This is to certify that the thesis entitled “Portrayal of Females in Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema during 1975-2005” and submitted by Sushila Rathore, ID.No. 2003PHXF416 for award of Ph. D. Degree of the Institute embodies original work done by her under my supervision.
Signature of the Supervisor __________________________
Place: Name: MEENAKSHI RAMAN
Date: Designation: ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to Prof. L. K. Maheshwari,
Vice-Chancellor, BITS, for providing me an opportunity to work in an area of my choice and for making available all the necessary facilities for the successful completion of this study. I am highly grateful to Prof. R .K. Mittal, Deputy Director (Administration) for his inspiration. I express my sincere gratitude to Prof. G. Raghurama, Deputy Director (Academic) for his continuous encouragement throughout the course of this work.
It is my pleasant duty to thank Prof. Ravi Prakash, Dean Research and Consultancy Division for his constant encouragement. I thank Prof. A. K. Sarkar and Prof. R. N. Saha for showing an active interest in my research endeavours.
I would like to place on record my profound sense of appreciation for my respected supervisor Prof. Meenakshi Raman for her intellectual, attentive and valuable guidance. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to her for sparing her valuable time and for patiently listening to me whenever I approached her.
I wholwheartedly thank the nucleus members of the Research and Consultancy Division for their cooperation and support provided at the various stages of this work. I owe a lot to my former colleague Dr. Sanjay Kumar for helping me in the selection of the topic and providing helpful suggestions. I would like to thank Late Prof. Meera Banerji for her active interest in my work.
With gratefulness I acknowledge the valuable support extended by the DAC members Dr. Sangeeta Sharma and Dr. Pushplata. I also thank my colleagues Dr. Geetha B, Dr. G. S. Chauhan, Dr. S. K .Choudhary, Mr.Virender Singh Nirban, Dr. Usha Manjunath, Ms. Ruchika Sharma, Ms. Poonam Vyas and Ms. Shweta Shree for their encouragement. I also like to thank my senior colleague, Dr. Nirupama Prakash for her inspiring words. I would also thank Dr. Kumar Neeraj Sachdev for providing me helpful suggestions.
I am extremely thankful to my colleague Dr. Devika for going through the whole thesis and for giving constructive suggestions as and when required. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my friend and former colleague, Dr. Swarnalatha who has always encouraged me to finish the work in the stipulated time.
A special thanks to my husband Gyan Singh for his unconditional and unflinching cooperation. My daughter, Chunnu deserves special thanks from me as she is the one who has to endure my absence the most. I am at loss of words to acknowledge my profound thanks to my parents especially my mother who has been a constant source of inspiration throughout the course of this work. I am thankful to my sister, Ms. Sunita Shekhawat for her valuable support. I also thank my sister Ms. Urmila Chauhan, brothers Vijender Singh and Nagender Singh and my close relatives for cheering me up throughout.
I wish to render my thankfulness to the library staff for providing me all the necessary books for the study. I also like to thank Budhram Ji for giving this thesis an elegant shape. I thank the supporting staff of the Languages Group – Ramesh, Prakash and Naveen. I also thank the reprography section of the institute for their help.
A Historical Perspective on Feminism in Indian English 8 Feminist Fiction
Origin and Growth of Hindi Parallel Cinema 41
Revelations of Unfettered Expression of Female’s Voice 69
Reflections on Powerful Progression of Females 146
Mankind has witnessed females assuming various roles, backed by the societal approval and disapproval. Though she has remained at the hub, society has treated her quite unpredictably, sometimes banking solely on her for inspiration and sometimes utilizing her merely as a commodity. These fluctuations have also helped in shaping the society which depends on the unfailing support of females. A tale that has traveled through the ages gets reflected through various media as well. In this depiction, women have always cherished an indispensable position; and this practice has provided a holistic approach to the delineation of human affairs. Indubitably, a woman has always been intrinsic to societal structure and her stature has endured ever-shifting flexibilities. A time came when she recognized her prowess as an individual, started taking independent decisions and also focused on her individual progression. This transformation gave a powerful jolt to the established norms of society.
In the Indian society, a woman had always been in the secondary position, taking pride in carrying out all the duties religiously and seeking satisfaction in serving others only. However, when she started nourishing her own dreams by acknowledging and pampering herself, society could not help noticing the change. Obviously, this transformation which shook the deep buried accepted norms for the conduct and place of woman also changed the way she has been presented and interpreted. By now, the means of entertainment have also taken different individual forms. Two powerful media, Fiction and Cinema which have established their credibility by appealing to the masses, have not only captured the change but also duly reflected the shifting focus. These two media with their individual appeal wield the power to reach out to maximum people with greater force.
Fiction, which feeds the imaginative cult of the readers, forced them to sit and take notice of the change that women have brought about in their status in the society. Cinema also, with added visual effects, has the power to satisfy the most trustworthy senses of all, i.e. eye. So when the shift in the position of women got projected through Cinema, it intensely reached out to people of even far-off areas. More importantly, the change in the portrayal of women from traditional ideal woman to an independent individual, possessing the power to emerge free and assertive, has been superbly reflected especially through Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema.
In the vast stream of literature, female writers in Indian English Fiction have taken the lead in bringing forth the internal strife of the females leading towards progression. These writers have carved a specific niche for themselves by seriously exploring the mental and physical world of females. The hitherto repressed voice of the female has been provided a unique podium through these writings. Commercial cinema, also known as the popular cinema, showcases the stereotyped image of females due to its commercialism. Parallel cinema, on the other hand, by revealing the actual status of females places her in the hub. Different from its counterpart (commercial cinema), Hindi Parallel Cinema has neither tried to beautify nor restricted the image of females. It has brought in the realistic reflection of females. In comparison to the present scenario, a drastic change has come in the on-screen image of women. Initially, it was of an ideal wife, mother, sister and daughter but with the surge of feminism in the social, political and literary arena, cinema has emerged as a powerful tool of mass communication; consequently, the projection of female has also undergone a metamorphosis. The present study attempts to study the portrayal of females in Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema.
The objective of the study is to analyze the projection of females by highlighting the prominent themes. Its primary focus lies in exploring the intensive themes and the progression of females that have been dealt with in Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema. An in-depth analysis of each novel and film would be done to show the emerging power of females as individuals. As the period 1975-2005 witnessed numerous changes in the socio-economic status of females, the fiction and the films of this period have been considered for this study.
Relevant literature has been examined to trace the areas already covered and the areas still left out for exploring further. The literature survey reveals that few individual studies have been carried out to study the projection of females in Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema. However, it was difficult to trace a comprehensive study that presents the projection of females in both these art forms. Moreover, the studies have so far focused more on Hindi Popular Cinema than on the Hindi Parallel Cinema. In addition, the analyses carried out so far on the portrayal of women in these art forms have not adequately reflected the changing face of women. As Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema are instrumental in bringing about a change in the minds of people in a society about the perception of women, this study has selected these two forms and has analyzed the image of woman as portrayed in them. Indian English Feminist Fiction has been considered for the study as all the writers have delved deep into the consciousness of the females by making them central to the plot of their novels. Similarly, Hindi Parallel Cinema has been taken up as it is the cinema which specifically deals with the issues related to females as the core of its theme.
The Indian English Feminist Fiction authors namely, Shashi Deshpande, Anita Desai and Manju Kapur selected for this study are renowned and established. Exposing the variegated ideas related to a female, all these living legends reflect the changing times. The period selected for this study encompasses all the major developments and changes that have come in the lives of women and hence gets reflected through Indian English Feminist Fiction. Representative of their time, the writers have been successful in giving a new dimension to the image of females specifically engraved in the minds of the readers. Revolutionary in the themes and their treatment, they have aptly projected the change in the image of females. Moreover, these authors have been the successful trendsetters in the world of female portrayal.
In addition to the critical recognition acquired, the authors have also won several prestigious awards for their works. Shashi Deshpande has won the Sahitya Akademy Award for her novel, That Long Silence in the year 1988. Similarly, Anita Desai’s novel Fire on the Mountain (1977) has won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. Her novels Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1980) and Fasting Feasting (2000) were short listed for the Booker prize. Similarly, Manju Kapur has also created ripples in the literary sphere by receiving the Commonwealth award (1998) for the Eurasian region for her maiden novel Difficult Daughters (1998).
Popularity in the literary world speaks volumes about the credibility of the authors but the study limits itself only to the trendsetting novels. The authors have been chosen based on the projection of the forceful progression of females. Nine literary masterpieces such as Shashi Deshpande’s The Dark Holds No Terrors (1980), That Long Silence (1988), The Binding Vine (1993) and Small Remedies (2000), Anita Desai’s Where Shall We Go This Summer (1975), Clear Light of Day (1980), Fasting Feasting (2000) and Manju Kapur’s Difficult Daughters (1998) and Married Woman (2002) have been chosen for this study.
Similarly, the six films namely Bhumika (1977), Arth (1982), Mirch Masala (1985), Astitva (2000), Daman (2001) and Satta (2002) selected for this study are award winning and represent the era known for revolutionizing the image makeover of females. An indicator of the society, these films represent the kaleidoscopic contemporary society in which so many changes have taken place in almost all the spheres, especially the status of women. Hinging on the same line, the award winning films of the parallel genre are also remarkable. The film Mirch Masala (1985) has won seven awards in various categories such as best actor, best actress, best choreography, best director, best music and best screenplay. Bhumika (1977) has also bagged three National awards for best actress and best screenplay and also won the Filmfare best movie award for the year 1978. Moreover, this film has successfully brought in several integral aspects related to the lives of working women. The film Arth (1982) has got the 1984 Filmfare awards for best actress, best screenplay and best supporting actress. Astitva (2000) has also received several awards such as the National Filmfare best actress critics award, star screen award for best actress and the same award for best story also. Daman (2001) has won the National film award for best actress. Satta (2002) has won two awards, a star screen award for best actress, and popular awards for best newcomer and best performance in a villainous role. Due to wide popularity, they have left an indelible mark in the minds of the viewers. Prestigious awards conferred on the films speak a lot about their significance and this study has taken into consideration those films which have given new direction to the evolution of females.
This study comprises of six chapters starting with the introduction in which the background, selection criteria, significance and general plan of the study are given. The second chapter discusses the genesis of feminism as a movement in social, political and literary arena with a special focus on women as a subject in the literary works of the female writers. The chapter also focuses on the upsurge of feminism in Indian English Feminist Fiction. The third chapter talks about the origin and growth of Parallel Cinema. In addition, it also puts into perspective the history of the projection of females in cinema with a special focus on Hindi Parallel Cinema. The fourth chapter focuses on the depth of female psyche by highlighting the prominent themes present in the works of fiction discussed. All the novels are discussed with a special focus on the treatment of each theme by each author. The next chapter brings into picture the forceful progression of females in the selected films by analysing the various intensive themes present in them. The chapter discusses these themes in detail by giving all the translated versions of the dialogues delivered by the actors in the films selected for the study. Finally, conclusions sum up the study by emphasizing the future scope and the relevance of the study.
The study is expected to add more value to the existing body of the literature related to the projection of females in Indian English Feminist Fiction and Hindi Parallel Cinema with its wide coverage of the prominent themes. A fresh look into the portrayal of females by examining their intensified progression over the last two decades may offer fresh insights to its readers and viewers into the multifaceted aspects of a female’s life. The changing status of women as reflected through these major art forms of the society brings to the fore the role they can play in revolutionizing the perception of the masses. Thus the study helps to understand the two-way impact – one, of the art forms on society, and the other, of the society on the art forms which reveals the degree of importance each one carries in shaping the future of the coming generations.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON INDIAN ENGLISH FEMINIST FICTION
Females being an indispensable status part of society have continued to captivate the attention of everybody, be it philosophers, thinkers, politicians, literary critics or literary theorists. Disparity between the sexes and placement of men on a high pedestal has been dominant since times immemorial. This incongruence has given rise to the exploration of the term ‘woman’ theoretically as well as critically. Consequently, different people have made an attempt to define or refer to woman in their own way. The religious scripture Bible says, “Then the lord God made the man fall into deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took out one of man’s ribs and closed up the flesh. He formed a woman out of the rib and brought her to him” (Quoted in Prasad 2001 : 5). Plato, the great thinker and philosopher, in his book The Republic has expressed his views on woman, ‘It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or lead unrighteous lives may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. This downward progress may continue through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfillment; the best a woman can hope for is to become a man.
