The Sanguinarian

The Sanguinarian

Monday, 12 September 2016

Society and sensational women: A Passing Glance

So last week I read about two sensational women, namely, Rekha and  the late Madhavi Kutty. Rekha is a Bollywood actress whom, despite her experience in the film industry you can't dismiss as yester-year because she's still acting or dancing to item numbers. Madhavi Kutty, also known as Kamala Das, is a poet and novelist- I say 'is' because even though her physical form has passed away, her spirit lives on through the mark she left on literature in India.
There was an article in Outlook ( Through the Author's Veil) that talks about a new book coming out on her personal life, which was rife with controversies. I read some of Kutty's poetry while in school, but came to know of her life only now.
Rekha is a Bollywood celebrity, and that sort of predisposes her to a colorful life ( although there are people who keep a low profile and don't court controversies). Whether it's her doomed love life, the bordering-on-sexual-harassment incident with actor Biswajeet when she was barely fifteen on a movie set, her origins as the love child of famous South Indian artistes, her makeover, the sexist comments made on her looks by actors and directors, her rumored affair with Big B, the suicide of her husband Mukesh Agarwal for which she was demonized...Rekha has lived a life filled with ups and downs. All this is chronicled in a book on her recently released by Juggernaut (Rekha- The Untold Story).
What is similar about the two women mentioned above? They are, by profession, as disparate as possible. And yet I perceive similarities in their personalities and lives. Namely:
1. Both are successful women in their fields
2. Both, whether willingly or not, courted controversies throughout their lives.
3. Both lived life on their own terms
4. Both never needed or used men to validate their existence. Their identities and reputations are based on their own individuality.
5. Both were reviled and criticized and demonized by a society still deeply entrenched in patriarchy because they refused to adhere to archaic diktats that control and oppress women.
6. Both used the public's sexist mentality and perverse hunger for sensationalism to their advantage. Both deliberately fanned rumors about their personal lives, especially love affairs, that created controversies and put them in the limelight. And both benefited from it as well!

It's the last point that makes these two most remarkable. It's an ugly truth that a patriarchal society like India will never let maverick women like Madhavi and Rekha just be. They will vilify, adore and probe and intrude and generalize as it suits their regressive, hypocritical mentality. An extension of this mentality is exhibited by a sleazy, unethical media which will go to any lengths to pull famous people, when they can, to sell copies to a perverse reader base that craves controversy and titillation. Famous women especially are soft targets- because they're women and the media is no less sexist than the general public.

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