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Chak De! India Reimagined as a Femme Tale: Problems in Representation of Teachers

Imagine the coach of the Indian National Male Hockey Team was a woman. But not just any woman, rather a stereotypical Bollywood woman: Clad in a sexy saree, turning heads whenever she enters a room, with her hair flowing dramatically in the wind and her pallu occasionally slipping off her shoulder in a suggestive manner. She walks around with an umbrella to protect herself from the hazing sun, and plays Hockey with heels on! Given the opportunity, this is the type of portrayal that mainstream Bollywood would resort too. However, another layer of patriarchy is at work here: A woman will never be represented in any capacity of power over men, unless her existence incites a sexual awakening for her male students.

Simone de Beauvoir argues in The Second Sex that being a woman implies being subjugated to a man and making yourself smaller in comparison. That is exactly what Bollywood’s representation of female teachers and mentors does. It extracts the woman from the situation and assigns her a secondary role in the lives of her male counterpart. Her merit as an instructor only lies so far as she can be presented as an object of desire.


Bollywood is notorious for its highly sexualised depictions of female teachers in its media products. Ms. Chandni, played by Sushmita Sen, in Main Hoon Na is visibly upset when her older student Ram tells her “rehne dijiye na, aapke baal khulay huway bohat achay lagte hain,” but secretly loves the attention she is getting from him. In Khatarnak, Nakshatra, portrayed by Ileana D'cruz, is shown wearing glamorous sarees and displaying a chic and stylish figure, particularly in front of her students. This includes Dasu, the male protagonist who is an older man studying among younger classmates. The Sex Education teacher (Silk Smitha) in Halli Meshtru seductively manouvers her way through a class full of men who are much older than her. These representations seem to reinforce a troubling narrative. Bollywood’s portrayal of female mentors, particularly in educational settings, is not just about their professional competence, but rather about their appeal as objects of male desire. This narrative not only undermines the role of women in positions of authority but also reinforces harmful stereotypes about gender roles and interactions.

This sexualization of female characters in positions of power, especially in the context of education, is problematic for several reasons. First, it diminishes the value of women's professional skills and accomplishments, reducing them to mere sexual objects. Such portrayals fail to recognise or respect the intelligence, capability, and expertise that women bring to their professions. Second, it perpetuates the idea that the primary value of a woman lies in her physical appearance and ability to attract men. This not only devalues women but also sends a damaging message to society about how women should be perceived and treated.


Furthermore, these representations contribute to a larger societal issue of sexism and misogyny. By continually portraying women in such a manner, media reinforces and normalises the objectification of women. This has real-world implications, as it can influence the way men perceive and interact with women in professional settings, potentially leading to harassment and discrimination.


The need for change in Bollywood's portrayal of women is imperative. Media has a powerful influence on societal norms and values, and by portraying women in more diverse, realistic, and respectful roles, Bollywood can contribute to a more equitable and just society. Female characters should be depicted as complex, multifaceted individuals with their own aspirations, challenges, and strengths, not just as accessories to male characters or as objects of desire.


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An extremely interesting read as it takes our discussion in class to a further in-depth analysis of the prevalence of this problematic portrayal of women as teacher figures, teacher that are there to promote knowledge, promote a sense of responsibility to the education system but are being reduced to mere symbols of hyper-sexualization. Their intellect remains to be a feature taking the back-seat of no apparent relevance to her identity. Films like Halli Mesthru although I haven't watched but are what allow for it to be an easy take by men and even young adult boys that watch Bollywood to perpetuate this objectification in their own classrooms. This penetration into the professional images of women is so consistent that women's…


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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
01 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

I do not think counter representation will do much good. It will definitely underscore how ridiculous female representation of teachers has been over the years, but at the same time it will ridicule the entire idea - counter representation (where male teachers are seen as sexual objects) will end up becoming a great laughing stock because of its sheer unbelievability and will do no good for female representation.