However, these definitions have been a thorough reflection of universality of the traditional thought that ‘woman’ is the weaker sex. This outlook has sown the seeds of inequality between Man and Woman. The position of women has always been subjected to change in the society. In Hindu religion, the status of women has suffered various upheavals. In Hindu civilization the position of females has seen various ups and downs. Surprisingly, they have been not only severely subjugated but revered also. Manu, the law giver has stated in one of his laws, “To be mothers, women were created and to be fathers, men. The teacher is ten times more venerable than sub-teacher; the father a hundred times more than the teacher but a mother a thousand times more than a father”(Quoted in Prasad 2001 : 2). Though, the statement appears to upgrade the status of women, in the same book, he has also highlighted the flipside by assigning a prominent position given to sons in family and society in comparison to daughters.
An eminent philosopher, Rousseau asserts that weak bodies contain weak minds. As a result, he discourages females from too much physical activity and uses their weakness as another proof of inferiority. He suggests the development of physical powers in males and personal charms in females. He opines that a woman's education must be planned in relation to man; she should always be in subjection and never be free to express herself. Thus, he has also stressed the marginalized status of women.
Gradually, this stark inequality gathered momentum and consequently, a need was felt around the globe to fight against this injustice. Women raised their voice for equality in all the spheres-political, religious, economic, spiritual, social and literary and their fight was named feminism.Feminism, mainly a social theory and political movement acquired a concrete shape in the nineteenth and twentieth century, though it has its roots embedded in antiquity.Different critics have put forward their views about the origin of the term ‘feminism’. Ellen DuBois has discovered in her feministic research that the usage of this term originated in France. Linda Kealey while writing about feminism found the term used to refer to ‘New Woman’ in Canada and US. Toril Moi referred to the words ‘feminist’ or ‘feminism’ as political labels which support the aims of the New Woman’s Movement which emerged in the late 1960’s. Feminism as an ideology has undergone several alterations in social as well as literary arena and has acquired different connotations with the passage of time. An examination of the following definitions propounded by prominent critics as well as theorists clarifies the term ‘Feminism’.
In Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, “feminism’ is described as “the doctrine advocating social and political rights of women equal to those of men.” It further elaborates it as “an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.”(1994 : 523).
Lisa Tuttle has defined it etymologically; since it is derived from latin root ‘femina’ meaning “having the qualities of the female”, it is the movement of females related to female issues. (1986 : 107-8)
Sushila Singh feels, “Feminism is neither a fad nor a logical extension of all the civil rights movement. The inequities against which the feminists protest - legal, economic, and social restrictions on the basic rights of women-have existed throughout history and in all civilizations.” (1997 : 13).
Maren Lockwood Carden says, “The new feminism is not about the elimination of differences between the sexes; nor even simply the achievement of equal opportunity; it concerns the individual’s right to find out the kind of person he or she is and to strive to become that person.”(1974 : 2).
Shulamith Firestone opines, “To understand why women are subordinate to men we require a biological not an economic explanation…and just as the ultimate goal of communist revolution is, in a classless society, to obliterate class distinctions, the ultimate goal of feminist revolution is, in an androgynous society, to remove sexual ones.”(1970 : 12).
Simone De Beauvoir, one of the premiere exponents of feminism was not far behind in this race when she opines in The Second Sex (1949) that the terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers:
In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electric poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity....A man is in the right in being a man; it is the woman who is in the wrong. It amounts to this: just as for the ancients there was anabsolute vertical with reference to which the oblique was defined, so there is an absolute human type, the masculine. (Beauvoir 1997 : 15).
In the light of the above quoted theorists and critics, ‘feminism’ refers to a powerful alertness of woman’s identity, and interest in feminine problems. It is not confined merely to the promotion of women’s rights.
The widespread concern for women’s rights did not take proper shape until 1848. Hence, the first movement dates from 1848 with Seneca Falls Convention convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and others which called for legal equality with men, alongwith full educational opportunity and equal compensation. Thereafter, the Woman Suffrage Movement gathered momentum and gradually the social movement started showing its signs in the political arena also. The Woman Suffrage, the right of women to vote, was first seriously proposed in the United States at Seneca Falls in July 1848, but it acquired the right shape in Britain.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s revolutionary document A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) was the first landmark expression in this movement. In this treatise, she has retaliated against Rousseau’s theory that men and women are different by nature. Moreover, she has advocated that as women are in no way less than their counterparts, they should be given equal rights. Though, there were various protests by women separately in their own countries, the organized movement started in Great Britain. John Stuart Mill, the most influential of the British Advocates in his Subjection of Women (1869), one of the earliest as well as most famous arguments for the right of women to vote, gave an outlet to his views on the need for equality among men and women:
…the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes –the legal subordination of one sex to the other-is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality admitting no power or privilege on the other side, nor disability on the other (Mill 1989: 3).
The proclamation brought to the fore the idea that not only females but males have also come forward to help females achieve this equality. In India also, though the condition of females was the same, it were the male members who raised their voice against the injustices meted out to women. Eminent scholars like Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, etc., came forward to enable females to share an equal footing with their counterparts.
Primarily a social movement, the feministic movement slowly sprawled into other arenas such as political, literary, etc. In the literary world, the female writers felt the need to ponder over the role of women as presented in the texts. They decided to start a separate canon of women’s writing in order to give a complete picture.
Broad and varied, literary criticism started before the 1970’s with the first and second waves of feminism. Concerned with politics of women’s authorship and the representation of women’s condition in literature, it had culminated in women’s studies and gender studies by third wave authors. Since the arrival of more complex conceptions of gender and subjectivity and third wave feminism, feminist literary criticism has taken a variety of new routes. It has been closely related with the birth and growth of queer studies and no wonder, the representation and politics of women’s lives has continued to play an active role in criticism.
Feminist thinkers opine that the literary texts are based on the ground of a power struggle between the sexes and the text makes it appear natural. In their view, a woman in the text is stereotyped. The roles conferred on her not only make her weak but also limit her position to merely a sexual object-completely dependent on males with no identity of her own. A woman is eulogized through the use of patriarchal terms like ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Mother Nature’ to restrict her individualism. In addition to this, certain sociological assumptions formed in the society create discrimination between the sexes. Simone De Beauvoir also vouchsafes that a woman is not born but rather grows to be a woman. Further, she postulates that sex is a biological phenomenon while gender is constructed by the society. Thus, certain qualities like weakness, patience, etc; are attributed to women which in turn facilitated the males to confine the identity of females to homes. This notion was challenged by the feminists as this inequality has no biological foundation. Hence, they promoted the urgent need to have a separate standard of writing by women.
Feminist criticism has political streaks as well. This emphasizes the connectivity among economic conditions, work-place conditions and political supremacy based solely on gender. Furthermore, feminists in the 1980’s and 1990’s era further elaborated feminism by encompassing local, racial and regional gender oppression based on specific factors. Till this period irrespective of racial or regional differences, feminism centered around a single idea which gave a common platform to females. Later on, it developed into various strands like Early feminism, Psychoanalytic feminism, Political feminism, Socialist feminism, Marxist feminism and Poststructuralist feminism. As feminism became a well-established literary movement, there have been varied theorists and critics who advocated their views regarding the status of women. A multidisciplinary movement, encompassing political, social, and literary fields, it has its hold in all these varied areas. After paving their way for equality in other fields, they entered the world of creative writing as well. Despite getting lukewarm response in the initial stages, they tried really hard to establish their worth as writers. Thus, literary feminism took time to get into a proper shape. These writers were greatly benefited with the feminist writers who have explored the male-female disparities in their works. Literary critics such as, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedian, Elaine Showalter, Ellen Moers, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, Gayatri Spivak, etc., in their fields have campaigned for the rights of females in their own ways.
Virginia Woolf has analyzed the gender prejudices prevalent in the academic practices in her works A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). In her opinion, female researchers find it difficult to pursue their research. The obvious reason is the inequality prevalent in the patriarchal university institutions based on gender and dominance of males. Apart from this, language is also gendered and biased which the female writers are forced to use. She supports economic independence and separate space for females. Simone De Beauvoir, another literary supporter as well as a socialist, in her treatise, The Second Sex explains the subordination of women as a succeeding sex. She postulates that woman has no identity of her own; she is defined as the other of the male. This otherness is crucial as all the national, racial and individual identities are based upon this difference of male from the female. In her words, “Woman is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her…He is the Subject, he is the Absolute-she is the other.”(1997 : 16).
Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics (1968) which lies at the crossroads of critics in literary, cultural criticism and political theory is a major criticism of standardized male authors like Lawrence, Norman Mailer and Henry Miller. Elaborating on the man-woman relationships in the works of these writers, she has advocated that males reinforce gender oppression based on sex. According to her, females are stereotyped as prostitutes, unchaste women and virgins on the basis of sexuality and all these arrangements that reinforce sexual relationships have extended into other domains like ideology, biology and socio-cultural institutions like family, education, psychology and religion.
Another literary critic, Elaine Showalter has also contributed to the literary field with her revolutionary works, The New Feminist Criticism (1985) and Speaking of Gender (1989). In these works, she has proposed specifically a female framework for the analysis of women’s literature. She has advocated for ‘gynocriticism’a completely new model based on women’s experience and rejected the blind dependence on male theories and male models. In her opinion, gynocriticism looks at the genres, themes, history and structures of writing by women and also the progress and rules of female literary tradition. Elaine Showalter has highlighted through her work the ways by which the female writers have been kept out of the literary group during the nineteenth century period. At that time, the writings by the women have been termed as trivial and limited in scope. As a result, she has identified three critical phases in the progression of female literary writings:
In this book I identify the Feminine phase as the period from the appearance of the male pseudonyms in the 1840’s to the death of George Eliot in 1880; the Feminist phase as 1880 to 1920, or the winning of the vote; and the Female phase as 1920 to the present, but entering a new stage of self- awareness about 1960. (1999 : 13).
Ellen Moers’s work Literary Women (1976) was among the early attempts to discover the women’s literary tradition. Her work explores the influence of women writers on each other. The living history of female writers from the eighteenth to the twentieth century also gets highlighted through her works. In her discussion on literary feminism, she has discovered a new heroic structure for the female voice which she terms as ‘heroinism’. It includes traditional characteristics like loving, caring and the more radical one namely, education.
Luce Irigaray’s denunciation of male representative order has been regarded as the radical feminist phase of the movement. In her works Speculum of the Other Woman (translated 1985) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1987), she opines that in all western discourses woman has been allocated an inferior status in comparison to man. As psychoanalysis has always adorned ideology of the males, Irigaray attempts to unearth a feminine order of meaning so that a sexual identity of woman might be constructed. Moreover, she has proposed a feminine writing practice. In order to highlight a positive picture of female, a different arrangement of meaning is required and hence she looks for new linguistic modes of expression to project the female self. Further, she argues that if a woman wants to have her own individuality, she must challenge the phallic description of the symbolic. For her, writing is an effort to portray the real image of a woman.
Helene Cixous, another important literary critic, through her essays such as The Laugh of the Medusa (1975), Sorties (1975), Coming to Writing and Other Essays (translated 1991), and The Newly Born Woman (translated 1986) attempts to determine a writing style that is fluid, transgressive and beyond binary system of logic. After the study of all the western discourses, she has reached the conclusion that this binary opposition is prevalent everywhere. In addition, this binary hierarchy is always linked to violence in which the feminine term always gets eradicated. In her own words, “Intention: desire, authority-examine them and you are led right back...to the father. It is not possible not to notice that there is no place whatsoever for women in the calculations.” (Quoted in Nayar 2002 : 102). A woman is exchanged as a possession from fathers to husbands to maintain patriarchy. Thus, the males gain power, authority and pleasure in this exchange but the woman is a looser. Similarly writing is also a structure by a sexual opposition that favours the male thereby reducing writing to his laws.
Limning women experiences has been the sole aim of all the feminist writers to find expression for their predicament. Due to the increasing awareness, feminism became an area of concern to the literary people throughout the globe. It all started globally when a fresh look was taken to examine the portrayal of women in the texts written by women. As result, Indian women writers also joined the race. Indian women have left their mark in almost all the fields and literature is not an exception. Consequently, a significant number of the female writers in Indian English Fiction also had tried to highlight realistically the traumas of Indian women.
