Shailesh Kapoor: Misogyny or just entertainment?

03 Jan,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


We are all aware, and I assume, deeply hurt by the events that have unfolded over the last three weeks. The much-bullied media has played a pivotal role in keeping the pressure going, and that should lead to steps that serve us better in the years to come.


However, in this age of information and opinion overload, we tend to generalize things way too easily. Over the last seven days, there have been several media debates, across television, print and the Internet, on the role of entertainment in “promoting” sexual assault against women, by portraying women in a way that’s essentially misogynistic in nature.


I am all for sensitizing the country at large, and media is a key stakeholder in this process. But to divert a serious, purposeful discussion on rape and sexual assault to item numbers, vulgar lyrics and portrayal of women in serials, is simply a case of misplaced priorities. More than anything else, it is damaging because the core issues tend to get swept under the carpet in the process.


There are a few examples that I find worth highlighting here. The first was about the Honey Singh song that sprung out of nowhere on December 30. The lyrics are outright pornographic, and will never make it to the mainstream, e.g. a live concert, a music channel or FM radio. Yet, there was a moral-police type of call to prevent Honey Singh from performing his routine playlist on New Year’s Eve.


Who are we kidding here? Pornographic songs, often created by parodying popular Bollywood songs, are an age-old phenomenon. It’s content, that’s up for rejection or acceptance, within a legal framework that would prevent its public display anyway. Two nights ago, a film critic on a TV debate moved from discussing Honey Singh to lamenting about how our music has moved from calling a woman “Chaudhvin Ka Chand” to calling her “Fevicol”.


Fevicol is not what Kareena Kapoor is called in the song. But if a girl were indeed called “Fevicol”, I’d argue strongly that it’s at least more empowering than stereotyping women based on their beauty, by calling them “Chaudhvin Ka Chand”.


“Item numbers have a negative impact on our society” is the second example of misplaced agendas over the last week. Someone in another television debate spoke about how ChikniChameli portrays Katrina Kaif’s character as a “woman who gets drunk and flirts with men.” And guess how that could possibly help propagate sexual crime!


Unbelievably so, a section has also attacked television serials for being responsible for our society’s attitude towards women. The beaten-to-death “regressive” argument was back in the mainstream again, where daily soaps were blamed for promoting that “women should not step out of their homes”. At least seven out of the top 10 daily serials today are basedon strong, free-thinking and progressive female protagonists, of the kind we would want our women at large to become!


About a decade ago, I wrote a short presentation on the relationship between reality and television. The well-researched document ended with: “Television mirrors reality once in a while, but more often, it excludes reality, i.e., it gives us what we aspire to have but can’t get in the real world.”


The genesis of this thought is the matter of another piece altogether. But in times that call for serious action, I wish we stopped getting distracted and targeting everyone’s favorite punching bags – television and films.


Time to shift attention back to root causes.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media & entertainment research and consulting firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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2 responses to “Shailesh Kapoor: Misogyny or just entertainment?”

  1. I agree that the popular media is being made the scapegoat here. But there is a problem with the different representations of women across the media & life – which I think creates confusion for some men as to what women are supposed to be. They see a good wife on TV, a sex symbol / ‘maal’ on the big screen, possibly bossy & confident women at the workplace and combine this with probably a subservient wife at home and a culture that has subconsciously drilled into him what a woman’s ‘position’ should be. I know that these are the different ‘facets’ of being a woman, but I don’t think most Indian men have reached that maturity to accept & respect all of them. So yes, media is not at fault, but I do think there is an issue when a film has a heroine purely as a prop for the hero and to appear in only song sequences. There’s nothing wrong with this – and hell knows I’ve enjoyed my share of these films – but I do think that this has contributed in creating a sense of an identity problem for the Indian woman in the mind of some Indian men.

  2. Mitul Joshi says:

    Brilliant article