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I completely agree with your blog and I feel like this issue goes beyond the movies themselves. It filters into society, influencing perceptions about women in professional settings. When women in positions of authority are consistently depicted this way, it normalizes the idea that their primary worth lies in their physical appearance. This can lead to real-life implications, shaping how women are treated and respected in professional environments.

I firmly believe that these portrayals in Bollywood reflect a larger societal problem of sexism and misogyny. They reinforce the objectification of women and feed into unrealistic and damaging standards of femininity. It's vital for media, especially such a powerful medium like Bollywood, to reframe these portrayals. Women in cinema should be…

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
01 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

Definitely! I think the problem at the moment lies in the fact that female characters are usually hollow - they do not have personal goals, motivations and visions apart from finding love and/or serving men in some capacity or the other. I think the problem is due to bad writing. Female characters lack depth. It seems as if writers fail to see women beyond their bodies. Majority of the writers and creators today (sadly even today) are still men and they envision female characters through the male gaze.

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This analysis brilliantly dissects the problematic portrayal of female mentors in Bollywood, highlighting the reduction of women in positions of power to objects of desire.Quite similar to what we discussed in class. It raises crucial points about the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and the impact on societal perceptions.

Your breakdown of the sexualization of female authority figures in Bollywood is thought-provoking. The influence of such portrayals on societal perceptions and gender dynamics is concerning. How do you envision Bollywood taking steps towards more empowering and respectful representations of women in positions of authority, particularly in educational settings?

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
01 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

I believe Bollywood needs to show female characters who are more complex: Characters need to have richer backstories, motivations and personalities beyond their gender. A greater focus on professional competence for women would go a long way in fixing the incumbent problematic representation. The storylines fr female characters should focus on their leadership, expertise rather than their physical appearances. Another step Bollywood must take is to avoid sexualising women. The portrayal of women in authority figures must not be overshadowed by their sexuality. I believe these steps are not hard to take (literally the bare minimum) and I hope they are implemented in the future to ensure better representation for all women.


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Annum Shehryar
Annum Shehryar
01 de dez. de 2023

I like how you did an in-depth analysis of the roles of teachers in terms of gender that was discussed in class and how female teachers are stereotyped in Bollywood cinema. The Silk Smitha scene was the most uncomfortable watch for me. The way she plays along with seducing the men, the camera angles around her body, her inviting and suggestive gestures, the environment of older men preying on her as if she is an object of desire rather than a human being, represents how women's roles as teachers were portrayed in derogatory ways. The truly concerning part is how the audience is influenced by these representations in media which lead to real life injustices like harassment and objectification of…

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
01 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

I think it does even more than that. It creates a skewed perception of professional women. These representations contribute to distorted views of women in professional capacities, leading to audiences to focus more on their physical appearance and sexuality, rather than their skills, intelligence and professional competence. Moreover, such representation affect how women perceive themselves and their role in society, potentially impacting their self esteem and career choices. Imagine the horrible impact such representations have on young girls watching the media!


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Reading this blog made me feel a mix of concern and hope – concern for the ongoing issues in media representation of women, and hope for the potential of change and progress towards a more equitable portrayal in the future. It's a reminder of the significant role media plays in shaping societal norms and the responsibility that comes with it. I appreciated the way the blog connects these portrayals to broader societal issues of sexism and misogyny. It's a sobering reminder of how media representations can influence societal attitudes and behaviors, potentially leading to real-world consequences like discrimination and harassment in professional environments. The examples of films like "Main Hoon Na" and "Khatarnak" illustrate this point well, showing how female…

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
01 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

Reading your comment prompted me to wonder whether media content shapes societal behaviours or merely mirrors them. If it's the latter, it implies that content creators are presenting what they believe the audiences want. The troubling aspect is that if audiences prefer depictions of women that align with misogynistic and patriarchal views, it highlights a concerning societal trend. This situation seems to be a cyclical one, where societal norms and media inform each other. Media products both reflect and shape societal expectations at the same time.


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