Marriage and Love; Zinda Laash: Representation of Sex Workers in Bollywood.
Duration: 00:10:52; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 32.325; Saturation: 0.142; Lightness: 0.165; Volume: 0.191; Cuts per Minute: 11.302; Words per Minute: 44.013
Summary: Marriage between a woman in prostitution and the lead hero of the film is not entirely unknown in Bollywood cinema. However, its depiction is rather problematic, as marriage is always seen as a solution or an escape to a better, more respectable life. Since women in prostitution are rarely ever shown to enter the profession by choice, and they are always coerced or deceived into it, marriage is presented as the sole avenue of escape. This sort of an association is so stigma ridden that the hero and the prostitute have to overcome almost impossible circumstances, as seen in Sadak and Pakeezah. Also, though prostitutes in Hindi film aspire for marriage, they always see it as a romanticized ideal and wallow in self pity about how they can never enter 'respectable' society. However, constant reiteration of this also creates a certain sympathy or maybe in some cases identification between the plight of the prostitute and the viewer. Bollywood cinema does therefore succeed in highlighting the marginalization of prostitutes by society. In two of the most recent films (Laaga Chunari Main Daag, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom) there seems to be a complete rejection of the earlier tragedies that must ultimately meet the prostitute.
Are you doing to Dhoipur?
Why? What work do you have there?
I have to look for a man.
I have work.
What work do you have with him?
If not me, then you might have work with him.
No, I don't want to see him.
Didn't you once love him?
Maybe he is still waiting for you.
Nobody waits for anybody this long.
Why? Didn't your mother wait for a doctor? For 20 years? There is no problem is meeting once.
You don't understand. I am not good enough for him anymore. And I won't hide anything from him.
See, Kajli. Maybe that doctor thought the same thing, and didn't come back. If he had come back, your mother would have forgiven him.
This clip is from the film Mausam (dir: Gulzar, 1975).Dr.Amarnath Gill (Sanjeev Kumar) while studying for his medical exams in Darjeeling has an affair with the local healer's daughter Chanda (Sharmila Tagore). He promises to return, but he never does. Twenty five years later he returns to realize that the local healer is dead, his daughter was married off to an old crippled man. He also finds out that Chanda had a daughter. He discovers her in a brothel, a foul mouthed prostitute. Overtaken by guilt, he asks this girl, Kajli (also Sharmila Tagore) to come and live with him. He succeeds in 'reforming' her and a relationship of care and affection grows between them. Kajli leaves her profession and stays with Amarnath. This film makes a clear distinction between prostitutes and ordinary women, in their speech, clothing and mannerisms. Though the deep seated societal bias is clear, everything about the prostitute is conspicuous and must stand out.
Vaastav (dir: Mahesh Manjrekar, 1999)is not really a film about sex workers or prostitution. It is primarily the narrative of the notorious Mumbai underworld, of gangs, police, and gangsters. Prostitution is interwoven in the narrative as the protagonist Raghunath (Sanjay Dutt) ends up getting married to a prostitute who is pregnant with his child. Though he marries her, she is unable to escape the stigma attached to her profession and feels that despite being a wife and a mother, she cannot escape her primary identity as a prostitute even in the eyes of her husband. Otherwise, she is a typical wife who is constantly opposed to her husband's criminal ways and tries to protect their child from taking the same course in life as his father.
Whats your name?
Very nice name.
What's your father's name?
If I had a father, I would not have been a prostitute.
Don't speak like that daughter, we are your parents from today.
Come let's leave, enough of this filmy scene.
Okay, mother, we'll go.
Sonu, I am standing downstairs, come soon.
What happened to you?
He's married a prostitute?
So? Your son is not a doctor or engineer. He is lucky to have found a girl like Soniya. She will keep him very well. You wait and watch.
Iqbal miya, the groom looks really happy before his marriage, but you look disturbed. What is the matter?
Vishal, my father is against the marriage.
Against the marriage? But only a week is left, how can he withdraw his consent?
If you speak to Sikandar, then I can convince my father.
Sikandar? What has he done?
