7 shocking remarks Shabana Azmi made on the sexualisation of women in cinema

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MUMBAI: Shabana Azmi has a problem with item numbers, and their influence on children. Speaking at a panel at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry FICCI-Frames, the veteran actor made a reference to Kareena Kapoor Khan’s song ‘Fevicol Se’ in Dabangg 2, and argued that even mouthing lines to such item songs is problematic.
“Please be informed, when you say ‘main tandoori murgi hu, gatka lo mujhe alcohol kay saath and a four-year-old girl is dancing to it, you are leading to the sexualisation of children and the parents who are enjoying it, people who are encouraging her are just as responsible,” said the Neerja star.
Explaining her point further, Azmi said that doing item numbers allows oneself to be objectified and surrenders to the male gaze. “I have strong views on item numbers because they are not part of the narrative and they’ve been put in a film for the only purpose of titillation and nothing else,” said Azmi.
“When a girl or a leading lady says ‘it’s alright, I want to celebrate my sensuality,’ I have no problem with that. I think that’s wonderful. But under the pretense of ‘celebrating your sensuality’ what you are actually doing is surrendering to the male gaze and objectifying yourselves because the business of cinema is of images.”
She even pointed out that showing a woman’s “fragmented bits of her body, heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hip,” rob her of her whole anatomy.
Meanwhile, Shabana Azmi made some shocking remarks with regards to how film-makers should be more responsible in the depiction of women’s bodies on screen, because the business of cinema is one of images.
The actor, who was present on Monday at a panel discussion at one of the events, was asked her opinion on stars who practice their right of “my body, my choice”, especially in item numbers in Bollywood films.
Azmi said people in India are simultaneously living in different centuries in various parts of the country. Considering the presence of women at workplaces is increasing in India and, at the same time, the incidence of sexual violence growing, is gender equality an outdated topic of conversation?
Here are seven shocking statements the veteran actor made at the session:
1. “When a leading lady says that ‘It’s alright, I want to celebrate my sensuality in those songs’ I have no problem with that. But under the pretense of ‘celebrating your sensuality,’ what you are actually doing is surrendering to the male gaze and objectifying yourselves because the business of cinema is one of images.”
2. “When you see the fragmented bits of a woman’s body, you see heaving bosom, swinging navel, shaking hips… you are robbing the woman of all autonomy, completely.”
3. “In Zoya Akhtar’s film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a scene shows leading lady Katrina Kaif coming out of the water wearing a bikini and wear her bathrobe. The camera does not go close to her, does not show her bosom. But on that very shot, if the director had decided to go over the top, it would have been objectification. So the intention needs to be clear.”
4. “Let’s acknowledge the fact that India is living in many centuries in different parts of the country simultaneously. Yes, we have a woman President, woman Prime Minister, woman politicians, but at the same time there are several girl children being killed because they are girls… both the realities co-exist.”
5. “We talk about education but often education re-enforces the gender stereotype and role play. The definition of masculinity needs to be changed.”
6. “The idea of a woman being as good as a man to compete should be stopped but why to compare? The competition should be with oneself and not with a man.”
7. “I think unless we are breaking away from the stereotypical idea of gender and role play set by the society and culture, the constant conversation on gender equality will remain relevant and not outdated.”