The Dirty Picture – A misconstrued film

Vidya Balan has had her share of limelight now. She has arrived, they say. With her bold and sexy portrayal of Silk in The Dirty Picture, she is coming to be known as a feminist icon. But everyone seems to be getting it all wrong. Everyone seems to be celebrating, without realising that they actually don’t have much to celebrate about. At least not much for us women.

A little bit of cleavage, thunder thighs and smoking a few cigarettes, seems to have gotten Vidya a lot of praise. Embrace your sexuality, wear it on your sleeve, this is the new Indian woman, etc etc.

Well, for a country that has almost always made it clear that women are inferior to men, it is no wonder that Vidya is now receiving standing ovations. And that’s where it’s all wrong.

For starters, I did not think much of The Dirty Picture. Vidya Balan may have done some ‘bold’ scenes in her ‘bold’ character. I would give her a few points for that. But the movie says absolutely nothing new to me. When there was a real Silk Smitha, why will I as a viewer feel that a person who acts like Silk Smitha to be much better. And cleavage and thunder thighs are not new to Indian cinema. At least not to the Tamizh film industry. How many of you have heard of Ramya or Mumtaz or Disco Shanti. The bold Indian woman who embraces her sexuality has for long been depicted in films. It’s just that Bollywood seems to have gotten into a ‘Eureka’ moment, and Vidya seems to have been dubbed to be Archimedes. The Dirty Picture has been shot as aesthetically as possible. It’s not meant to be a sleaze movie. That said, it is a sleaze movie. I mean, how different is it?

In The Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan’s character starts off like a typical Tamizh girl wearing a half saree who suddenly in front of the camera, starts biting her lip and makes suggestive movements in a dance sequence. She then exudes this chemistry with Naseeruddin Shah, sleeps with him and gets mad at him when he is with his wife. See, the story is nothing new. And neither is Vidya’s character. I mean, if she won a national award, shouldn’t Silk Smitha when many more? You may say that today’s audience is more forward-thinking, more broad-minded. No doubt we are. But are we also an audience to believe that exposing your cleavage and biting your lip is going to add to women power?

The Dirty Picture may have been the kind of movie that an audience of today wanted to see. I mean, you may have looked at with wrinkled eyebrows if you went out to see such a movie say ten years ago. Today, it’s not that bad.

Vidya is being hailed for her portrayal of the character. A mainstream actress doing a film that many may not. That’s all there is to it. All the applause is for Vidya and her career. Nothing to do with feminism. Or little to do with feminism.

If women in Gurgaon are being told to finish work by 8 PM every night, is a movie like The Dirty Picture going to catapult us a few centuries ahead as far as how women are perceived? Well, the Gurgaon issue has come out well after the movie released.

I would give credit to The Dirty Picture for one thing. It’s done well without a ‘hero’ figure. And it’s nonsense to call Vidya the new Khan. Come one, she is a woman. Let her be one. And celebrate her as just that. Can’t we be better than men? Or do we need to be referred to as men when we do something just as well as them or maybe even better?

But coming back to my main point. In a nation where women are still suppressed, The Dirty Picture does very little to our advantage. When I am fighting for my rights, I don’t need the backing of cleavage and thunder thighs. I don’t need Vidya’s example. The fight is not entirely about the physical aspects of a woman. It’s the way women are viewed socially, domestically and professionally.

I’ll tell you what we need. We need daughters and sons to be treated equally. Nothing more. Nothing less.