07 Jul 2021: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra birthday special: Celebrating the feminist he is
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra births characters from elements of his own life. His childhood (Delhi 6), schooling (Rang De Basanti), his understanding of the partition (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) are all a part of him. The same goes for his women characters. Although not leading forces, they're real women, as seen every day. On his 58th birthday, let's trace his views on women's portrayal in cinema.
Male gaze: When he spoke against exploitation of women for so-called entertainment
Mehra has been vocal about the "gender bias" in the industry that often leads to the exploitation of actresses. In 2013, he'd said, "I'm not against nudity. If that's a part of the story, please go ahead. It's beautiful...our bodies are beautiful. But exploitation for money and exploitation on the part of the audience and society for titillation..." Sadly, not much has changed today.
Masala movies: Onus is on filmmakers, actresses, audience to stop such objectification
A man of logic, he has been clear about the resolution. In order to stop women's portrayal as objects of lust in films, he believed, conscious steps must be taken by all--the filmmakers, the actresses, and the viewers. "And that's how reform can begin. It's not easy, won't happen overnight. But I'm confident that it can be turned around, it should be turned around."
Inspiration: How his movie on sanitation, violence against women materialized
One day while shooting for Milkha, he had witnessed some women defecating at dawn, Mehra told a portal. Eventually, he read a study that said 50% of rapes happen during then. He felt an urge to bring this story to limelight, and thus Mere Pyare Prime Minister was born. Notably, he (in association with an NGO) built 8-9K toilets in about 1,000 schools too.
War: When he held women suffered the most in ethnic violence
Religious animosity, partition have come up in his movies in different ways. Mehra said this is because he grew up in Delhi, where many "refugees" stay. In a recent interview, he rightly said women and children are the chief sufferers of ethnic violence. "Men simply die but women have to live with [it]." While we wait for more touching stories, happy birthday, sir!
Fact: These are the favorite films of the 'Aks' helmer
When asked about his favorite movies, Mehra highlighted the need for more socially relevant films, naming some of his best-loved ones. V Shantaram's Do Ankhen Barah Haath, Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin, MS Sathyu's Garm Hava, Shekhar Kapur's Bandit Queen were his chosen favorites.
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