Bollywood is sexist and finally we have more than just rhetoric and Kangana’s Bollywood Diva Song to back up the claim.
After looking into 4,000 Hindi films researchers at IBM, and two Delhi-based institutions, concluded that “different features like occupation, introduction of cast in text, associated actions, and descriptions… show the pervasiveness of gender bias and stereotype in movies”.
Researchers examined an IBM dataset of Wikipedia pages of 4,000 Hindi movies released between 1970 and 2017. They looked at film titles, cast information, plots, soundtracks, and posters. They also analysed 880 official trailers of films released between 2008 and 2017.
Female actors not only have less screen time as compared to the male contemporaries but their characters, even when they are playing the protagonist, aren’t holistic and are written in relation to the man.
Researchers also noted commercial Hindi films overwhelmingly portray female characters as an “ideal women” who is submissive, self-sacrificing, chaste, and controlled, while the “bad” woman is “individualistic, sexually aggressive, westernised, and not sacrificing.”
And even though female characters are trivialised, researchers argue filmmakers continue to employ actresses, using them as bait to attract audiences.
“They want to publicise through (the actress) but when it comes to actual story, she has been sidelined,” said Nishtha Madaan of IBM India.
And this stark on-screen disparity extends to off-screen discrimination as well. Women are increasingly missing from production teams, researchers added.
But there has been some improvement as well ─ however staggering and minimal ─ in Bollywood producing more female-centric movies since 70s. Between 2015 and 2017, female roles were written as central characters in 11.9% of Hindi movies. In the 70s, this figure was closer to 7%.
The 40 years of sexism and oppression of women in Bollywood glares in your face. But if there’s a silver lining, we’ll hang on to it.