I want to enter this conversation about Safeena, from a couple of windows, so to say. Alia Bhatt’s character in Gully Boy and the scene where she pleads with her mother to be “allowed” to go out and socialize with friends is a dialogue screaming to be told by women in some parts of India and some parts of the world for a long time. It is patriarchy revealed to us and symbolic of the ways in which it translates through the mother’s oppressive upbringing.
Another crack that I want to enter this conversation into, is from the Muslim actors of Hindi cinema, the slowly faltering, coming up for air Khans who have been playing the Hindu heroes forever. Playing these roles for so long, as if their own stories and lives of being a Muslim are not good enough, or not normal enough to be told. That they as Muslim protagonists do not fit the narrative of good movies, that their stories are somehow lacking, or just waiting to be told. A box office hit is the only way to live life in the majoritarian world of Hindi cinema. Although we see it changing now, in the past, we have been given stories without nuances of everyday living.
When one traverses these landscapes of a certain section of the conservative Muslim and Hindu society and the restrictive social mores and norms, one notices that the mainstream media, as would be considered the norm, plays to the stereotypes and misses out on the details of life. We all know that it is hazardous to look at life as only a black and white unfolding narrative. The gray lines of characters, of experiences and associated meanings that come with a context speak to power and resist hegemonic outlines, these are some contours of history, the micro histories, that need closer examination- and they are insightful and fun.
We speak to power in many simple ways everyday and we do so as a choice, picking and fighting our battles as life moves on. These negotiation with power are seen in everyday mechanisms of living and both women and men are a party to this.
To see this change is troublesome for the religious and political elites and it is in their interest to carry forward the agenda of the stereotype. A stereotype is easy to manipulate and give messages to and in dealing with it, the media plays into the rhetoric for its certain outcomes.
The symbolic economy drives the production of such values. Desire, the lack, spurs it on.
this article was written a while back, missing quite a few movies, after Gully Boy.