Thinking – in light of the latest Delhi gang-rape – about the many subtle ways in which misogyny is perpetuated and absorbed into a culture, I remembered a passage I recently read in an interview of the filmmaker Onir (this is from Anna MM Vetticad’s book Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic, which I reviewed here). The back-story is that Onir’s sensitive film I Am had run into censorship problems simply for touching on such subjects as child abuse and homosexuality. Here he is on the double standards in what is seen as acceptable for a mass audience and what isn’t:
Recently I was watching this so-called, feel-good, keep-your-brains-at-home, fun big film, and I was thinking that I’m facing so much trouble with the Censor Board over I Am, yet in this film I was watching, the Board cleared a scene in which a young boy is crying and the mother says: “Maine toh beta maanga tha, beti mil gayee.” (“I asked for a son, but got a daughter instead.”) In a country like India, you pass that uncensored?I think it's safe to assume that both scenes Onir mentions above were played for laughs, and that they probably did draw unthinking chuckles from a large number of the people who watched them. But even if it was a “keep-your-brains-at-home” film, such dialogue has a way of creeping, meme-like, into the reptile brains of some of those viewers and informing - or confirming - their worldviews. Perhaps we should expect nothing less in a country where senior members of a Censor Board (apparently educated men and women among them) dole U-certificates to such scenes even as they excise a mere hint of consensual gay sex on the grounds that “Oh my God, the look between those two men will make viewers uncomfortable.”
Cut to the next dialogue, friend explaining the art of how to get the right person in your life: “Har ladki ek bus ki tarah hoti hai. Chadh jaao, utar jaao, chadh jaao, uttar jaao. Ek toh aisa bus hai jo ghar le jaayega, ussko miss mat karo.” (“Girls are like buses. Get on, get off, get on, get off. Just make sure you don’t miss that one bus that gets you home.”) I wanted to throw up. And this gets a U certificate?