Mannerisms; Zinda Laash: Representation of Sex Workers in Bollywood.
Duration: 00:04:10; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 24.190; Saturation: 0.113; Lightness: 0.161; Volume: 0.191; Cuts per Minute: 18.219; Words per Minute: 54.178
Summary: In Bollywood, the underlying assumption is that women in prostitution are different from other women. Hence, this difference must be brought out acutely in terms of cinematic representation. Prostitutes must therefore dress in a manner that is un-sophisticated, they must smoke and use foul language. This is probably an attempt to show them as products of their surroundings, and milieu. Though there have been exceptions, most contemporary representations of prostitutes take this route. What follows commonly in the plot of the films then (Mausam, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke) is an attempt to 'normalize' the prostitute. She is asked to change her way of dressing, refine her tongue and generally mellow down from the colourful selves- the audience is then introduced to a non-woman/un-woman who has to be initiated into society by a kind patron.
Chameli: 'What's the idea sir? Should we go? There's a hotel nearby. 500 for room, and 1000 for me. Otherwise your car will do. Today even the police won't bother us. Say sir? Today I haven't even started.'
Aman: 'Don't touch me.'
Chameli: 'Bloody! Today my fortunes are really screwed. The world gives me money to touch. And this one says, 'Don't touch me!'.
This clip is from the film Chameli (dir: Sudhir Mishra, 2003). The narrative of this film is a one night encounter between an investment banker and a prostitute, who are stranded together in south Bombay on a very rainy night. Chameli is a fresh take on the usual cliched oppressed sex worker narrative of mainstream Bollywood cinema. Though Chameli shares certain typical characteristics of the prostitute in Hindi cinema, like smoking and swearing profusely, she is not somebody who is sorry about her profession. She's spunky, has loads of attitude, is a strong character and in her interactions with different sections of society, like the rich investment banker, the police, her pimp, the orphan boy she has adopted, she is a substantial person and hardly ever sees herself as a downtrodden shameful woman.
Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (dir: Abbas Mastan, 2001) probably is worth remembering more for its alleged funding by the Mumbai underworld and the controversial Bharat Shah case, than for its narrative or creative content. A thorough process of domesticating the sex worker, this film is the story of a high society couple, who fall in love and get married. An accident renders the wife infertile. The couple then decide to hide this fact from the rest of the family and adopt a surrogate mother. This surrogate mother is a sex worker, who is paid a lot of money to bear their child. After some grooming, and a fair amount of lifted scenes from the Hollywood smash hit Pretty Woman, the sex worker slowly transforms from a crass streetwalker into a sophisticated, domesticated, ideal Indian woman, who eventually even manages to fall in love with both the husband as well as ideas of motherhood and family. She eventually sticks to her promise, gives her child to the couple and leaves her profession as a sex worker for something more 'respectable'.
Madhubala, where's the money? Take it all out.
Will you give it to me straight away or...
Not to touch. Here. Take it.
Here's your commission.
I'm leaving, anyway he is useless!
Vaijanti had called me to say you're coming. So, what's the work?
Didn't she tell you?
Madhubala, lets go?
Get lost you vegetable.
These days you've raised your price?
Yes, now say, what is the work?
We can't talk here. Should we go outside?
Okay. But I will charge more for that.
chori chori chupke chupke
Kajli: 'Bastard! You'll pay 10 rupees and be here all night or what? Do you think this is your house? If you come here again, I'll cut you to pieces and feed you to the crows!'
Client: 'Please give me my shoes.'
Kajli: 'Here! And throw them on your wife's head. God knows where these people come from. [to Amarnath] Hey you! what are you watching? Come up for a session or get the hell out of here!'
Kajli's friend: 'Kajli, why are you spoiling your business? Only god can handle your temper.!'
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.
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom
London, United Kingdom
Shaad Ali Sehgal