Indian English Feminist Fiction has a long and riveted history with numerous novels to their credit. They have made a significant contribution to the strife of the females for equality by projecting their problems through their texts. As B. K. Das puts it that earlier women have been “presented in literature from their (males’) viewpoint”, but now women writers have taken the command and these days “presented in the writings of female writers from their point of view.” (1998 : 143).
A closer introspection reveals that the depiction of women in Indian English Feminist fiction has diverse shades. In the initial stages, the focus was on women struggling for survival without any qualms with village as a backdrop. The later female writers project urban class working females who are conscious of their self and hence represent the changing society. Suman Bala validates the above mentioned point when she says:
It is significant to note that there are three categories of women as projected in Indian Fiction. First, we have rural women-poor, hardworking and sincere – as portrayed by Kamala Markandaya. The most representative of these is Rukmani in Nectar in a Sieve. In the second category, we meet educated middle class women who are married and are working as well – like Saru in the dark holds no terrors and Jaya in That Long Silence. And finally, we meet women of the upper strata society from the urban milieu. These are women who are socialites, have easy morals and do not find extra marital relations – like Paro in Namita Gokhle’s novel Paro and the female protagonists of Nayantara Sahgal and Shobha De. (2001 : 10).
Women as depicted by all the prominent novelists also fall more or less in the same category. However, there is a steady change with respect to the societal upheavals and other external factors. The earlier writers’ focus was not very revolutionary as the females in the society lacked strength. Restricted to domesticity and the conventional norms, they neither recognized nor possessed the thinking directed only towards them. In general, Indian women are passive, patient and self sacrificing and tend to sacrifice everything for the welfare of their family. With the advent of education, awakening has come in the Indian women. The change in outlook has brought about a metamorphosis in modern Indian women. Romila Thapar adds further to the above argument, “The role, status and position of woman has far from been static, ranging from what it thought to have been a position of considerable authority and freedom to one of equally considerable subservience” (Quoted in Bai 1996 : 61). Thus, they have started thinking about themselves as individuals having a separate identity. Hence, the present-day writers explore the same in their works.
Irrevocable plight of women was unearthed by the prominent women writers like Kamala Markandaya, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande, Shobha De, Manju Kapoor, Arundhati Roy, etc., with great skill. They have encased all the facets of the life of an Indian women belonging to different strata of society. It started off with Toru Dutt and carried on further by numerous other writers of acclaim. She has written two novels named Bianca (1878) and The Young Spanish Maiden (1878) with autobiographical shades. Females have been projected as typically Indian-uncompromisingly sincere and extremely reverent for values. Despite belonging to Spain and France, psyche of her characters is Indian.
Besides, Toru Dutt the other women novelists which deserve mention are- Raj Lakshmi Debi who has written The Hindu Wife (1876) or The Enchanted Fruit (1876), and Mrs. Krupabai Satthianadhan who has produced, Kamala: A Story of Hindu Life (1894) and Saguna, A Story of Native Christian Life (1895). Mrs. Ghoshal is another important women novelist from Bengal, whose novels An Unfinished Song (1913) and The Fatal Garland(1915), (a historical novel) have been translated into English. Novelists like Santa and Sita Chatterjee wrote novels Tales of Bengal (1922), The Cage of Gold (1923), and The Garden Creeper (1931), first in Bengali and then got them translated into English.
Exerting main thrust on the life behind the purdah, Cornelia Sorabji is another novelist of distinction who has highlighted the curbed existence of Indian women. She is best known for Love and Life Behind the Purdah (1901), Sun-Babies: Studies in the Child Life of India (1904), and Between the Twilights (1908). In all her works, she has tried to touch upon the sufferings of a female confined behind the veil. Moreover, in her works she has shown virtuous women in a very positive light. Her realistic projection in her fiction corresponds to Plato, the classicist, who has spoken on the same line, “We shall have to train the women also, then in both kinds of skill, and train them for war as well and treat them in the same way as men.” (Quoted in Prasad 2001 : 4-5).
Similarly, Iqbalunissa Hussain has also tried to explore the identical situation in her work Purdah and Polygamy: Life in an Indian Muslim Household (1944) with special focus on a typical muslim family. The female finds herself captivated not only to the four walls but also behind the veil. Apart from these well-known novelists, there are other talented writers also who have contributed in their own individualistic style to vast mainstream of Indian English Feminist Fiction. Among them one name is Vimla Raina, who has written a historical novel Ambapali (1962), the story of Ambapali, a very beautiful, celebrated and honoured dancer and the first woman to be admitted to Buddha’s fold.
The aforementioned novelists have enriched Indian English Feminist Fiction before independence by providing it a direction. Distinctive novelists have joined the race after independence and have elevated it to greater heights. Writers like Kamala Markandaya, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Anita Desai, Nayantara Sehgal, Shashi Deshpande, Arundhati Roy, Manju Kapoor, etc., are among the most exceptional writers.
Personification of talent and versatile writing, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala holds a significant position as far as Indian English Feminist Fiction is concerned. She has to her credit various meritorious works like To Whom She Will (1955), The Nature of Passion (1956), Esmond In India (1958), A Backward Place (1965), The Householder (1960), etc.
Her novel Heat and Dust (1975) has also won Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize. Her works reveal a lot about the urban middle class Indian life, highlighting domestic problems of an average joint Hindu family with the subtle backdrop of the occidental and oriental values. Shyam M. Asnani focuses on the same aspect when he states:
R. P. Jhabvala writes about the furious social scuffing in the present day India. All her novels are full of local colour and clamour, dealing with the young who are inert, romantic and not-too-wise, and the old who are cool, calculating and rigid. She describes the head-on collision between the traditional and the modern, the east and the west, and the confusion that follows in the wake of these collisions (1985 : 8).
Her first novel, To Whom She Will (1955) presents a marvelous picture of Indian society with a special focus on its customs, facts, temperament and relationships in marriage and love. It also discusses the terrible consequences of partition not only on the natives of India but also on the refugees. The novelist’s thrust area of writing is the upper class of North India with a special emphasis on people living in joint families. Another work, The Nature of Passion (1956), deals with a modern young girl, Nimmi who wants to discard all the old customs, myths and traditions. The story revolves around this character’s fight for the cause of a woman’s emancipation. She manifests her sense of freedom by visiting the clubs, playing tennis, keeping short hair and attending lectures on English romantic poets. She does all these things against the wishes of her community. Her other works, Esmond in India (1958) and A Backward Place (1965) talk about the encounter between East and West and the incompatibility in marriage due to amalgamation of different cultures. In The Householder (1960), Jhabvala gives an accurate account of remote village life. Her prestigious work Heat and Dust (1975) talks about two English women and their struggle for survival due to indecisiveness. Moreover the clash due to different cultures is an added obstacle to their search for self-fulfillment.
In comparison to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala whose fiction concentrates on the dilemma of females arising out of cultural differences, Kamala Markandaya writes with a sharp insight into the problems encountered due to economic constraints. With economic and political life of India as the backdrop, the main focus is to showcase the pathetic plight of Indian women. Her projection of females comprises of highly submissive, traditional, adaptive and enduring females. As a writer of prominence, she is an acute observer of the changing Indian society in post independent India. Consequently the women characters in her novels do not belong to single strata but from all the stratum of society-poor, middle, upper and even the royal ones. The most common thing in her novels is the unflinching quest for fulfillment, a vivid picture of the position of females and the issues related to their lives.
Her work of fiction includes Nectar in a Sieve (1954), Some Inner Fury (1955), A Silence of Desire (1961), The Coffer Dams (1969), The Nowhere Man (1972), A Handful of Rice (1966), Two Virgins (1973), The Golden Honeycomb (1977)andPossession (1963).Her novel Nectar in a Sieve dexterously highlights the traditions and rites of Indian villagers. Apart from these features, it highlights the existential struggle of Rukmini, the heroine. A victim of poverty, she has to marry Nathan. Undulating in her dedication towards her husband, she undergoes all the sufferings and remains loyal to him till the end of her life. In another novel entitled Some Inner Fury (1955) she shifts her setting from pastoral to urban in order to reveal the life of upper class section of the society. It is a love story of Mira and Richard. Restrictions imposed on Mira create rebellious overtones in her; consequently, she becomes a strong asserter and does as she likes. Still, despite being a lover of freedom, she does not discard her traditions and ultimately sticks to her roots.
In her work, A Silence of Desire (1960), the character Sarojini is a typical middle class housewife of strong religious codes and rituals whereas her husband is completely different because of his inclination towards Western culture. Her husband does not like her excessive inclination towards spirituality. Thus, after sensing her increasing alienation and tilt towards it, he tries to persuade her to avoid this irrational thinking. Conversely, Sarojini becomes successful in changing his attitude towards her as well as towards religion.
Focused on the life of two women from diverse cultures,Possession (1963) revolves around the differences in their actions and reactions. Caroline represents the British culture and hence possesses a very strict attitude towards the natives of the colonies. Anusuya, on the other hand, is a refined, quiet, and a broadminded girl. They also share differences in their feelings for Valmiki, their lover. Anusuya nurtures true feelings for Valmiki whereas intolerant and selfish Caroline nurtures a hollow relationship without any emotional bonding. Her work, A Handfulof Rice (1966) is a story of Nalini’s marriage with Ravi, a trainee to her father’s tailoring profession. A silent sufferer, Nalini emerges as an embodiment of endurance and patience. Another highlight of this novel is the injustice meted out to females due to discrimination between the sexes. The birth of a daughter is never considered a happy occasion for the family; however, when the question arises for sustenance, she is expected to bear all odds. K. S. Narayana Rao validates the same:
Markandaya’s novels deal with contemporary Indian society, which is a traditional society in a state of flux and change, and reveal a spectrum of moral attitudes on the part of the characters that people the fictional world, which include the traditionally moral, the immoral and the amoral attitudes. Although her moral characters are never relegated to the background and are, infact, better drawn than their male counterparts, it is usually the men who get away with their delinquent sexual conduct (Quoted in Myles 2006 : 25 ).
In TheCoffer Dams (1969) the evolution of Helen, remains the center of focus. In her quest for freedom, Helen leaves her husband. She considers humanism above materialism and that is the sole reason for her to drift towards the natives of India. Her affair with Bashiam, an Indian is also her effort to assert her own likings. Eventually, she achieves emancipation through the execution of duties on both the fronts- material and interpersonal relationships.
The Nowhere Man (1972), throws light on the problems faced by the character Vasantha due to diversity in cultures of India and England. Deeply rooted in her culture, she brings up her children also in the same vein. Hence, she gets crushed when her son Laxman marries an English girl. Embodiment of contentment, she confesses her marriage to be a happy one despite all odds. In her work Two Virgins (1973) Saroja, presents the image of an ideal womanhood in consonance with other women protagonists by the author. Similarly, the women characters of The Golden Honeycomb (1977) also highlight the themes of liberty and duty.
Psychological profundity that is noticeable in her novels, places Anita Desai on the top in the coterie of feminist female writers. She has created a specific niche for herself in the literary world by giving an insight into the psychological aspects associated with the lives of her female characters. Her novels are primarily oriented towards females as she writes about their problems as a daughter, a wife, a mother and a sister. Distinctive in comparison to her counterparts, her women characters are not average but peculiar in their intellectual thinking and spirit of questioning. K. R. S. Iyengar seems to vouchsafe the same for her:
Her forte is the exploration of sensibility-the particular kind of modern Indian sensibility that is ill at ease among the barbarians and the philistines, the anarchists and the amoralists. Since her preoccupation is with the inner world of sensibility rather than the outer world of action, she has tried to forge a style supple and suggestive enough to convey the fever and fretfulness of the stream of consciousness of her principal characters. The intolerable grapple with thoughts, feelings and emotions is necessarily reflected in the language, syntax and imagery, yet the readers first impression on reading Anita Desai’s novels may very well be that the emotions are too many, and are often the result of excessive cerebration on the author’s part and not always determined by the movements in the consciousness of the characters. Nevertheless, Anita Desai’s is an original talent that has the courage to go its own way… (1973 : 464-465).
She has several works to her credit like Cry the Peacock (1963), Voices in the City (1965), Bye-Bye Blackbird (1971), Where Shall We Go this Summer (1975), Fire on the Mountain (1977), Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1984), Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988), Journey to Ithaca (1995), Fasting-Feasting (2000), The Zigzag Way, (2004) and others.
