Dear Feminism In India,
We love you people; you know that, right? BUT, we must tell you that one of your recent posts have left us disturbed. And, disappointed. Which post? The recommendation that we watch the movie Aitraaz, for its ‘feminist’ portrayal of abortion.
There are two main aspects of our disagreement.
Firstly, your reason for the recommendation of Aitraaz – the movie’s ‘feminist depiction’ of abortion.
Secondly, you recommended the movie under #FIIRecommends – there is no subjectivity about your intention there – you want your feminist viewers to watch this movie.
Hey, as feminists, we must actively seek, ask for, demand and recommend movies with feminist concepts. Even pro-social issues themes. Our consistently deprecating struggle to make the masses see what piece of trash this movie Kabir Singh is case in point.
We have a movie that deals with consent (Pink), we have movies in which women explore their sexuality (think Margarita with a straw), we have movies with beautiful portrayals of sisterhood, where women give up on men (think Parched), we have movie scenes which show a woman masturbating.
But, we do not have any decent movie that properly deals with the typical abortion arguments. Considering the current state of Indian cinema, we would be happy even to have feminist concepts woven into the storyline as a side dish. At least something, right!
But by looking for a movie/character which is feminist in its pro-choice take, you have given us shuddering reminders of a thoroughly patriarchal movie – Aitraz. This movie is grotesque MRA porn. Yes, a movie that is remembered more for the fake rape case filed by a woman against a man, it’s abortion portrayal is not a side-dish. It is one of the main ingredients through which the movie gets its MRA themed flavour.
I know we can have different views as feminists, but we hope you have watched this movie. No, seriously. This is how we remember the movie:
Priyanka is an ambitious woman, Akshay is a good boi. Their romance is hot and spicy.
Priyanka gets preggers but takes a unilateral decision to abort because she doesn’t want a child and wants to focus on her career. Akshay is hurt because ‘uska’ baccha abort ho gaya. They break up.
Akshay meets another sanskaari girl, Kareena. Their romance is shaadi.com approved.
Meanwhile, Akshay must work in the same office that Priyanka madam is boss woman, who does nothing except sit in a fancy office in fancy dress around fancy handbags and paint her nails during working hours.
Now, Priyanka realises that Akshay is vulnerable and needs this job. She decides to use this power difference and throws herself on him and starts licking him up all over like how my dog gobbles up ice cream. Akshay doesn’t approve of such un-sanskaari behaviour from her. However, because of the way and position in which she was sexually harassing Akshay, she ended up giving him royal scratch marks on his back. Like wtf, human nails or iron nails?
Anyway, Priyanka’s boss ego is hurt because how could Akshay reject a sexy woman like her? Ergo, rape charge. Now, those scratch marks can easily look like an abhla naari’s attempt to fend off a rape attempt.
Long court battle ensues. Order! Order! Sordid details come out for both parties.
Oh, we must mention here, Priyanka married an old dude sugar daddy to climb up the ladder. This fellow was, obviously, very supportive of her in the court. But it didn’t last long.
A technical glitch in her company’s product, which weirdly enough was Akshay’s responsibility to solve, became an evidence-beyond-doubt that she was actually the rapist and Akshay Kumar was the real victim. Tears and validation.
Now sugar daddy ji is disgusted and calls her a kalank on womanhood and whatnot in front of the entire court. Conveniently, the judge sahib must have misplaced his hammer for this time.
Anyway, a few days later, an ashamed Priyanka, trying to drink away her guilt, jumps over the roof.
Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor now move on to live in their happy matrimony. Their ‘good news’ is on its way.
Credits roll over as the speakers start screaming that forsaken ‘talatum talatum’ song.
So now, talking about why we disagree with your post;
You want feminists to endure all of this movie for a supposed feminist depiction of abortion. In summary, the movie is a good vs evil war where a sanskaari duo wins against an unsanskaari lady. At no point are we made to like Priyanka’s character. The filmmakers here did not give us a grey character. They gave Indians a female character they can loathe, and to consequently use as a pivot to empathise with a sanskaari duo, especially the male victim. She is a character that sanskaari bigots will gladly hate, and feminists must be wary of.
It is disturbing indeed that you want feminists to watch a character who is a classist bully of a boss, one who sexually assaults a man while cheating on her husband and does the most MRA fueling job ever – false rape charge. All because this depiction includes a side dish of ‘abortion’. That’s like asking people to read Mein Kampf to know about the struggles of a budding artist who unfortunately gave up on his passion for colours
Our second problem is why you see this as a feminist depiction of abortion. Let’s go back to the feminist depictions we mentioned earlier. Those were movies with a clear agenda of busting a taboo or furthering a feminist cause. Whether they do the job well or not, their intention is clear – they were catering to an audience with feminist leanings. Aitraaz was doing the opposite, through and through. If you forget the rest of the trash that the movie was and just focus on the abortion, it is a desperate attempt, if nothing worse, to see feminism here. What may seem like a liberated woman exercising her choice is actually a trait that is supposed to invite loathing in sync with the rest of the things she does in the movie.
Heck, this abortion angle was the starting point of her character arc being revealed as ‘evil’ or ‘negative’ if you may. The filmmakers evidently didn’t put the abortion aspect to make her character layered. What you see as a feminist portrayal was just an early setup for a villainous character. Think of this as many typical 80s or 90s movie. Five minutes into the movie, and it is established who the bad guy is — the one who killed baby hero’s parents. Traumatized child hero runs into the horizon only to emerge as a fully grown adult angry young man. Cut to 21st Century and we still endure the same old pattern of ‘How to establish a villain’. Kill something that is close to the hero — for example, an unborn child, whose overly-ambitious mother didn’t love and care about.
Every Indian viewer who got potentially scandalised seeing a heroine figure perform an anti-patriarchal exercise of abortion, and get away with it, had their reconciliation when she is declared guilty of all the adultery, gold-digging, false rape charge and sexual assault. She then kills herself, concluding her as a terrible self-destructing force that she is. Not destructive as Kali, but more like Surpanakha, who rightly had her nose cut off for being loose enough to proposition Ram and his dudebro Laxman.
Priyanka’s character arc was thoroughly a Cersei from the very beginning, never a Daenerys. Negative throughout.
It is justified to want to dissect an individual act and appreciate it. But as we hope you can see, it is problematic to have a discourse on such dissected act in isolation. We must look at it through the lens of its purpose in the movie, and the intended and actual misogynous impact of the movie on a deeply patriarchal Indian audience, none of whom would have left the theatre with the slightest impression of the unintended pro-choice angle.
So, in our open letter to you, all we ask is;
Could you please not see feminism where there overload of misogyny?
Could you please not recommend MRA porn movies as feminists depictions?
In disagreement, and towards the spirit of love, sisterhood and solidarity,
The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman.