Mahanagar and Roma: This Weekend, Consume Media Empowering for Women

Roma: Image by Alfonso Cuarón.

R E C O M M E N D A T I O N – P O P  C U L T U R E 

A List by Fatin Hamama, Rahin Amin & Tasnia Shahrin 

In a world where women have to face harassment, discrimination, and struggle in every step of their way; in a media where the value of women is limited to being playdolls beside the hero and dancing to the tunes of heavily objectified lyrics — being regarded as ‘items’; and in a country where two monumental anti-rape protests within a span of three months don’t change a thing, we understand the desperation and the frustration that work in us and make us want to spit in the face of this patriarchal structure. 

This weekend, consume media that addresses the repression by this structure, and makes you feel empowered and angry and compassionate, everything that you need to break the shackles of patriarchy.  

1. Mahanagar

Genre: Drama

A Ray classic, Mahanagar portrays the story of a middle class woman pushing the walls of patriarchy in a very subtle way by deciding to contribute to her family. The sheer brilliance of the film lies in the fact that it was released in the 1960s, and is still relevant and pretty much portrays every truth of the patriarchal, urban middle class in a South Asian context. Being a Satyajit masterclass, the film tells how an independent woman shakes the pillars of patriarchy, not as a revolution, but as an act driven by economic crisis. 

2. Persepolis 

Genre: War, Drama 

Persepolis is an animated autobiography co-written and co-directed by Marjane Satrapi, based on her childhood in pre and post revolutionised Iran and adulthood afterwards. The film, based on the previous comic series by Satrapi that goes by the same name, expresses the condition of women and dissenters under Islamic fundamentalists of Iran with the central character Marjane being a woman and a dissenter both. The story addresses the blatant repression by patriarchy in the name of religion and social norms every step of its way, and has become a feminist classic ever since its release in 2007.

3. Julie and Julia 

Genre: Heartfelt, Romance, Drama

This heartfelt biographical comedy drama is based on the life of two women, chef Julia Child and a young author Julie Powell. The story mainly centres around how Julie Powell became a published author by writing blogs on her story of mastering the culinary techniques and recipes by Julia Child in 365 days. The film, very different from other movies which can be classified as feminist films, is particularly notable for its empowering story of two women chasing their dreams ignoring the frowns of a male dominated society, one in the 1950s, and the other in the 2000s, with the support of their family (the way it should be). 

The film is going to entertain you, satisfy you, and leave you with a warm heart. 

4. A League of Their Own 

Genre: Sports, Comedy, Drama 

This film turned the classic sexist statement “Throwing like a girl” into an empowering one by portraying the story of All American Girls Baseball League, which was initiated right after World War 2. The film by the late Penny Marshall, is a story on how, even in the 1940s, it should be completely normal for women to be ambitious and competitive unlike their image portrayed by the fathers of patriarchy. This Penny Marshall brilliance was sharpened by amazing performances from Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna.

5. Moana 

Genre: Animation, Adventure 

Moana is very different from other Disney princesses. She is not ‘white’, she doesn’t have a ‘perfect’ body with a thin waist and unusually long limbs. She is not unrealistically innocent, all her dreams aren’t super prince-centric, neither does she depend on a prince to fulfill her dreams. Disney’s groundbreaking character, a rebel, which breaks the stereotypes previously set up by the studio itself, is a must watch for you this weekend. 

6. Hidden Figures

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Hidden Figures tells the story of three incredible African-American mathematicians — Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary; who served as some of the most brilliant minds behind one of the most legendary operations of NASA in the 60s. 

As we follow the journey of the three women rising through the ranks with sheer intelligence, it becomes harder to deny how amazing this film is in its inspiration of dreaming big despite the obstacles set for anyone through social/cultural/gender norms. The directing, acting, and deliveries are all splendid as well. While this is the kind of movie everyone should know of, it’s a must-watch for anyone, especially girls who dream of pursuing STEM despite the obvious discrimination set by ridiculous  gender norms in regards to STEM. 

7. Is Love Enough? Sir

Genre: Romance, Drama

As Ratna, a widowed woman, moves in as a full-time with Ashwin, a rich man who has just broken up his engagement, they slowly start discovering a connection between themselves despite the chasm of differences that sets them apart. 