In Cry the Peacock (1963), Anita Desai has dealt with various themes in order to expose the inferior status of women in the society. In comparison to other novelists who have portrayed women either as strong or scrawny, she has tried to delve deep into the psyche of female exposing precisely the misery, the turmoil and the anguish faced by a woman in this male dominated society. This novel by the writer is more concerned about showcasing the sensibility of an Indian woman rather than focusing on external environment. Various devices have been employed in order to exhibit loneliness of Maya. An oversensitive girl she gets married to Gautama, a down-to-earth lawyer, quite opposite to Maya. Overpowered by the prophecy of an astrologer that one of the partners would die after her marriage, she looses her mental and marital equanimity. Incessant introspection of this prediction makes her very insecure about her existence and she starts thinking of ways to save herself. Her desire to live is so paramount in her mind that she not only kills her husband but puts her life also to an end. Thus, Cry the Peacock by the author is revolutionary in Indian English fiction as for the first time the focus of the story is entirely based on the mental and psychological condition of the female character and her thinking.
Quite similar to Maya, Monisha the protagonist of another novel entitled Voices in the City (1965) is desirous to live a happy and free life in Kalimpong and Darjeeling away from the struggling life of Calcutta. She grapples with her inquisitive mind which has got many questions. Perplexed sometimes, she considers death the best way to get rid of problems. Ultimately, after absolute failure in her efforts to compromise with life, she puts her life to an end. On the contrary, her sister Amla develops a compromising attitude. She has sensed the futility of having contrary thinking to her husband and hence compromises and acts accordingly. Thus, the novel highlights all the shades of life through varied images of women.
Innovative in its approach, the novel Bye-Bye Blackbird (1971) brings to the fore a working woman as the lead character for the first time. Sarah, the heroine is of English origin. Despite this discrepancy, she marries Adit, an Indian immigrant. Though she is not an Indian, she has the inherent qualities of Indian women like adjustability and tolerance. However, due to incompatibility in the marital bonding, Sarah finds her real self lost. Hence, estranged and dissatisfied, she decides to terminate the relationship. Through this novel, the author has skillfully highlighted the problems faced by working women to sustain themselves. As has been rightly pointed out by Hari Mohan Prasad:
In her there is a real split, a real dilemma, a real suffering, but she triumphs over all these. She is a silent volcano, not dead, yet not bursting. She understands dev, she knows her mother well, keeps a balanced relationship with friends and visitors, and shows a feeling for Adit. Right from the beginning she has been quiet in her response. Dev’s long arguments and heated discussions of other friends never disturb her calm (Quoted in Myles 2006 : 41).
Where Shall We Go This Summer (1975) highlights the heightened sensitivity of Sita, a middle aged woman who finds her life meaningless even after marrying a successful businessman. Neglected childhood due to her father’s excessive indulgence in mysterious activities makes her feel alienated from the rest of the world. Hence, she fails to connect herself to the outside world. Thus she finds everything around herself meaningless. Impractical and an introvert, she thinks that all her problems would be cured by magic. Overpowered by her impractical thinking, she leaves her husband but ultimately realizes the futility of her step while she is face to face with the tragic reality; she understands the uselessness of her stance which lacked any practical insight. She wavers between her uncompromising attitude and her urge to survive. Ultimately on realization of the futility of her adamant attitude, she tries to come to some understanding with her husband, Raman.
Fire on the Mountain (1977) traces the journey of a woman Nanda Kaul who suffers the infidelity of her husband only as a passive individual. On the other hand, Ila Das, her friend is quite opposite to her and possesses the strength to rebel. The innumerable sufferings undergone by women get highlighted through other females also. In Custody (1980) depicts the confinement of the characters Deven and Sarla in alienation and loneliness. In Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988), the author dissects the minds of the characters; Hugo and Lotte and brings to light the trauma and isolation suffered by the characters when they are caught between two different societies.
Another novel entitled Journey to Ithaca (1995) revolves around the secluded existence of two foreign women characters, Laila and Sophie. In Fasting Feasting (2000), the author has tried to trace the journey of Uma, the central character from innocence to maturity. The author has portrayed the females in diverse shades in this work. Uma, the protagonist and her sisters Aruna as well as Anamika are victims of gender discrimination broadly. The novel aptly highlights the aftermaths of this prejudiced treatment. In her recent novel The Zig-Zag Way (2004), the author unfolds the story of Betty Jennings and her adjustments to a new life in a new place.
Recognized as well as cherished for her politically charged novels, Nayantara Sehgal is another distinguished writer in Indian English Feminist Fiction. Her writing is characterized by effortlessness and her daring attitude to keep herself informed about the latest political developments. Her novels underscore the contemporary incidents and reality behind politics shrouded in artistic colour and objectivity. Apart from politics, her writings also emphasize the search of Indian women for sexual freedom and identity. Her works are A Time to be Happy (1963), Storm in Chandigarh (1969), The Day in Shadow (1971), and A Situation in New Delhi (1977), etc.
A Time to be Happy (1963) talks about the congress party activities of 1942 while in Storm in Chandigarh (1969), she highlights the after effects of division of Punjab into two states of Haryana and Punjab. The Day in Shadow (1971) is motivated by the political movement of the society and A Situation in New Delhi(1977) focuses on the Naxalite movement, the student unrest and repercussions of Nehru’s Death. Extending an equal treatment to private and political worlds, this novel fuses the events with the characters. The female characters in her novels have not been portrayed to extremes. They are neither the subjugated pawns nor overpowering viragos; instead her projection is more on a humanitarian level.
Winner of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, Inside the Haveli(1977) by Rama Mehta also created ripples among the readers. The novel focuses on the disparity between ethnicity and society in urban and rural life. It revolves around the story of Geeta, a modern girl of Bombay who has to lead a secluded life behind the veil in the Haveli.
Lending voice to the females’ ordeals has been the centre of attention for Shashi Deshpande, another prolific writer in English. She has dealt with almost every issue raised by the women’s movement in India regarding the subordination of women like rape, child abuse, son preference, denial of self expression, deep inequality, deep seated prejudice, violence both mental and physical, binds of domesticity, forced silence, etc. Her writings form a firm step to break the long silence of women in India. She has emerged as an outstanding novelist on the literary scene as she has to her credit various award winning novels and short stories. Her prominence in the literary world has been further endorsed by Suman Bala:
As one who has taken up a women’s cause most ardently, she represents India and contemporary Indian literature, especially in the English speaking world, with great distinction. Acclaimed by the reading public, decorated by the Sahitya Academy and other literary organizations, she is regarded as a forceful writer, with an excellent command over English language and her constant dialogues with her readers. (2001 : 9).
Her fiction includes Roots and Shadows (1983), The Dark Holds No Terrors (1980), That Long Silence (1988), The Binding Vine (1993), A Matter of Time (1996), and Small Remedies (2000), Moving On ((2004), In the Country of Deceit (2008),etc. She has been termed as the feminist writer, as she herself states,
Despite marriage and motherhood, I felt very incomplete, even dissatisfied. That’s when I read Betty Friedan’s ‘The Problem without a Name’. I felt: I’m not only a woman. I’m not only a mother. I’m not only a wife. I’m not only a female. I’m a human being with a mind. It gave me a lot of unhappiness that my intellect wasn’t being connected to my female self. I was always Mrs. Deshpande, Raghunandan’s mother; Vikram’s mother …that anger ultimately translates into feminism. (Quoted in De http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/09/04/stories/ 200309040115030.htm).
Her first novel The Dark Holds No Terrors (1980) is the story of an educated woman Sarita; her fight not only with the society as well but also herself. Despite her professional success, she has to suffer humiliation and torture in the hands of her husband as well as her parents. A victim of gender discrimination, she has to bear the burden of killing her brother which she has never done. Thus, the novel talks about the journey of Sarita from self-denial to self-identity.
Her notable feminist work, Roots and Shadows (1983) is a story of rebellious Indu, the lead character. She marries against the wishes of her parents but the marriage fails as it does not give Indu much-desired love and affection. The novel highlights rape in marriage, an idea hitherto unexplored in Indian English Fiction. There are other women characters through which the author highlights the sufferings endured by women. Though other women characters accept their fate with silence and compromises, Indu refuses to do the same. However, she lives with her husband, but on her own terms without sacrificing her individuality. Her primary work, That Long Silence (1988) has won the author the Sahitya Academy award in 1990. It is a story of an Indian housewife Jaya who remains silent in order to adhere to the role of traditional Indian wife, but in the end, after a long introspection, breaks it.
Similarly, The Binding Wine (1993) too highlights the struggle faced by women who are strong assertors as well as bold spokespersons. The female protagonist Urmila in this novel has surpassed all the earlier female heroines in terms of her independent way of doing things, without any dependence on males. A Matter of Time (1996) is a novel that narrates the stories of four generations of women Manorama, Kalyani, Sumi and Aru. Manorama, mother of Kalyani forces her to marry Sripati, which leads to infinite sufferings for Kalyani and a loveless marriage without any communication between husband and wife. Kalyani’s daughter also suffers the same fate. Through all these women characters, the author has very skillfully drawn the picture of silent suffering women as victims of the norms-bound society. Small Remedies (2000) explores with aplomb the journey of Madhu revealing to herself the problems of the past and the possible remedies for the troubles in life. Apart from Madhu, the work also projects an independent and ambitious female in Savitribai Indorekar and a sociable woman Lila. Her recent novel Moving On (2004) narrates the story of middle class families and reinforces the concept of faith as an important adhesive that holds any family together. Her latest novel, In the Country of Deceit (2008) talks about a woman Devyani and her love affair with an already married man. She continues with this relationship already aware of the transitory nature of this association. Apart from this, the novel tracks the sufferings, evasions and lies that surpass the people who are caught in the web of deception.
Namita Gokhle is another important writer in Indian writing in English. Applauded worldwide, her first novel Paro: Dreams of Passion (1984) has created a stir by its frankness in the early 80’s and pioneered the sexually frank genre for which Shobha De is famous. In this novel, she has satirized the upper class of Delhi. Her other works include Gods, Graves and Grandmother (1994), The Book of Shadows (2001), etc.
Realistic and matter-of-fact, Shobha De portrays the glamour surrounding the life of aristocratic class of women without any reserve. She focuses on the elite class of Bombay in her novels. Her works include Socialite Evenings (1989), Starry Nights (1991), Sisters (1992), Strange Obsession (1992), Sultry Days (1994), Snapshots (1995), Second Thoughts (1996), Spouse: The Truth about Marriage (2005) a documentary, etc.
Socialite Evenings (1989) discloses the story of Karuna, a prominent Bombay socialite who moves out from her failed marriage and tries to discover life on her own. She defies the notion that a women’s life is insecure without a husband by living her life independently as a self-sufficient woman.
Set against the background of Bombay film industry, Starry Nights (1991) unfurls the journey of Asha Rani from a mere puppet in the hands of her mother and other men to a mature individual having a purpose to achieve. Apart from this, the hypocrisy and the pretentious reality behind the life of film stars have also been underscored. Sisters (1992) unfold the story of two sisters Nikki and Alisha who suffer from the same disillusionment in the hands of their husbands and support each other in times of crises. Both the sisters struggle on their own and achieve a stage of realization after undergoing all the hardships in their relationships.
In Strange Obsession (1992), Shobha De reinforces the same theory that a woman gets real tranquility and protection in her husband’s home. In addition to this, she has highlighted lesbianism and the deceptive beliefs of caste and class. In Sultry Days (1994), the author portrays different arrays of women and hence, their varied attitudes. Some women are weak whereas some are strong who have the urge to fight and emerge as independent individuals. Bold portrayal of sexual imagery in Snapshots (1995), created a furore among the readers. Second Thoughts (1996), is an open study of a female’s struggle in a metropolitan city and the imbroglio in which she cannot maintain a balance between conventions and modern values. The author has explicitly explained the trauma faced by a woman to save her marriage and at the same time her own self.
Another sophisticated and talented writer blessed with a wider range of talents is Bharti Mukherji. The chief focus of her writings is the Indian women’s struggle for identity, the phenomenon of migration and also the problems suffered by Indians in a foreign culture. Her works include The Tiger’s Daughter (1972), Wife (1975), Jasmine (1989), The Holder Of the World (1993), Leave It To Me (1997), Desirable Daughters (2003) and The Tree Bride (2004). The novel The Tiger’s Daughter (1972) revolves around the story of a young girl Tara Banerjee, who goes to America for higher studies and marries an American of her choice. Later, she finds it difficult to live in an alien culture and comes back to India, however, to her dismay, finds herself isolated. Thus, the novel revolves around the sense of loss of identity that the character has suffered due to the diversity of two opposite cultures.
