Disclaimer: No, the piece has nothing to do with Fifty Shades Darker trailer.
So, there has been a lot of hype about the letter that Amitabh Bachchan released for his granddaughters, Aradhya and Navya. The hype hasn’t been about the fact that he did so, but about the fact that the move was a publicity gimmick for his movie ‘PINK’ and the letter was misogynistic.
Let’s get this straight; let’s talk about Bachchan’s mentality. He was progressive in the fact that his daughter-in-law was actually a couple years older than his son, which, in the Indian context, remains to be a great deal. But then this was overshadowed by his regressive ideals when he first got Aishwarya Rai Bachchan married to a tree to rectify her mangalika dosh. Oh and also, she gets to keep her maiden name as well, no matter how much the society normally would look down upon it (trust me, I’ve seen people narrow their eyes so much they become the size of their mindsets each time they hear Sharma ji ki beti has kept her maiden name as well.
Now, let’s talk about the letter. Bachchan yet again presents a paradox, while being progressive in allowing his granddaughters freedom of choice, but limiting that freedom to the matters of marriage (you can get married to whoever you want).
What do these two incidents suggest? Not only about Bachchan, but about society in general?
People aren’t black and white, they aren’t all progressive or all misogynistic. They are grey. Each person lives in a grey space, a space where the spheres of black and white intersect. We can try to be progressive, yes, we are getting there, but our idea of progress is conditioned by years of spoon feeding of patriarchal ideas that refuse to leave our heads. We have been raised to think in a certain way, and our notions of freedom are tied within the framework of that certain way itself.
Coming back to the Bachchan scenario, I’m not defending him, but I maybe am. For someone who was raised with a faith in kundli, a mangalika dosh might have been a big deal, and even with his attempts to be progressive, he might have just given up in order to not take any chances. Faith is a deeply engraved concept, after all. And his idea of freedom of choice is clearly restricted by the traditional notion of girls have to get married. We can’t term that as his backwardness. We can, though, term that as his inability to break out of the grey space he lives in, but then, each one of us is unable to do so.
Another factor to consider is his family. We don’t know, nor can we guess, what goes on inside the Bachchan house. We don’t know what his mother and father taught him, and what all decisions reflect them, rather than him.
The letter might just be a publicity gimmick, but it might also have been a genuine letter. But since everyone is dissecting the letter, I also decided to try my hand at it.
The movie PINK itself, despite being a feminist movie, has some problematic elements, like the male saviour complex, the ignorance of the urinal torture Tapsee’s character had to go through when a guy peed inside her, and weird and unexplained behaviour of Bachchan’s character. The movie itself, therefore, is in a grey space.
The world, neither the people nor their artistic representations, are largely grey in their essence. Why is that we judge a popular figure for that grey tint, and not our next door neighbour? Why is grey suddenly the new black?