
G: Ok,
I’ll tell you
how I feel about food. Say,
I see a pizza,
that looks real good, I drool
And I feel
an urge to go get a slice,
My twin,
she doesn’t,
though she eats to survive.
B: Okay,
I get that

That example, it’s simple, but does
that really,
translate even to people?
G: Yes, like, when you
come across an attractive person, do you
feel an urge
to do something with them?
B: Hmm,
there’s lust.
So that don’t happen to aces? They won’t,
ever even,
you know, suck faces?
G: Right!
no attraction,

and it’s a spectrum on its own, The behavior’s,
On a separate scale,
some are repulsed, but some bone.

B: Ah,
but you aces,

so you don’t do relationships?

G: Some don’t,
some do,
we can still be romantics!
B: Aha!
I believe
I’ve a friend he’s just like that!
G: I guess
you should

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

16 Days of Activism | Entry 2

by Minakshi

That September twilight,
When the town was still drowsy
From the day’s humdrum
And I had just woken from that same dream
Her red silk drape still lay on the wooden floor
A studded brooch and a bottle of French perfume on the mirror table
Some sexy G-string lingerie in dark blue carelessly dropped near the stairway.

I can still smell the coffee,
The red lipstick mark on the mug in which she sipped
And the stain of dark chocolate on the pastel blue linen in bed
The chocolate we used to make love from last night
Still lingered on…. 

While I caressed her bosoms and she caressed mine
The red lipstick now leaving its mark not just on the mug
But my breasts, lips and parts of my skinny thighs
I was panting as she moved her hands across my neck to my lower back
Glistening in the red dim shade of the lamp
her imperfect bodyline was simply too perfect

From her swollen heel from the new pair of stilettos,
to the droplets of sweat on her curves, 
From the warmth of her unwaxed body,
to the soft touch of her dark black nipples  
From the red bite on my left bosom,
to the touch of her firm hand on my neck as she untied my rough unkempt hair  
There was only and only
….nothing, but longing for more 

I could hear,
Those chatters
some that mocked
many that scoffed
and others that sneered 
That September twilight
Amidst the cacophony 
It was our world of infinity

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)