My father has come to know everything about Sikandar. He says that he does not want me married to a girl whose brother visits a brothel.
This cannot be true. Sikandar does not visit any brothel.
He does! The entire town knows. There is a prostitute called Zohra, and Sikandar spends all his evenings there.
Muqaddar ka Sikandar (dir: Prakash Mehra, 1978) is the story of a young man, Sikandar (Amitabh Bachchan) who is unable to forget his childhood love, Kaamna(Raakhee Gulzar) and takes refugee with a prostitute Zohra (Rekha). Though he never falls in love with the prostitute, he is deeply concerned about her, and she ultimately commits suicide in Sikandar's arms by drinking poison. The sex worker narrative in the film is only a sub plot, and it falls within the typical representations of sex workers in Bollywood.
Muqaddar ka Sikandar
This clip is from the film Pakeezah (dir: Kamal Amrohi, 1971). Nargis (Meena Kumari) was brought up by a brothel madam, and grows up to be a popular and beautiful courtesan. Salim (Raaj Kumar) falls in love with her, and convinces her to escape with him. But her identity is inescapable - and she is recognized as a courtesan wherever she goes. Salim renames her Pakeezah (the pure one) and takes her to a priest to be legally married. She refuses and returns to the brothel, only to save Salim from the stigma attached to her name. Later she discovers that she is actually the daughter of a wealthy nawab, who does not deny this fact. The film highlights that the courtesan's life is full of luxuries and she is economically independent, however she finds her profession so shameful, that she calls herself a living corpse. This film also falls within the genre of Hindi cinema that can be called the Muslim social.
How did you dare to marry a courtesan and bring her to my house?
Father! You cannot use such an insulting term for her. She is my innocent love and your daughter-in-law.
Shut up! You cannot abuse our family like this. She is not our daughter-in-law but your crime.
Chandni Bar (dir: Madhur Bhandarkar, 2001)was a hard hitting film about Mumbai's murky underbelly. Prostitution here was masked in the world of bar dancers. Mumtaz (Tabu) follows the predictable narrative of a young abandoned girl brought to the city by a corrupt uncle who forces her to become a bar dancer in a beer bar, called Chandni Bar. These girls are basically both sex workers as well small time dancers. Mumataz has a love affair with a gangster, who eventually marries her. She leaves the bar to make a better life for herself with her husband and two kids. Tragedy strikes them again, when her husband is killed. She is left helpless, resorting to prostitution to save her son who had taken to crime. Her daughter ends up becoming a dancer at the same bar where Mumtaz had started. This film was highly acclaimed critically for its somewhat realistic portrayal of bar dancers; however Madhur Bhandarkar's later films all fall into very similar narratives of controversial professions, lead female heroine and a doomed ending.
Mumtaz is lucky. Since Pothiya married her.
Yes, and look at this Pushpa. All her earnings she would give her lover like an idiot. She thought he would marry her, they'll have kids. And what did he do? He started a new business with her money and married someone else. And what did he say? Beer bar girls are just for having fun, not for marriage. Bloody pimp!
Everybody is not as lucky as Mumtaz.
Sadak (dir: Mahesh Bhatt, 1999)is the story of a traumatized young man (Sanjay Dutt)who is unable to get over the death of his sister, who had become a prostitute and died while trying to run away from her profession. He meets a girl (Pooja Bhatt) who is later sold off to a pimp, an evil transgender character called Maharani. One day Sanjay Dutt visits the brothel and seeing Pooja Bhatt there, memories of his sister's plight come flooding back to him. His sole aim in live becomes rescuing Pooja out of the the evil world of prostitution. It is a completely negative portrayal of prostitution, all the characters associated with it are shown to be seedy and evil. It falls within the pattern of the boy-girl-villain love story of the typical Hindi film.
Because she is a prostitute who lives in a brothel. They will never let me marry her. And I don't have enough money to free her from there.
Why don't you guys run away?
Because it's not so easy. They are very powerful. Besides, I don't even have the courage.
People say this is a city of dreams. Will our dream ever get fulfilled? Will a prostitute ever get married?
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag