[D] Dressing it up or maybe not? #AtoZChallenge Day4

You and I may watch movies for different reasons – riveting storytelling , our favorite celebrities , the songs and dance . But the popular cinema is called so precisely because it cuts across audience from geographies and cultures irrespective of their expectations from a movie watching experience . So if there’s one thing we love our movies for then its their ability to transport us into a different world.

When our favorite celebrities become characters in the larger plot unfolding on the screen – their ‘look’ defines how seamless that transition is. Technically speaking , unless the men are playing a character that needs an elaborate packaging [ an emperor , a cop or a musician etc] they can make their fans swoon in even a pair of distressed jeans. But , when it comes to see our leading ladies win hearts , now that’s no child’s play .

Well researched custom made costumes ,  hair and make up perfect for the intricacies of the storyline , the accessories , the works – all sound good as long as they are towards a purpose . But how many times have you walked out of a movie hall wondering why was it necessary for the female lead or supporting actress to be dressed in a certain way when it didn’t add any value to the movie’s narrative. You may squirm at the awkward camera angles & the inappropriate innuendoes centered on ‘how women look on screen ‘  rather than ‘what part they are playing’ . You might also realize how some movies reduce them to only an eyeball grabbing accessory than a real breathing living person , then you aren’t imagining it , that’s largely the truth.

As per the Gender Bias Beyond Borders study of Gender representation in popular movies across 11 counties that I have been quoting in all my posts [ Read more about in my Theme Reveal here] India ranks significantly high when it comes to portrayal of female characters who are thin , attractive and wear revealing clothes. When it’s five times more likely for a woman to be referred by an appearance related comment on screen than a man , it builds on the global obsession of looking at women through an aesthetics lens. Amongst other consequences ,  as per this study ‘exposure to sexualized and thin content can contribute to or reinforce body shame, appearance anxiety, or internalization of the thin ideal among some females’ .

But there has been a recent spate of contemporary movies starring new age female actors who don’t blink an eyelid when the camera zooms in close enough for the world to see their imperfections , when the layers of make up comes off and the clothes don’t look straight off a paris runway collection , my heart particularly soars .

Meera [ Tamasha] & Kaira [ Dear Zindagi ] with their every day wear and a make up free look could be the beautifully imperfect friend we all know . Sandhya [ Dum Laga Ke Haisha] was twice the average size of your typical female enchantress and was married to a less educated much thinner husband . Piku was your girl next door and Geeta [Swades] the more relatable urban educated , now settled in a village version of women we find easier to digest than those couture ethnic wear girls we often see being passed of as the lower strata. Vidya Bagchi or Durga Rani [ Kahaani 1 & 2] saw the lead actress literally camouflage into pregnant and physically awkward women respectively. All these examples are of leading ladies that weren’t a percentage of screen space , they were in most cases more than half.

When I went ahead and thought about all the women in recent popular and well received movies who weren’t objectified , weren’t shown as benchmark of some impossible beauty and body imagery standard and thankfully weren’t there in the movie for a dance item , my list ran into double digits and more.

Perhaps the times are changing and from a femme fatale that we had little chance of running into in our lifetime , we are comfortable with the idea of watching onscreen someone who is remarkably close in appearance and appeal to the person we are watching the movie with . Those leading ladies are stepping down from the pedestal and merging with the idea of women off screen .


I am collaborating with Jaibala Rao who is blogging about Iconic movies of our generation here . Click here to Join me in my #AtoZChallenge journey this April as I explore Women representation in contemporary movies. If you are participating in AtoZ too , do leave your link and I’d try my best to drop by .

13 thoughts on “[D] Dressing it up or maybe not? #AtoZChallenge Day4

  1. I think there is a certain degree of attractiveness expected of people in front of the camera. Save for Durga Rani Singh with her oily hair and grimy nails, you do not see much of that on screen. However, the dressing has come a long way since the days of Raveena Tandon in dungarees and pigtails going ” ankhiyon se goli maare “

  2. You know, when to stop to look around you at the people who don’t fit the media’s description of beautiful – including fat people – it takes a while, but you start to see the beauty that’s inherent in all bodies, no matter their shape. Thank God for these movies that are breaking stereotypes of what beauty should look like; we need more of these!
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…{E} The wonderful world of EncausticsMy Profile

  3. Sandhya! Oh, God! She is one of our favorite characters. P and I loved the movie so very much. You are bringing to light some superb characters through your theme, Chandni. These are helpful in changing the stereotypes of how actresses or women in general, should be- ‘beautiful and sexy’.
    Shalini recently posted…Eight Things to do in PattayaMy Profile

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