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Representation of women in Dil Dharakne Do

Dil Dharaknay Do is a movie written by two women and then also directed by Zoya Akhtar herself. It isn't surprising then to see that there is extra thought given to the complexity of female characters and their storylines due to the concept of positionality. In this regard, it can be incurred that there are fragments of their experiences, positions, and ideas in terms of how the women are represented and how their struggles are legitimized.

One theme that has remained crucial in the feminist debate and is also touched upon in this movie is the apt representation of women in the media. Representation in the media really shows how women are perceived and hence how they perceive themselves.

The women in Dil Dharaknay Do were complex characters yet their representation could still be found lacking. For example, Neelam, while a breathe of fresh air in contrast to the usual desi mother trope we see in most bollywood films, was still showcased as a typical rich wife, frivolous and only concerned with her looks and the perceptions of others. She was shown to have no other ambition or purpose in life except for maintaining her crumbling perfect family image. Her daughter Ayesha similarly, despite being a seemingly self-made, strong independent woman, harboured a number of insecurities and was herself not proud of her achievements and in the end needed a man to make her realise her worth and a man to stand up for her when she finally decided to end her marriage, In addition to this the general representation of other girls in the film centres around society and their standards as well, while one parent comments that her daughter’s clothes are not revealing enough, another parent comments that her daughter is not covered up enough. At one point, one mother comments on her daughter’s attire by saying she looks like a mess. And her younger daughter sarcastically remarks (trying to verbalize her mother’s thoughts) if you don’t get all dressed up, how will you be able to trap a guy? At this age, that’s all you’re supposed to do.

Perhaps Farah, one of the side characters is the only one whose representation in the film could be commended. She is shown as a dancer in Dil Dharaknay Do and her representation is different from the usually-encountered Muslim courtesans and prostitutes that are shown in Hindi cinema in an important sense: Farah is seen exercising agency and choice and actually standing up for herself and her morals. Her Muslim identity -- of which she carries no marker -- is used simply to shock not only the Mehras, including their 'enlightened and emancipated' daughter Aisha, but also the audience that has been lulled into recognizing a particular kind of Muslim woman character on the screen.

In this regard the film can be seen going through the turmoil of what Judith Butler has labelled the "doing and undoing of feminism". In a post-feminist climate, the media tries to put out content that may come across as feminist but a deeper look proves otherwise.

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