“Girlfriend” furor

Culture and Media

I haven’t seen this film, but this film has caused a militant right wing group to riot, and has been excoriated by the lesbian and gay community in India. This is a Bollywood film with a lesbian as a central character who is leading a innocent presumably hetero girl astray,” according to the film’s website, There are hidden desires in Tanya. Wild desires, which lead her to clash with Rahul in a fight to (the) wild finish.” it seems that the film locates Tanya’s pathology” in her abuse and incest ridden childhood. And ofcourse she is punished with a terrible death at the end of the movie.

This brings to mind two other films with violent women in them, The Bandit Queen” (Shekhar Kapoor, 1994) and Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill”(Russ Meyer, 1966). The latter is one of my favorite films. Roger Ebert says of Russ Meyer:

The quintessential Russ Meyer image: a towering woman with enormous breasts, who dominates all the men around her, demands sexual satisfaction and casts off men in the same way that, in mainstream sexual fantasies, men cast aside women.

In this movie the main character with her girlfriend, picks up an innocent hetero” girl and goes on a wild rampage. The film ends with her death, but what is memorable is not that she dies, but how she lives:

Russ Meyer has created here a new reality — a society where women are either equal in power or superior to their oppressors. In fact, this is less a battle of the sexes than the Armageddon recast. (“If this is female empowerment, watch out!” — critic B. Ruby Rich)

Maybe its the rampaging woman that the right wing hooligans are objecting to.

This brings me to a celebrated film about the famous bandit, Phulan Devi. When I was in school, the papers were full of Phulan Devi’s exploits, she had executed spectacular raids and reportedly killed several people, and massacred all the men in the village of Behmai.

This much lauded film was a travesty. As Madhu Kishwar says:

…At the high profile film premier, director Shekhar Kapur introduced his film as depicting the brutal truth” about the oppression of women and lower castes in India. It is supposedly a sympathetic account of her life an attempt to justify her taking to banditry on account of oppression and maltreatment by her own family (father, husband), as well as the upper caste Thakurs of the region.

However, the person most upset about the film is Phoolan Devi herself. The director and the producer have refused to show her the film despite repeated requests. She feels, based on the accounts she has heard from people and little clips of the film she saw on television, that the film seriously distorts and falsifies her life and invades her sexual privacy by showing her raped and re-raped even though she has never talked about this aspect of Phoolan Devi’s life with her biographer Mala Sen, on whose book the film is supposed to be based.

The film perpetrated the same violence on Phulan, that it was purportedly attacking. It completely ignored the fact that much cast and gender violence has to do with ownership of land, and control of resources like water, and Phulan’s banditry was not a personal pathology” per se. Girlfriends” just seems like a degraded version of Bandit Queen, as far as the violent” woman aspect goes. I wish there were more Faster Pussycat type films, the best film every made or will be made according to John Waters, time for more Feminator” films!

BBC News, 14 June, 2004 Girlfriend’ causes India storm By Jayshree Bajoria http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3805905.stm

The Telegraph, June 16, 2004 Two Women - Editorial http://www.telegraphindia.com/1040616/asp/opinion/story\_3373843.asp

The Times of India, June 16, 2004 The XY-rated Film: Thought Police are Oxy-morons Bachi Karkaria http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/741171.cms

see also the the URL for the official website on the film: http://www.girlfriendthemovie.com/