In case you’re wondering why this movie is on our list, Is Love Enough? Sir is not your usual romance-drama. It isn’t even the main factor in focus. However, the female protagonist, Ratna, beautifully depicts how one’s social or financial status doesn’t have to determine the magnitude of their ambitions. Her character, driven by compassion, is such a well played one that it’ll keep you glued to the screen till the last minute.

8. Roma

Genre: Drama

Roma showcases the story of a woman who’s an outcast even in the story she belongs to. Though she is a housekeeper in a wealthy family, she feels like a part of the family she works for. Yet, she is often reminded of her position on a daily basis. 

However, the story takes a twist after she prepares for motherhood; starts trying to support an almost broken family; and moves through a loud, changing world all by herself. Roma takes us with a non-significant woman on her journey through life, as she sets a great example as a fighter against the cultural, social, and gender norms. It’s deeply touching, and deals with a lot of significant issues.

9. Revenge

Genre: Action & Adventure

When Jen’s romantic getaway with her boyfriend takes a vicious turn due to the presence of his perverted friends, she’s raped and left for dead. However, as she luckily survives and somewhat recovers, she seeks the ultimate vengeance upon the rapists.

Though a little difficult to watch, this is a tale of a woman who delivers payback and then some to the men who think of her as a prey. A fierce depiction of the strength of a woman who’s been wronged — this is a film that we need to sit through in times like this. 

10. Feminists: What Were They Thinking? 

Genre: Documentary

Through a series of interviews, the film revisits the lives and stories of women who were the subject of a 1977 photography collection about empowered women. 

In 1977, a book of photographs captured a series of women on the verge of a cultural awakening. This book revolved around young women who devoted their lives for the sake of ensuring equal rights for women. In this documentary, they go through their photos and share their stories. It gives a platform to those very women who participated in this project. It shows what empowerment is, how the role of women in society has grown past Home Economics classes and marriage, and why feminist women are still fighting the same battles they had to fight almost half a decade ago.

Special Mentions: 

1. Mom

Genre: Thriller

Devki, a Biology teacher, seeks help from DK, a private detective, and vows to get revenge after her stepdaughter’s rapists are acquitted by the court. A powerful film by the late actress Sridevi shows how women as mothers are symbols of strength and courageous love. 

2. Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare

Genre: Satire

Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is a 2020 Indian Hindi-language film starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar. The film is directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and is produced by Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor under their banner Balaji Telefilms. What makes it a perfect feminist watch is that female desire and oppression are the main motifs around which the plot revolves, but with a more reflective outing enriched by its two leads – Konkana Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar. Shrivastava’s directorial touches portrays the idea of defeating casual misogyny with a cup of tea, which makes it a perfect watch for the weekend!

3. Little Women (1994)

Genre: Romance

Written based on the classic feminist novel by Louisa May Scott, this movie still remains faithful to Alcott’s story, but not its structure. Gerwig dives right into the second part of the familiar story without needless exposition. She even lets us decide if the story ends with wedding bells for Jo, and even dares us to imagine a world wherein she becomes a successful novelist — and remains single and happy. A feminist novel given another lens of the same aspect through an amazing movie adaptation can always cheer up your weekends!

4. The Colour Purple

Genre: Historical Drama

This stirring 1985 film is based on Walker’s 1982 novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The drama adapted for the screen by Menno Meyjes is set in the South and covers 40 years in the life of a Black woman who endures incredible oppression at the hands of the men in her life until she finally learns to stand up for herself and acknowledge her special gifts. The Colour Purple is given astonishing dramatic intensity and imaginative imagery to portray the true essence of feminism against patriarchy by director Steven Spielberg and is perfect for a meaningful escape time this weekend!

5. Paromitar Ekdin

Genre: Domestic Drama

Sanaka and her daughter-in-law, Paromita, share a healthy relationship. However when Paromita has a failed marriage and leaves the house, Sanaka is heartbroken. Directed by Aparna Sen, this film is a study in contrasts — the contrast between men and women; between the old society and the new that is emerging; between the normal and the not-so-normal; between birth and death. While the film speaks of tragedies, it also weaves in a tale of hope and strength. You should watch this film not only for the excellent individual performances, but also for the cohesive and unusual story it tells about feminism. 

The writers are part of TDA Editorial Team.


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