Once I discussed my crush on a beautiful colleague with a friend in the office.
“She is so beautiful but I am not sure if she will be interesting to talk to.”
“What?” my friend sounded aghast, “You don’t have to play KBC with her in bed, dude!”
More often than not, men seek beauty or hotness in their ladies, while ladies look for protection and security in their partners. This could be rooted in our social stereotypical gender rules and roles that we seriously need to look at again and challenge.
Both men and women are attracted to each other. However, admitting sexual desires labels one gender super studs, and the other, super sluts.
I was furiously switching channels the last weekend and I tumbled upon two films, Haseena Maan Jayegi and Aarzoo, in which Sanjay Dutt and Akshay Kumar plant a forced kiss on their heroines, Pooja Batra and Madhuri Dixit respectively and no one seems to have a problem with that. The idea of machismo in ‘70s and ‘80s, especially in Hindi films, was pretty warped; stalk women, make sleazy comments and gestures and come across as a rough and tough hero. My sister faced such characters every day during her school and college life. She was so harassed that she even wanted to commit suicide. And to my utter shock and disbelief, I saw these characters being celebrated on the big screen every week, shamelessly adding to the rape culture of the country.
The rules for women were different. Sadly, they still are.
Ramya Krishnan’s relentless desire for Shah Rukh Khan in Chahat or Priyanka Chopra’s infamous bold act in Aitraaz instantly tagged them as slutty vamps. Things haven’t changed much even now. Before the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, one of my friends described Aishwarya’s character as a man-eater. My mother also felt a bit uncomfortable watching the trailer of the film, as Aishwarya cosied up with Ranbir Kapoor, unable to keep her hands off him. My mom hurriedly changed the channel, quipping “Ise kya budhape mein aag lagi hai?”
“Arrey, but when her father in law (Amitabh Bachchan) romanced Jiya Khan in Nishabd, you never had any problem with that?” I argued.
We had a Shaukeen back in the day; horny old perverts hitting on PYTs, their lustful acts repeated in 2015’s horrible The Shaukeens (wow how creative, really!) How come we have never seen a female version of Shaukeen?
Things did change a bit, especially when Deepika Padukone sexually challenged Ranvir Singh in Ram Leela or Kangana Ranaut furiously flirted with multiple men in the Tanu Weds Manu series, without ever coming across as loose women with objectionable morals. Even the background female dancers in Tatad Tatad unabashedly drooled over Ranvir Singh’s bare oiled torso, lusting, whistling and happily catcalling.
And then recently we saw Twinkle Khanna call her husband, Akshay Kumar, six feet of chocolate ice cream who she had a ‘fling’ with only because there were no books and TV on the outdoor shoot. She even admitted she liked John Abraham because she likes ‘tall, strong jocks…(who) don’t talk much’. It was both appalling yet interesting to see a wife reduce her husband to just a few inches. Appalling, because Akshay is much more than that. I am no Akshay fan, but he is one of the most disciplined actors who has made big by sheer hard work and dedication, a fact not mentioned on the show at all. And it’s interesting because ‘objectification’ of men is a rarity in a country where our biggest talent is to furiously forward wife slandering jokes on our multiple WhatsApp groups, second only to telling people that they are too black/fair/fat/thin/short/tall or otherwise.
It’s high time we understood that women with high libido are real and shouldn’t be treated any differently.
My friend Neelu and I were discussing these double standards for men and women the other day when she brought up the Asha Bhonsle song written by Verma Malik, Hungama Ho Gaya. Let me end with how it highlights the different rules we have for our women:
Logo Ne Botalo Ki Botal Khatam Kar Di
Toh Kuch Na Hua
Mager Maine Hotho Se Lagayi Toh Hungama Ho Gaya Hungama…”
“…Sab Isko Apnate Hai
Dekho Na Sabko Tamasha Dikhate Hai
Girte Hai Ladkhadate Hai Shor Machate Hai
Unko Toh Aap Kuch Nahin Kahte
Mager Mujhe Hichiki Jo Aayi Toh Hungama Ho Gaya…”