'Wrong portrayal of women in Bollywood'

Talk

'Wrong portrayal of women in Bollywood'

As a prelude to International Women's Day, the Bangalore International Centre arranged an illustrated talk on The Mind of a Woman: Portrayal in Bollywood by Dr Dinesh Bhugra, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK.

 Bhugra has already published a path-breaking paper and book on the representation of madness in Bollywood, giving the reader keen insights on cinematic influences in the country mirroring social and political changes over the years.  With the aid of well researched film clips, he covered development of Bollywood cinema emphasising the treatment of mental illness in films with regard to women.

“In a country like India, where people are greatly influenced by cinema, it is very important that issues like mental illness are portrayed accurately and responsibly,” he said. Bhugra took one on a journey, from the idealism of the 1950s to the stalking, jealousy and psychopathy that characterises the films of the 1990s to the present day.

 “India makes more films than Hollywood. They are mostly formatted in a highly operatic style with a lot of singing and dancing. They provide people with a form of escapism and a fantasy based version of reality. Within this stylised formula, however, Bollywood films feature strong messages, reinforcing traditional principles such as family values and acceptance by society, ” he opined.

The talk was followed by a discussion that threw up important questions on the stereotypical role that women play in Indian films and the subliminal messages that are constantly being transmitted to the public at large.

With inputs from the audience the discussion further explored Bollywood's portrayal of mental illness and its effects on the family within the broader historical, cultural and social context of Indian society.

“Bollywood films need drama and conflict to engage the audience, and mental illnesses and the mentally ill easily serve this purpose; the more extreme the behaviour, the better it is, especially if the subject is a woman. Unfortunately, the repeated portrayal of mentally ill women and mental illness with the filmi distortions has contributed a lot to the stigma and burden which the mentally ill and their caretakers have to bear,” said Bhugra.

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