You can never underestimate the power of cinema in influencing your thoughts. Whether it is the notion of a ‘happily ever after’ or a romantic pursuit, movies play an important role in shaping our minds.
And when this powerful platform uses casual sexism, casteism or racism in its humour or as a norm, this idea too, gets affixed in the minds of the masses.
We are not saying that cinema is the only or the most powerful platform that infuses any idea in the masses, but think about this—how many people idolise actors and how many idolise someone from any other profession? The scale tips towards the former and as much as cinema is for entertainment; if it does away with social evils, maybe it will start reframing the set notions of sexism and racism in our minds.
The first step towards this is for powerful people from the industry to accept that maybe some things they portray in a film are wrong after all.
Renji Panicker, a prominent director and screenwriter in the Malayalam film industry, is one such person who recently accepted that he promoted misogyny in his films, that he regrets it and that he is trying to be more sensitive now.
“I strongly feel that the dialogues, situations or scripts weren’t written consciously out of a strong gender prejudice. It was because I see the characters I have created as just characters. I will not ever accept it if someone says or tries to prove that I have gender prejudices. I am very clear that I am not. However, in the contemporary scenario, where new interpretations are given to whatever we do, I am very careful not to give anyone the space to interpret any of my writings as sexist or misogynistic,” he told the Times of India.
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Perhaps this consciousness was generated through the scrutiny of media, and the public will set the wheels turning and make the casual misogyny in films a thing of the past.
He further said,
“I feel I shouldn’t have written it. When I wrote it, I never thought of belittling women or even degrading the gender;
it was just contextual for the film… If I knew that what I was writing based on a situation will have a different interpretation in the future, I wouldn’t have written that. Definitely, I regret it.”
Rima Kallingal, a prominent actor, applauded his acceptance and maturity. Taking to social media, she said, “This is the beginning of a new wave… It takes immense courage to unlearn what you have been told all along and to bring about a new perspective. Kudos and cheers to Renji Panicker.”
And yes, like he said, all art will be scrutinised again and again in history. All art reflects the times we live in.
Let’s make art that stands the test of time. Let’s make art that will be revered by generations to come.”
Such support from popular figures in the industry will undoubtedly act as a significant catalyst to end the misogyny in the film industry. Going forward, if more actors refuse to work for films which promote regressive ideas and the masses refuse to watch the already produced movies, it will be a massive win for social equality.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)