Her novel Wife (1975), centers around the sense of alienation the female Dimple suffers due to her incompatible marriage in a different culture. Frustrated and restrained, she kills her husband. Jasmine (1989), another work of fiction, broadly applauded all over the world traces the journey of a woman’s self discovery. Mukherji’s next novel, The Holder of the World (1993) is a story of the pangs of displacement and the joy of change arising out of the union of two diverse cultures. Based on the concept of immigration, the novel Leave It To Me (1997) has completed the trilogy which began with Jasmineand continued with The Holder of the World.
Desirable Daughters(2003) is based on the well established notion of the Indian society that the daughters are undesirable in a family and the mothers who give emphasis to the birth of daughters are also looked down upon. Thus, the plot of this novel is constructed in defiance to this popular belief in Indian society. The Tree Bride(2004), another work of fiction by the writer explores the tragic life of Tara Lata Ganguly whose bridegroom dies and in accordance with a Bengali legend, she is married off to a tree. Hence, the novel explores not only the isolated existence of Tara but also the marginalization of females from the hub.
Ancient Promises (2000) by Jaishree Mishra, another writer of significance in Indian English fiction is an auto-biographical novel which gives a true account of her own life. Her other works are Afterwards (2004),Ancient Promises (2000)andAccidents Like Love and Marriage (2001), etc. Afterwards (2004) is a story which explores the power of love, joy and sacrifice in the life of a person while Accidents like Love and Marriage (2001) revolves around the incompatibilities between the desires and their outcomes.
Outstanding in the literary sphere, Ladies Coupe (2001) by Anita Nair also raises many questions considered taboo about the role of woman in contemporary India. It deals with certain basic feministic issues that not only shake the ideological ground of man’s patriarchal role in a traditional society but also imply the existence of an alternative reality. The novel raises the question as whether the role of an Indian woman as a representative of other woman living under patriarchal systems in relation to cultural resistance should be restricted only to their roles as wives and mothers. In such a world, woman’s role is limited to reproduction, regardless of her own desires and needs. The heroine of the novel Akhila is a forty five year old spinster, aunt and the only provider of her family after the death of her father. After getting fed up with her multiple roles where she feels that her own inner self is lost, she decides to go on a journey away from familial responsibilities. In this journey, she meets five other women each of whom has a story to tell. After listening to all these stories and a close introspection Akhila achieves a stature where a spark gets ignited within her to find her true self.
Radhika Jha is another important novelist of Indian English Fiction. Smell (1999), the novel by the writer is a story of a young Gujarati woman Leela Patel whose father is killed during riots against foreigners in Kenya. Almost immediately, she is thrown out of her secure life and forced to lurch from one unsatisfactory situation to another. Through this novel the author highlights the struggle of Leela without anyone in the world to support her.
Gita Hariharan, one of the prominent writers of Indian English Fiction, has established herself in the literary circles with her first work The Thousand Faces of Night (1992). Winner of the Commonwealth’s best first book Award for the year 1993, this novel has used myths to examine contemporary women’s lives. Used as suggestive devices, myths help in understanding their lives, which on surface seem rather placid and devoid of event. Her other works include The Art of Dying (1993), In Times of Siege (2003), etc.
Blessed with a deep understanding and sharp sensibility, Manju Kapur, has highlighted the image of the suffering but stoic woman eventually breaking traditional boundaries. She has been awarded the prestigious Commonwealth Writers prize for her first novel, Difficult Daughters (1998). The novel is set against the background of India’s partition. It is the story of a young woman, Virmati who falls in love with a married Professor, a hitherto condemned passion in Indian social circle. Married Woman (2002) another successful novel is based on the story of Astha and her married life, a young woman brought up in Delhi in a typical middle class household. The chief concern of the novel is the unattended wishes of Astha under the vortex of marriage; her consequent retaliation and final return to the same condition.
Winner of the 1997 Booker prize for her novel The God of Small Things (1997), Arundhati Roy is one of the revolutionary as well as acclaimed writers in Indian English Feminist Fiction. Set in the year of 1969, the story of this novel is built around a small town of Ayemenem in Kerala. It is the tale of Estha, his fraternal twin sister Rahel and their divorced mother Ammu. The book addresses the story of these small things in life which might not have gone down the pages of history but deserve special importance. Quite frank in her projection of females, her fiction does not portray females as too weak or too strong. Her portrayal is more in consonance with the recent feministic vision which treats females as human beings. Males as well as the Females are sufferers in their own ways.
Diaspora, generation gap, marital difficulties, miscarriages, etc., are some of the themes highlighted by Jhumpa Lahiri, a contemporary Indian American author currently based in New York. She began her literary career with her collection of short stories entitled The Interpreter of Maladies (1999). In this collection, she has addressed the sensitive issues in the lives of Indians or Indian immigrants. Her first novel, The Namesake (2003) which won her international recognition revolves around the story of Ashima and Arun who belong to India, and then to America. The novel pertinently highlights the dilemma faced by Indians in a foreign setup. Contrary to the other female writers, she comes close to the modern feministic views wherein women are treated more as human beings and not as spineless creatures.
Kiran Desai yet another writer is a recent addition to Indian English fiction. She has to her credit Hullaballoo in the Guava Orchard (1998) and The Inheritance of Loss (2006). Her first novel was a critically acclaimed novel which focused on the themes like migration and diaspora. The Inheritance of Loss (2007) talks about the story of Jemubhai Popatlal Patel, a judge living out a disenchanted retirement in Kalimpong, a hill station in the Himalayan foothills, and his relationship with his granddaughter, Sai. Another element in the novel is the disturbance created in their lives by a band of Nepalese insurgents. Still another concern of the novel is the life of Biju, the son of Mr. Patel’s cook, an illegal immigrant in New York.
To sum up, feminism has sprawled in all the arenas such as social, political and literary. Initiated by females, it was supported by stalwarts like John Stuart Mill, Raja Rammohan Roy, Mahatma Gandhi, etc. Under their guardianship, it flourished and has attained greater heights.
In the literary field, feminism has undoubtedly paved way for the open and undaunted expression of the female writers throughout the world. Eminent writers like Elaine Showwalter, Helene Cixous, Ellen Moers, etc., have examined the position of women in literary works. They have laid a firm foundation for the posterity to explore in their own ways. Hence, the Indian female writers with a quest to portray experiences of women have got an opportunity and have been successful also in their efforts to depict the present situation of females. However, there is a steady progression from the earlier writers like Kamala Markandaya, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Anita Desai, Shashi Despande to the present writers like Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri and Kiran Desai with respect to the type of depiction of women.
In the novels of Kamala Markandaya and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala women have been projected as more docile and enduring. Women have undergone tumultuous upheavals in their lives. Moreover, with the advent of awakening in female about her self as an individual, the themes of the later writers got more intensity. Consequently, the portrayal of females has also acquired a broader vision as the writers have projected them not only as passive housewives but also as rational beings. The fiction of writers like Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai falls in this particular era. The projection of females by the present writers has become more mature where they are victimized not by their male counterparts; rather they are the victims of times and the circumstances. Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Kiran Desai project the same. Reflecting the changing times, fiction of Shobha De showcases women of elite section. Consequently, the depiction and treatment of problems also differ.
Moreover, the shift in the thinking and the power of women has also been aptly projected. The modern day pressures and the change in the lives of females has made them more self reliant. Their questioning spirit supports them in their endeavours. The most important thing is their intensity of introspection which makes them look into the relationships around them more critically. Portrayal of females in its myriad forms has fascinated not only the fiction writers but also the filmmakers. With the passage of time, it has grown in richness and complexity in both the art forms. The next chapter discusses the origin and growth of cinema, one of the art forms.
ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF HINDI PARALLEL CINEMA
Cinema, an artistic endeavour, covers a wide range of human experience that reflects the attitude of an entire society, community, country or civilization. In a nutshell, it reveals how a civilization works. Therefore, despite being an artistic pursuit, it is a strong document, wherein the society and its surroundings, the mood and temperament of the people are crystallized in the shape of the celluloid. According to Abbas and Sathe, Hindi cinema creates a huge impact on the audience:
In a country, where less than five percent (sic) buy or read newspapers and books, the Hindi film is the only popular form of literature and art for the vast masses of the common people. Their contact with prose is the dialogue that they hear; the only poetry that enriches their lives is the poetry of film lyrics. Hence the importance of the talkie that can educate and inspire the people even while entertaining them. (1985 : 369).
The powerful impact of cinema has also been acknowledged by Urvashi Butalia, “Commercial Indian cinema is the single most powerful medium of communication in Indian society” (1984 : 108). Undoubtedly, cinema goes a long way in forming a bond with the culture of any country. Thus, it is also hailed as “the most prominent culture industry in modern India.” (Rajadhyaksha 2007 : 32).
Cinema influences an individual’s behaviour, perception and position in his culture and society and hence encompasses all the multifaceted aspects integral to society. The issue of projection of women also occupies a unique place in cinema. Shamita Das Dasgupta validates the same idea:
The issues concerning women may be various such as their subordinate and restrictive role in the society, the growth of their identity as an important part of their individual development, psychological and economic independence, suppression of rights, discrimination against women practiced in society, harassment and sexual exploitation, etc. (1996 : 178).
In the initial stages of cinema, only a single stereotyped image of females was portrayed. Thus, the projection of females lacked in diversity. In general, women in Indian cinema have been exhibited through three specific stereotypes: the chaste loyal wife, the dutiful self-sacrificing mother, and the westernized promiscuous bad girl. They have also been depicted as suppressed sufferers. The ideal woman has been a very pure, restricted and passive individual ready to make sacrifices for the well being of her family. As Hegde and Dasgupta claim in their analysis of images of women projected in Hindi films, “the traditional Indian ideals are reflected in her (the female protagonist’s) submissiveness, in the insistence on her marriage and in her confinement to her home” (1981 : 15).
The mythological icons such as Sita and Savitri are shown to be the embodiment of goodness, purity and chastity. Sanctimoniously revered by Indian society, they get manifested through cinema as well. Anjali Ram throws light on the same when she says, “indisputably the Hindu goddess Sita represents one such embodiment of purity, chastity, and the careful control of sexuality, continuously circumscribed within the domain of heterosexual marriage, family and the nation.” (2002 : 33). Thus, the female characters in Hindi films who do not reflect the Sita model turn out to be westernized and sexually violent, responsible for leading the men towards ruin. Moreover, the female characters have also been “often given Western or Christian names,” (Ram 2002 : 34) to further reinforce their transgression and separation from Indian culture.
Variability in the projection of women has been ignored by commercial cinema. It has glorified the idea of Indian womanhood which gets exhibited through her tolerance even after vicious exploitation. Hence, the position of women in the commercial films has never been diverse.
The interests of the audience have formed the foundation of the plots for commercial cinema. Thus, even when the films project the females as educated, they do it in relation to the welfare of the family. The only destination of women in the Indian society is marriage and that has been constantly reinforced. In the films, the role of married woman is clearly defined, and if she fails to abide by the norms, she has to bear the consequences. Her suffering has been shown as the outcome of her mistake and the defiance against her role as a wife. If educated and independent females fail to adjust with the husband or with the family, they move out, get divorce and start living on their own, but that has never been shown in a positive light. This fact has been illustrated by the commercial film Thodi Si Bewafai. (1980). There are many other films which impinge on the same issue. Another film, a commercial success entitled Do Anjane (1976) highlights the same line of thought. There have been films like Dr. Madhurika (1935) and President (1937) in 1930’s also in which women have been shown as working and successful but in the end, they have been projected as losers. Despite the efforts of some directors who have tried to project female as a strong character, the number of such films is meager. At the outset, they have been portrayed as mythological figures, but with changes in the society, a transformation has come wherein apart from being housewives they have also been projected as working women. Still in another phase, they have been portrayed merely as ornamental objects just for the commercial success of the film.
