I have been wanting to see the film “Dirty Picture” for some time now but thanks to the holiday season tickets are not so easy to come by. Besides, I have been ill which has restricted my mobility outside home. So, I decided to make the best of the situation and watch some films on DVD.
I saw last night a Bengali film “ Iti Mrinalini” ( meaning Yours Sincerely, Mrinalini). A very moving film ,it was about an aging actress who is about to commit suicide. As she writes her suicide note her mind flashes through her life- her hey days , her affair with a director- yes, a married man with whom she had a child but who never married her! She pines for the child who dies in an accident, the man who she loved but who could not leave his wife and children for her, her break up with him and her subsequent relationships with various other men all of whom except one used her for their own ends. The film had some superb acting by the mother daughter duo - Aparna and Konkona Sen, both playing the same character at different points in time of course!
Stories such as these seem to abound in the film world! We had Marilyn Monroe, who ,to quote Elton John lived her life like a “Candle in the wind”. I had read a biography of hers a couple of years ago and I remember being shocked by the way she was exploited by so many men – the illustrious American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy included!
Closer home there is Silk Smitha and Shobha two stars who took their own lives!
It makes me wonder what is it about such lives that drives one to such despair? There is often a man involved – a mentor, usually a director/ producer or a senior co star who is a married. I know I should not be judgmental but considering that these women have the world at their feet, why do they get involved with such uncaring brutes? It seems almost like masochism! I cannot believe that the film world does not have decent men who can give them a good life! But it is obviously not just the men who exploit these women.
If we look closer and deeper into the lives of some of the big women stars in our industry, we can see that their lives are actually not even in their own hands. There are many examples of parents exploiting these girls – Sridevi and Hema Malini two leading ladies who were totally controlled by their mothers! Interestingly, both these women ended up rebelling against this control by “marrying” already married men. The story of Sridevi is probably more pathetic- she had been acting from the time she was a child and had no control over anything in her life. Her mother pocketed the money and is said to have pushed her into all the casting couches possible. In the case of Hema Malini too the story is similar. In most cases the parents do not want the daughter married as they feel that the “golden goose” would then be lost. Actress Padmini Kolhapure had to elope out of her own house to get married as her parents were opposed to her marriage!
When I hear these stories I am reminded of the “madams” in the brothels of the red light districts! They keep their girls similarly under tight control exploiting them until they are able to get a decent price for their bodies! Most of these women end up having love affairs with some of their favourite clients, running away with them dreaming of marriage but finally ending up doing the same work for a different master!
Though I find it horrible to compare the lives of our leading female stars to these unfortunate women, I realize that when you are a woman the chances of being exploited are very high. If money and fame does not give you the power to control your own destiny then it is really sad…!!! These so called “marriages” to married men are nothing but a sham that these ladies put up. It is a bold woman like Nina Gupta who had a child out of wedlock and refused to name the father.
Somewhere along the way, I realize that despite society having progressed the controls on women have not changed much. We see Aishwarya Rai, the most beautiful woman in the world, playing the docile “Bacchan Bahu” as her mother-in- law says in an interview that her daughter-in-law appeals to her because she “knows to keep her mouth shut in front of her elders”!
I don’t know whether it is the fear of public opinion that makes these ladies behave the way they do? If that is so then it is really silly because these women have the power to change public opinion by the way they conduct themselves. Respect for Nina Gupta has in no way fallen after her motherhood.
But then as somebody once told me, when you live in a make believe world you live amidst a lot of insecurities and these insecurities can break you! Besides, if your business is about marketing emotions, you are likely to get caught up in them - Just as working in a cement factory may make you suffer from asthma, similarly working in the film world may make you more vulnerable to emotional breakdowns. Women, Iare more vulnerable to this than men.. not just because of the way they are made but also because their coping strategies and safety nets in situations such as this are lower.
I wish the media would be more sensitive while reporting about the lives of these women – there is more to them than their bodies and their relationships. However, as long as there are people like us out there in the world waiting to “lap up” the gossip ,the media, I guess will continue to report about them. And hypocrites that we are, we will continue reading about it, and making judgments …!