Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Indian film heroines

A lot of others have been blogging about Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) and I also want to chip in with my thoughts.
I was watching a movie the other day called "Red Eye" starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. Rachel McAdams plays this very dedicated, into-her-job, smart hotel receptionist - Lisa Rivers, who is travelling back to Florida after attending a family funeral (I think her grandmother's). Her father lives in Florida, too, and she works for the Lux Atlantic Hotel in Miami. Cillian Murphy plays a friendly (at least initially) co-passenger who later on turns out to be the villian, blackmailing her to be part of the assassination of a top government official and his family.
At the airport, her flight is delayed and after speaking up for an airline official who is berated by another passenger for the delay (after all, she has faced this several times, too!), she strikes up a conversation with Cillian Murphy standing right behind her. Later on, they have a drink at the lounge bar before the flight and he ends up on the aisle seat beside her.
Suddenly, after Lisa who seems to get sick whenever the plane takes off or lands or sways in turbulent weather, has settled down, the conversation takes a sinister turn. He starts blackmailing her, asking her to change the reservation of a government official in her hotel to another room - the number of which he gives her or else...her Dad would be taken out by a hired assassin camping out at her doorstep.
The entire movie is about how she outwits this guy and saves her father in the process, all withOUT the help of cops or a strong boyfriend/fiance/husband. Now, some scenes are far-fetched, like when she esacpes at Miami airport, takes off with somebody else's car and goes staright to her house rather than call 911. What was she thinking? That the cops would not be chasing her for stealing a car? Or that the assassin would be stupid enough to let her go? Well, she does ram into him and kill him when she gets there. Not only that, almost a wall gets knocked down with the impact and not a single neighbour hears. All this happens in broad daylight in a leafy suburban neighbourhood which definitely seems to be the abode of many families.
Okay, but I have to appreciate the girl's guts and wits. She tries to mark certain words in a book that she as lent to another co-passenger, an elderly lady, who has stopped by her seat when Mr. M (let me call him that since I don't know the character's name) has been called upon to help another woman with her cabin luggage. But, Mr. M gets suspicious, flicks the book from the lady when she has dozed off and finds out. Once when she manages to get permission from him to go to the bathroom in the plane, she tries to get him caught by scribbling a warning with his seat number on the mirror in the bathroom. But, just as she opens the door, he is right outside, he pushes her in and hits her ruthlessly. The stewardesses think they are making out:).
There is a scar below her shoulder that he asks about.

At the very end, just as the plane is touching down and after she has made that dreaded call, she lies down pretending to be sick, gets hold of something like a valve from underneath her skirt.
she tells him something on the lines of,

"It happened in a parking lot two years ago in broad daylight. The man held a knife to me all the while. From then on, I have been trying to convince myself (pause).."

Mr. M : "That it was not your fault?"

Lisa: "No, that it would never happen again."

Then, as the plane touches down on the runway. In a lightning second, she pulls out the valve-like thing from beneath her skirt, clips it to his throat, takes off her seat belt and bolts away to the shock of fellow passengers out of the gate and into the throes of the public at the airport.

Now, can you imagine a Hindi or any other Indian film heroine doing anything of the sort? Except for a Zeenat Aman (Don) or Hema Malini who played the spunky Geeta (Seeta Aur Geeta) and Basanti (Sholay), we rarely have anyone who can at least put up a fight. In the Southern films, it is even worse. All the heroines seem to have a standard dubbed voice that they use to screech for help while they are about to be molested/raped/killed, all the while thinking of NOTHING, absolutely nothing to help themselves. This applies even if they are not tied and gagged or taken away in a speeding vehicle. Our heroines seem to always want a man to save them and the hero can fight against a gang of 50 even if he is unarmed and the others are carrying hockey sticks, knives, etc.
When will we get our version of Lara Croft/Xena/Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or at least, a smart, brave woman who at least makes an attempt to get away? Producers and directors, given the high rate of crimes against women, at least give women some role model to look up to.

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