Qualities like quest for freedom, professionalism, quest for identity, etc., are not considered positive in females. Considered a threat to the stereotypes deeply rooted in the society, they are condemned through the medium of cinema. Voices of the females had not been paid a serious attention in commercial cinema and hence a need was felt for another streak of cinema. The genre of films where they have got an honest representation is the offbeat streak of filmmaking. The Offbeat Cinema is known through various names, Parallel Cinema, The New Wave Cinema, Art Cinema, etc. In the beginning, the seeds for this type of cinema were sown in Bengal by Satyajit Ray. Ritwik Ghatak gave it a new dimension by using it as a medium to educate people. Mrinal Sen on the other hand imparted a broader vision to it by employing this technique for a diversified audience. Shyam Benegal, another pioneer established it in Hindi Cinema and hence has acquired the prestigious position as the father of Hindi Parallel Cinema.
Comprised of the plots, such as questioning of the social codes, poverty, exploitation based on caste as well as sex, communalism etc., the films of this genre avoid themes of formula films and showcase social realities. Nevertheless, more than any other subject, the favourite themes of the new wave films have been exploration of woman’s status and her role in the society.
With reference to the delineation of women as a primary focus of the film, even commercial cinema is not far behind as it has also added some milestones in the women centered genre of filmmaking. Filmmakers such as V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt of commercial cinema have continued to explore relevant social issues in their films. Among these films V Shantaram’s Duniya Na Mane (1937) is a revolutionary film in which the protagonist questions the social codes and rebels against them. Maithili Rao, one of the well known critics of cinema endorses:
The first screen women to rebel against a marriage whose ideology she does not agree with is Nirmala of V. Shantaram’s double version film Duniya na Mane (1937) which was titled Kunku in Marathi. The woman-as-rebel has dwindled into a stereotype herself. Because a screen image perpetually seeks to reflect social reality divorcing the emotional dimension of a woman from the culture that produced her. In effect, the rebel is most effective when she is rooted in her specific culture. This is probably the main reason why Nirmala is timeless within the history of Indian cinema in terms of the woman’s voice rising in protest against a mismatched marriage that has been grossly unfair to the wife. V. Shantaram created our first domestic guerilla in Nirmala (Shanta Apte) (1993 : 75).
Apart from this film, other landmark films such as Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), Bimal Roy’s Sujata (1959) and Bandini (1963) are particularly important not only in their exploration of the ideology of womanhood but also in the portrayal of bold female characters.Damini (1993), is another film which shows the fight of a woman against the injustice meted out to an innocent girl. The recent feministic films in the commercial streak are Lajja (2001), Mrityudand (1997), etc. In addition to commercial cinema and alternate cinema, there is another cinema known as the middle of the road cinema started in India in the 1970’s by directors such as Hrishikesh Mukherji, Gulzaar and Basu Bhattacharya. Through this particular cinema, attempts have been made to connect the mainstream cinema to the more artistic and socially aware films. As Gulzar and other directors opine:
Through all this, and unaffected by all this “a middle-of-the-road-” cinema continued to offer fare that dealt with human relationships, human conditions, Indian values and so on. ….The flag-bearers of this middle-of-the-road cinema were not surprisingly, people who had worked with the likes of Bimal Roy, such as Hrishikesh Mukherji, Basu Chatterji, Gulzar, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Basu Bhattacharya. (2003 : 89).
Films like Parichay (1972), Abhimaan (1973) and Koshish (1972) are examples of this genre of filmmaking. Women portrayal has found a significant place in most of the films by Basu Bhattacharya. The plot of his films focus on man-woman relationship in marriage Films like Anubhav (1971), Avishkaar (1975) and Aastha (1997) explore in-depth the problems encountered in a marital relationship due to ego clashes and extramarital affairs. Aastha is particularly famous as it explores adultery in marriage, a subject untouched and considered a taboo in Indian society. Moreover, this film brings out the trauma felt by the female under the pressures of marriage.
Despite a few, many films have projected females merely as objects of beauty which in turn adds to the commercial aspects of the film. Conversely, due to its vivid portrayal of the suppressed desires of females, Alternate Cinema has proved to be the stepping stone for the female-oriented films. Parallel Cinema has been defined by the critics and writers in various ways:
It is an absolute negation of the popular cinema in which individual ambition or action has to be sacrificed to, or is motivated by, the common weal. It is a new and unfamiliar, though tentative, process of individuation in which the alternate cinema is engaged (Vasudev 1986 : 1)
Drastically different from the commercial cinema, the most common concern of this cinema is its paramount concern for the society. Aruna Vasudev, an established critic of cinema, clarifies the term Parallel Cinema:
India’s New Cinema can be understood in the context of Commercial cinema. To the promoters of all-India commerce, the only admissible cinema is a mix of song and dance, rape and chase, fighting and cabaret, high drama and comic opera, religious sentiment and filial piety, modern bric-a-brac and ancient superstition. It is a mixture that defies any infiltration of creativity; its formula cannot be varied, except in minor window dressing. It is like the same film being made again and again. It rules out audience participation: entertainment is poured out of the screen as out of a tap turned on. When boy and girl are in love, they must play-act, and it must be obvious that they are play-acting. If they seem to be really in love, it embarrasses the audience, which has been brainwashed not to expect real events or feelings. (1983 : 39-40).
Commercial cinema also known as traditional cinema offers a striking contrast to this genre. It lessens the intensity of the issues and provides unrealistic solutions. Hence, sans social relevance, the films sustain the status quo- love the parents, offer prayers to God, live only for your husband, make sacrifices for your family and lead a flawless life. In order to attain commercial success, the filmmakers try their best to attract the audience. Consequently, the films are technically sound but brazen in content. Pendakar thinks on the same line:
Audience are mesmerized by the slick imagery that carries them into another world where men with superhuman qualities successfully conquer all odds, including bad landlords, greedy industrialists, corrupt politicians and sadistic policemen. Women generally are the icing on the cake –upholding traditional virtues of virginity, devotion to God and family and service to men. (Quoted in Gokulsingh 2004 : 12).
Artistic films search for and sensibly project the problems and inequalities prevalent in the society. Critics have varied viewpoints regarding the distinction between commercial and parallel cinema. Chidananda Dasgupta says, “The difference between art cinema and commercial cinema in India is simply the difference between good cinema and bad-between serious films and degenerate ‘entertainment. The new cinema in India is a creation of intellectual elite that is keenly aware of the human condition in India”. (Quoted in Datta 2003 : 20).
However, Rinki Roy Bhattacharya (in personal communication) brings forth the striking contrast between commercial and parallel cinema:
The polarization between commercial and artistic cinema occurred in the 1960’s when renowned directors such as Guru Dutt (1965), Mehboob Khan (1965), and Bimal Roy (1966) were replaced by a new breed of directors, mainly graduates of the Pune film Institute or film society members. Notable in this emerging group (some already discussed here) and claiming parallel status were Basu Chatterjee (cartoonist in the tabloid Blitz), Basu Bhattacharya (assistant briefly to Bimal Roy), Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani (graduates of Pune institutes), Shyam Benegal (from the advertisement media), Ritwik Ghatak (who scripted Bimal Roy’s Madhumati and was a professor of film Direction), Adoor Gopalakrishnan (from Kerala), and Mrinal Sen (who worked as an apprentice in sound recording studio) (Quoted in Gokulsingh 2004 : 95-96).
In the initial stages, the basic structure of films was inspired mainly by the mythology and mythological figures. Raja Harishchandra (1913) is the first film in the history of Indian cinema by Dada Saheb Phalke, the pioneer of Indian cinema. The prominent themes of that time have been the politics of that period, caste system, problems of westernization, protest against arranged marriages etc. The films like Devdas (1935), Achhut Kanya (1936), Balayogini (1937), Sikander (1941) etc., were based on the above stated themes. The condition of the film industry was really pathetic, without any financing and strict censorship. Films were considered as a leisure activity of uncivilized people. After the independence, the government felt the need to save the endangered classical arts and hence cinema became an area of serious concern.
With the surge in industrialization, a new class emerged and with a view to cater to their demands for entertainment, formula films came in vogue. Characterized by extravagant sets, fantasy, music, dance and emotion, everything was exaggerated and cinema became larger than life. Amidst all this show of fantasy, some filmmakers wanted to make films which differ in the theme as well as in the form with a purpose to provide a three-hour entertainment.
Setting up of Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) gave a much-needed boost to such aspirants of Indian filmmaking. Cinema became a movement, and the filmmakers associated with it significantly contributed in giving a new direction to cinema. Apart from this, other vital development had been the first International Film Festival of India held in 1952 which played a key role. In this festival, films shown from different countries had given a breath of fresh air to the Indian filmmakers. Until then, they had confined themselves to the Hollywood and British films; however, the festival opened new vistas by screening films like Rashomon (1950), Yukiwarisoo (1939), and Bicycle Thieves (1948). Bicycle Thieves (1948) by Vittorio De Sica based on Neo-Realistic approach has opened new avenues for the Indian filmmakers.
In addition, the Film Finance Corporation also played a prominent role in boosting the morale by granting loans to the aspiring filmmakers. Consequently, in the search for alternatives, the need for an alternate or parallel cinema was felt. Sumita Chakravarty traces the aesthetic debate surrounding new cinema and says, “film-makers may contest the hegemony of the commercially based, profit-driven popular cinema was to search for alternatives in the name of a higher calling to the art of the motion picture” (1993 : 235).
Jill Nelmes further validates the rising of Parallel Cinema:
While many bemoaned the demise of the romance and the rise of violence in the newer films, the 1970’s also signaled the establishment of ‘art’ or ‘parallel cinema’, that tried to offer an alternative to the commercially driven ‘formula’ films. Dispensing with stars, songs and spectacle in favour of serious themes, these films adopted the classic codes of western narrative cinema, with a linear narrative set in a fictional world of spatial and temporal verisimilitude. This move towards realism had already been started by Satyajit Ray in 1955. (1999 : 407).
Many directors have contributed in the genesis of parallel cinema but Pather Panchali (1955) by Satyajit Ray has changed the entire outlook of the people towards cinema. The film has won the “Best Human Document”, a special award at the 1956 Cannes International Film Festival. Due to the worldwide success and instant recognition of the film, cinema has acquired a new connotation as a form of art.
In Hindi Film making before Satyajit Ray, there were other directors too who have instilled a breath of fresh air amidst formula ridden films and one such director has been K. A. Abbas. His autobiographical film Naya Sansar (1941) has been new in the treatment as well as theme; it is about a journalist who operates under the pressure of a successful businessman. Dharti Ke Lal (1946) his first realistic film has showcased the conditions of farmers of Bengal at the time of famine. Chetan Anand another key figure has made a noteworthy contribution with his film Neecha Nagar (1946). Bimal Roy has joined the race with Do Bigha Zamin (1953), a film about the struggle of the peasants and their ultimate defeat in the hands of landlords.
A stark exposure of reality, these films did not get recognition and hence failed in their attempt to attract the audience. On the other hand Pather Panchali (1955) by Satyajit Ray has been a highly successful film, which has established the alternate cinema in the real sense of the term. Wimal Dissanayake opines:
Ray’s first film was first in many ways: the village as a setting, signifying possibly a quest for the ‘real ‘India physically and, a more personal sense, psychologically; neo-realism as an idiom; a cast of non-professionals; classical music composed by Ravi Shankar; a rigorous structure based on western music, combined with a profoundly Indian sensibility characterized by a sense of wonder, the evocation of aesthetic emotion, of suggestion rather than the explicit statement.( Quoted in Vasudev 1986 : 15).
Satyajit Ray entered the field of films by constituting the first film society of India in Calcutta, along with Chidananda Dasgupta in 1947. He has tirelessly worked by writing several articles for creating awareness about good cinema. Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) follow the sequel to complete the Apu trilogy. Apart from Apu Trilogy, his other films are Mahanagar (1963), Charulata (1964) etc. His films are just opposites of commercial cinema. Although, all his films are in his regional language except one film in Hindi entitled Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977), they have got a touch of humanism and universal interest. His films demonstrate remarkable humanism, elaborate observation and subtle handling of characters and situations. The success of his films has broken all the myths regarding serious films that they lack entertainment, present only in commercial films.
Despite making films based on other subjects, he has made films in which he has tried to show women and the issues related to them. His film, Charulata (1964) adroitly depicts the inner tensions faced by a woman. Pratiwandi (1970), Asani Sanket (1973) and Jana Aranya (1975) are some of his films which project the struggle of females for survival and their consequent action to safeguard their lives.
Satyajit Ray is not the only director who got moved by tragic incidents. Ritwik Ghatak is also very sensitive to human plight. His films realistically reflect his own tragic experiences born out of the biggest man-made tragedy in human history, the Indian partition. He has significantly contributed in giving a new shape to cinema as being a refugee of partition; he himself has undergone the problems encountered by the refugees. Hence, his films bear a stamp of the sense of defeat and deracination. Influenced by the films of Eisenstein, the master filmmaker, Ritwik Ghatak has also made politically radical films. His intention has been to use his films as a weapon for social change, as he himself admits:
When I thought of the cinema I thought of the millions of minds I could reach at the same time. This is how I came into films; not because I wanted to make films. Tomorrow if I could find a better medium I would throw away the cinema.I don’t love films …I have used the cinema as a weapon, as a medium to express my views…and to educate people (1982 : 8).
Distinctively ahead of his times in the projection of his themes, he failed to get due recognition. Unfortunately, the film critics in India neglected his talents during his short lifetime. He was a permanent absentee from film festival circuits and film awards. It was only after his untimely death as a chronic alcoholic in 1975 that critics of India started noticing the brilliance of his films. Gokulsingh supports the fine texture of his films, “No better contrast between the commercial success of Indian popular cinema and the box-office failures of some of the artistic films could be found than Ritwik Ghatak’s films. His films were not ‘hits’ and his genius has only quite recently been acknowledged” (2004 : 96).
His films include Nagarik (1952), Ajantrik (1958), Bari Theke Paliye (1959), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1961), Komal Gandhar (1961), Subarnarekha (1962) among which some of the films pragmatically represent the predicament of women.
The film, Meghe Dhaka Tara (1961) reflects the struggle of a refugee girl to save her poverty-stricken family. She is a victim of exploitation; her family members always torment her by saying that she has not done enough for the family. In the course of her grim struggle, she suffers from a deadly disease and ultimately dies. The film represents the biased attitude towards a girl child who works and lives only for their survival. At least two of them “‘The Cloud – Capped Star’ (Meghe Dhaka Tara, 1960) and Subarnarekha (1965)are acknowledged masterpieces whose stature has only increased with time” (Gokulsingh 2004 : 96).
Widely known for his diversified filmmaking, Mrinal Sen, another key figure in this genre has entered the world of art through Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1943. It was he who laid the foundation for Indian parallel cinema. “Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome (1969) considered to be the origin of the New Indian Cinema has influenced a whole lot of filmmakers, made on a tiny budget, won the award of Best Film, Best Director and Utpal Dutt for best actor.” (Gokulsingh 2004 : 96).
He has started his career by making films in Bengali but later on made films in other languages as well. He made his first film Raat Bhor in 1956. Deeply influenced by the leftist ideology, most of his films deal with social and political themes. In most of his films, he discusses in-depth the complexities of the middle class urban life of Bengal.
Mrinal Sen has won the National award for best film four times. His films have been screened at a number of International film festivals and have also won several awards. He has served as a jury member at the Cannes International Film Festival. His major films are Raatbhor (1955), Neel Akasher Neechey (1959), Baishey Sravan (1960), Punascha (1961), Abasheshe (1963), Pratinidhi (1964), Akash Kusum (1965), Matira Manisa (1966 - Oriya), Bhuvan Shome (1969-Hindi), Ichhapuran (1970), Interview (1970), Ek Adhuri Kahani (1971- Hindi), Kolkata 71 (1972), Padatik (1973), Chorus (1974), Mrigaya (1976,Hindi), Oka Uri Katha (1977-Telegu), Parasuram (1978), Ek Din Pratidin (1979), Akaler Sandhane (1980), Chalchitra (1981), Kharij (1982-Hindi), Khandahar (1983-Hindi), Ek Din Achanak (1989 - Hindi), Mahaprithibi (1991), Antareen (1993 - Hindi), etc.
Though the framework is set in Bengal, he has made an attempt to show the multifaceted aspects of Indian life. Hence, he has made films in different languages like Hindi, Oriya and Telugu. Besides his contribution to the launch of realistic cinema, he has also been active in making female oriented films. In comparison to his contemporaries Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, he is more seriously engaged with the gender issue. His film Ek Din Pratidin (1979) is a study of female identity which focuses on the theme of the unjust treatment of a working woman.
Mrinal Sen’s legacy has been continued by Shyam Benegal whose work is considered central to the history of Hindi Alternate Cinema. Renowned for his women centered films, his contribution to parallel genre of filmmaking cannot be overshadowed. Ranajit Guha supports the same, “Today Shyam Benegal is considered the father of Parallel, or Indian new wave, cinema in India.” (Quoted in Datta 2003 : 1).
His contribution to the Hindi New Wave Cinema is remarkable. Most of his early films have not only been artistically superior but also commercially successful. He has pioneered films with women as strong characters. Considered remarkable and famous as a film director, he allocates women the central role in many of his films. He has made films which raise questions about gender exploitation in a male dominated society. His films thoroughly challenge middle class morality and well accepted ideas of womanhood as ideal wife and mother. Ankur (1974), first film by Benegal, has established the alternate cinema in Hindi. Memorable for its engrossing details of rural life, Ankur exposes brutal and indifferent feudal system. This film has launched New Cinema in Hindi in the real sense; Aruna Vasudev confesses the same, “The ‘new’ cinema was just beginning in India, new modes of perception and technique for both film-makers and audience were still hazy and barely formulated. In the context of its time, Ankur was a major step.” (1986 : 40).
Shyam Benegal has not only established parallel cinema but has also given a platform where the voice of women finds a specific place. All his films reflect the turmoil and struggles faced by a woman in her life. His focus varies from a village woman to a woman in a city fighting for her existence on her own.
Focused on the life of a teacher’s wife and her fight for her rescue, the film Nishant (1975), brings to the fore the woman’s strength as an individual. After being abducted and gang raped by four zamindars the woman takes the command in her own hands and fights against the injustice. The husband is shown as a weakling who does not openly come forward to help her. The film is remarkable as it textualizes the epic Ramayana and gives it a temporal meaning by offering a solution to the problems of the female character which is a representative of her mythological counterpart Sita. Charandas Chor (1975), Mandi (1983), Trikaal (1985), Antarnaad (1992), Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda (1992), Mammo (1994), Samar (1998) and Sardari Begum (1996) are some of his prominent films.
He made movies on different themes, for instance Bhumika (1977) is a film that revolves around the woman’s search for identity and self-fulfillment. The film is broadly based on the life of well-known Marathi stage and screen actress of the 1940’s, Hansa Wadkar who has led a flamboyant and unconventional life. The film focuses on the different roles a woman is expected to perform without any flaws. The work also seriously dwells over the issue of female’s struggle for freedom and a bold assertion of her sexual choice, an issue never been dealt with such aplomb by any other film. Junoon (1978) and Kalyug (1981) are other films exploring reality in different situations. His other films like Manthan (1976) and Aarohan (1981) have many common elements. Manthan is set against the backdrop of Gujarat’s fledgling dairy industry, in which Benegal has addressed the viewer in a strict cinematic language bereft of commercial skills. All his films have very practically portrayed the contemporary evils present in the society and the hardships an individual encounters in relation to the surroundings in which he lives.
Mandi (1983), yet another breakthrough in the arena of women oriented films by him attempts to highlight survival of woman at one end and struggle to attain freedom on the other. Till date, Mandi is the only film that revolves around the system of prostitution in the suburbs of Hyderabad city, with the main focus on the brothel threatened by land grabbers and construction promoters.
His film Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda (1992) centers around a bachelor who recounts over two evenings to a group of his friends, the stories of three women who have come into his life at different periods of time. Rich in texture, it becomes abundantly clear that more than love stories, his films are reflections on the shifting social values. In the film Samar (1998), he has used the film-within-film style with ironic humour and self mocking wit to expose the reality of caste prejudice. An award winning film, it questions the ideas of growth and draws attention to the deep seated prejudices about class and caste that still holds a place in the mind of audience.
The film Hari Bhari (2000) is purely feministic and suggests that one way of alleviating the misery of Indian women is through education. The film deals with the rather sensitive issue of women’s reproductive rights and gender equality. Set in a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, it is a story of five women from three generations of a rural Muslim family. Zubeeida (2000), his famous film also talks about the problems faced by a female in this society where she has to struggle a lot to maintain her individuality.
Deeply inclined to show the underlying aspects present in the society is M. S. Sathyu, another director. In 1974, he has made a film Garam Hawa. Quite different from his counterparts, his film hovers around the impact of partition on the lives of common people. Some of his films such as Kaneshwara Rama (1977) and Chitegu Chinte (1979) were in his own regional language Kannada. He has made one more Hindi film entitled Kahan Kahan Se Gujar Gaya (1985). According to Sathyu, a film should have pessimism, because that makes it realistic. His main purpose has been not only to give entertainment but also to make people aware about the existing conditions and hence his films are mainly inspired by the politics of his time.
Mani Kaul is another director of this stratum of filmmaking. His first film Uski Roti (1969) has explored new forms of expression, defining much of New Indian Cinema's formal vocabulary. His other films are Ashad Ka Ek Din (1971), Duvidha (1973), Ghashiram Kotwal (1979), Satab Se Uthata Admi (1976), Dhrupad (1982), Mati Manas (1984), Siddheshwari (1989), Nazar (1989), Idiot (1991) and Naukar Ki Kameez (1999), etc.
Keeping pace with the other directors, Kumar Shahani has to his credit, films like Maya Darpan (1972), Tarang (1984), Khayal Gatha (1988), Kasba (1990), Bhavantharana (1991), Har Adhyay (1997), etc. Born in Larkana in Pakistan and settled in India after partition, he has graduated from the University of Bombay and the FTII. His film Tarang has dealt with the subject of prostitution wherein the female initially hesitates but later on starts demanding money to further the worker’s struggle for better wages and living conditions. Money has been used as an extended metaphor both sexually as well as an item of exchange. Simultaneously, it becomes the basis for women’s dependence and independence.
Saeed Mirza, another figure of art cinema, attempts a free-flowing narrative under the influence of Brazilian films which mainly focus on the working class of Bombay. He has worked in the advertising industry before joining FTII, Pune. In collaboration with K Hariharan and Mani Kaul, he has made a film Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai (1980), Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho (1983), Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989), Naseem (1995), etc.
Ardent observation of women’s internal strife places Ketan Mehta on the top in the coterie of renowned directors in Alternate Cinema. He has to his credit six feature films, seven documentaries and a television serial. With an explicit direction of comedy, satire, violence and revelation of the struggles faced by women in the society, he has won himself the reputation of being the most perceptive and talented representative of the rising generation of filmmakers. His very first film Bhavani Bhavai (1980) has won him instant acclaim. His films have been selected for various International Film Festivals including Nantes (France), Moscow Film Festival etc. and have also won numerous awards over the years for best art direction, best editing, best jury, best film, etc.
Mirch Masala (1985) is one of Ketan Mehta’s breakthrough films as it has created a history in the female oriented films. In this film, the director has aptly projected the marginalized status of women as well as their strife against injustice. Revolutionary in the term of its bold portrayal of women, this film brings to the foreground the collective strength of females which has devastating effects on males. Despite the inclusion of illiterate women, the film undermines the immense strength and potential wielded by woman. His films, known for their realistic projection of the society’s upheavals belong to the parallel genre of filmmaking. Apart from this, other famous films are Maya Memsaab (1992), Aar Ya Paar (1997) and Mangal Pandey : The Rising (2005).
Contrary to his contemporaries who have shown women merely as puppets in the hands of men, Jabbar Patel, another director of this genre has portrayed them as rational creatures, with a mind of their own. His film Subah (1983), the Hindi version of a Marathi film Umbartha presents the same questions an urban woman puts forward in order to know her place in the society. It shows the urge of the educated woman not only to lead her life according to her wishes but also to question their relevance. This is a story of an educated woman who is not contended with the conveniences and comfortable life within the household frame. As she is educated, she wants to seek satisfaction by working on her own and utilize her education according to her own wishes. A daughter, husband and a nice home alone do not satisfy her; thus, she wants to do something of her own choice. She expresses her desire to work in a women’s reformatory to which her husband readily agrees. In the rest of the film, fighting for the justice of the women in the reformatory, she moves towards her real self. Thus, Jabbar Patel also does justice to his female characters.
Popular for his socially relevant, realistic and contemporary films, Govind Nihalani started his career as an associate of Shyam Benegal and also as a cinematographer in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar Award winning film Gandhi (1982). He has been directing films since the late seventies. Born in Karachi, his family has migrated to India during the partition of 1947. His first directorial venture is Aakrosh (1980), a film based on a real story. Converted into a film script by the eminent Marathi playright Vijay Tendulkar; it has made a huge impact on the audiences all over India.
His film Ardh Satya (1983) based on a story by Dilip Chitre is also one of the highly recognized films of the era. It has dramatically changed the way Indian cinema used to portray the police as it exposes in stark details about the police-politician criminal nexus. Over the years, he has directed films which are known for the manner in which they grab the viewer’s attention. The films he has directed include Aakrosh (1980), Vijeta (1982), Ardh Satya (1983), Party (1984), Aaghat (1985), Drishti (1990), Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1997), etc.
Radical and quite ahead than his contemporaries regarding projection of the relevant issues integral to the society, Mahesh Bhatt is yet another director who has given a new meaning to realistic cinema. He has made films in which he depicts women as strong characters and as individuals having the will, understanding about the inequality and an urge to fight against it. His film Arth (1982) has proved to be a turning point for women centered films. In this film, he has uncovered the male hypocrisy and paradoxically allowed the female to be the final decision maker. Moreover, the extraordinary success of this film has allowed the absorption of parallel cinema language into mainstream cinema. Arth, a film about female autonomy has been largely successful due to the feminist theme. His film Saaransh (1984) is set against the backdrop of unscrupulous and unhealthy atmosphere of politics. It unfolds the trauma of an honest teacher whose son gets murdered and he has to struggle a great deal to get justice.
Muzaffar Ali is another director who has carved a niche for himself with his films Gaman (1979) and Umrao Jaan (1982). In his film Gaman, he has portrayed the life of a rural person who comes to Bombay to fulfill his dreams. Failed to get much recognition through this film, he had made another film Umrao Jaan (1982) based on the autobiography of a courtesan. The film has won him great recognition because of the apposite projection of the seemingly real lifestyle of courtesans.
Amidst the coterie of directors, there are prominent female directors also who have given a new dimension to feministic films. Immensely inspired by Shyam Benegal, almost all the female directors of his period like Sai Paranjpe, Kalpana Lajmi, Aparna Sen, etc. have acknowledged Benegal as the inspiration for the choice as well as treatment of their subjects. Sai Paranjpe, a new entrant in comparison to all these male directors has explicitly stated the difference between commercial and parallel cinema:
There is an unfortunate distinction in India, between Good cinema and Commercial cinema. We have a strange unwritten code. The artistically made films should not succeed at the box-office; the commercial film must never make sense. The time has come to challenge these norms. I believe in good cinema and I also believe in having an audience for my films. I would never compromise my aesthetic values or commonsense in order to ensure commercial success. But then I feel that is no longer necessary. (Quoted in Vasudev 1986 : 58).
Her successful venture Sparsh (1980) is a love story of the blind principal of the school and a beautiful widow. This film has flagged an exciting era of women’s films based on humanitarian issues or female oriented subjects. Another film by her is a comedy, entitled Chashme Buddoor (1980) in which she has shown the struggle of three young men to win a woman’s love. Her yet another film Katha (1983), is an allegory based on the hare and tortoise theme.
Daughter of a renowned critic and filmmaker, Chidananda Dasgupta, another female director is Aparna Sen. She has also acted in films and in 1981 made her debut as a film director with 36 Chowringhee Lane which has won commendable reviews from critics. The film is about an aged English teacher who still lives in Calcutta, three decades after independence. For this movie, she has won the Best Director Award at the Indian National Film Awards. The film has also won the Grand Prix (The Golden Eagle) at the Manila International Film festival. Aparna followed up this early success with several other films, notably Paroma (1984), Sati (1989) and Yugant (1995). These films examine the feminine condition in Modern-day India from a different perspective. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002), is a love story set against the harsh backdrop of Hindu-Muslim sectarian violence in India, and has won Aparna a third National Film Award for her direction and an acting award for the actress Konkana Sen Sharma. Her latest film is 15 Park Avenue (2006) which deals with a schizophrenic girl’s relations with her elder step-sister.
Groundbreaking and controversial director as well as screenwriter, Deepa Mehta is known for her films Fire (1996), Earth 1947 (1998) and Water (2006). Revolutionary in her treatment of women, she challenges Indian minds and hearts with her new age filmmaking. The film Fire is set in contemporary India and has been highly controversial due to its explorations of gender, marriage and sexuality. Earth, is a story about the partition of India in 1947 from the vantage point of view of a young parsi girl. The film Water is set in the 1930’s and focuses upon the difficult lives of a group of widows living in an impoverished condition in an ashram.
An established woman director, Meera Nair has initiated her career by directing four documentaries. Her 1991 film Missi sippi Masala has profiled a family of displaced Ugandan – Indians living and working in Missisippi. Mira Nair stresses the fact that she prefers to create entertaining films that touch subjects close to the heart. She says, “I’ve to admit – I am a shameless populist! A scene that gives you homework or confuses the audience …woh nahi hoga meri picture mein…. “I am far better suited to telling stories about flesh and blood characters than to mounting special effects extravaganzas,” she explains.(2007 : 3).
Her master piece, Monsoon Wedding (2001), a film about chaotic Punjabi Indian wedding, has been awarded the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice film festival. Her latest film is The Namesake (2007) which has been premiered in the fall of 2006 at Dartmouth College, where Ms. Nair has been presented with the Dartmouth Film Award. Some of the other films by her are Kama Sutra-A Tale of Love (1996) and Vanity Fair (2004). She is also in the pre production for the upcoming film, Gangster M.D. a remake of the Bollywood blockbuster Munna Bhai MBBS, a film in the Munnabhai series.
Undeniably established in the world of cinema, Kalpana Lajmi is again a legendary filmmaker, widely acclaimed for her critically acclaimed female oriented films. Her famous film Ek Pal (1986) addresses female sexuality. Rudaali (1992) is another film which is set in the world of professional female mourners and Darmiyaan (1997) explores the lives of eunuchs. Her next powerful feministic venture is Daman (2001), the story of marital violence inflicted on a woman and her consequent escape. Her latest film is Chingaari (2006), one more women centered film which revolves around the love story of a prostitute in a tiny village of North India.
In consonance with these directors of realistic cinema, Madhur Bhandarkar has also used the medium of cinema to explore the integral issues related to females. Chandni Bar (2001) is a successful attempt by him. Critically acclaimed, this hit film pragmatically portrays the struggling lives of bar girls in Bombay. In this film, the director has given glimpses of the existential difficulties faced by a single woman in this male dominated world. The protagonist of this film joins the profession of dancing in a bar just to earn her livelihood. After marriage, she decides to leave it but the desire to educate her children and also the circumstances direct her to the same situation and even her daughter also has to join the same bar. The stark reality and the nudity surrounding the city life find representation in this film. Satta (2002), another film by him is based on the struggle of a woman for justice in the corrupt world of politics. Unacquainted with the illegitimate practices which form the base of politics, she boldly defeats the males and learns to display the power despite being a woman. His next film, Page 3 (2005), has been awarded three prizes and has been very well received by the critics as it skillfully exposes the hypocritical lives of elite class. Corporate (2006) is another film which has again been praised by the critics. Known for his socially relevant and hard hitting films, Madhur Bhandarkar has made a female as the central character, as has been witnessed in four of his films. His latest release is Traffic Signal (2007), a film about the travails of people living around a traffic signal in Mumbai and Fashion (2008), a film about the girls aspiring to become successful models in the world of glamour.
Keeping pace with the stalwarts of Hindi parallel cinema, Mahesh Manjrekar is another film director who has made both types of films commercial as well as realistic. He is known as a director, an actor, producer and writer. Credited with direction of films like Vaastav (1999), Astitva (2000) Viruddh (2005), etc, he has also projected females in all shades. Astitva is based on the story of a woman fighting for her identity. In this film, the sexual autonomy of females has been dealt with dexterously, a hitherto condemned practice for women in Indian society. The protagonist leads her life compliantly in the beginning despite her husband’s oppression as she finds herself guilty. On the flipside, when her husband comes to know that his wife has a son from an illegal relationship with her music teacher, he abuses her intensely. Aditi gets furious at this reaction of her husband and challenges his hypocrisy.
Hinging on the same line, Meghna Gulzaar is another prolific director in this genre. Her film Filhaal (2002) is based on surrogate motherhood and endeavors to explore the complexities arising out of this. Woman-oriented in subject, the film meticulously underscores the different aspirations of two intimate childhood friends and their different outlook towards life as for one leading her life in domesticity is a pleasurable thing whereas for the other the career is more important. The film beautifully delineates the change in the females with respect to motherhood.
Another talented director who has created ripples with his film is Shahla Raza. His film Chameli (2004) unravels the hardships undergone by a sex worker in her struggle for existence. The focus of the film is primarily on the stark truths surrounding the lives of sex-workers as they are considered the lowest in the societal structure and most vulnerable to all the corrupt forces. In addition, the film also brings to light the awareness that has come in this class and their right to reply in the negative.
Hirdesh Kamble’s film Pranali-The Tradition (2008)) is the latest addition based on the age-old tradition of Devdasis in India. The film highlights the problems of a prostitute in the society. The heroine of this film finds herself in a problematic situation when her child is denied admission. After finding herself in a quagmire, she derives inspiration from an NRI who persuades her to work with other co-sex workers to get a legal sanction for prostitution. Thus, the film tries to place the prostitutes on a humanitarian pedestal so that they should not be sidelined just because of their profession.
To conclude, cinema in India plays a prominent role in influencing the perceptions of people in the society. Position of women in the society has always been in a state of perpetual subjugation and the same has been mirrored through the medium of cinema too. Simultaneously, with the change in the society regarding the place of females, cinema has again taken the lead in projecting the same. Hence, it has an extensive and rich history in presenting the problems of the women in the society and still in the present withholds the same tradition. The position of women has undergone various shifts in the society and has never been without controversy in Hindi commercial films. The success of such films depends to a large extent on the projection of females and keeping the profit in mind the commercial cinema makers have projected the females accordingly. Consequently, despite a few films which have created history in the meticulous and real delineation, females in commercial cinema have only acquired the place of ornamental objects without any concrete relevance.
However, the realistic mode of filmmaking has successfully projected their true conditions. Initially, the representation of women has been more on the lines of conforming to the vested beliefs in the society. Hence, most of the films have tried to portray the females as embodiments of Sita and Savitri, epitome of wifely qualities. On the other hand, with the passage of time a change has come in the society and the same has got manifested in films as well.
Alternate Cinema, known to be more concerned with the realistic projection of females has portrayed their problems in more stark terms. Initiated by Satyajit Ray, it has been taken further by Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. Apart from making films on contemporary subjects they have also been involved in making films based on the life of females under stereotyped male domination. Alternate cinema has been established in the Hindi cinema by Shyam Benegal who has significantly changed the outlook of the people towards cinema. Primarily concerned with the predicament of females, the main focus of his films has been the projection of female in different shades - housewife, working women, prostitute, village woman, etc. Almost all his films superbly narrate the struggles of the females in the course of her peregrination from a mere innocent to a mature individual. In addition, other important directors like Ketan Mehta, Jabbar Patel, Muzaffar Ali, Saeed Mirza, Mahesh Bhatt, etc. have also been pivotal in providing a solid support to the voices of females in their films. Despite these male directors, female directors like Aparna Sen, Kalpana Lajmi, Sai Paranjpe, Deepa Mehta, Meera Nair etc, have also been very active in generating cinema of meaning, wherein the females find a specific place. All the films known to be the milestones regarding females cause have set the tone for women oriented films. Although with the passage of time, alternative cinema has receded due to the popularity of popular cinema and hence its aesthetics has become absorbed into mainstream cinema. Still, some directors like Mahesh Manjrekar, Madhur Bhandarkar, Shahla Raza, Hirdesh Kamble and Meghna Gulzaar etc, are actively participating in the projection of female oriented subjects. However, the projection of the ordeals of females has been an active area of interest for the Indian English Female writers of Fiction also which is discussed in the forthcoming chapter.