5 Violent, Feminist Hollywood Films CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani Should Be Forced To Watch!
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
Art - movies, books, music - is always the first target. There’s no two ways about it; that’s just how things are - mostly, because regardless of its quality, art is usually considered harmless. And because of this false image that has been cultivated for decades, authoritarian regimes can insidiously lay the groundwork for their dastardly plans by attacking something not too many people would fight for.
While there was a certain vicious thrill to seeing Hitler and Goebbels’ faces pulverised by bullets in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, it wasn’t how things really happened. In reality, they spread their propaganda through movies, while silently wiping out artists who defied them. But we’re realists over here. And the thought of someone (a hero) forcing our censor board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani - who was up to his usual antics this week - to watch hyper-violent, shamelessly feminist films while tied to a bottomless chair brings a smile to our face.
So here it is, the purest holy water to sprinkle on Nihalani’s face and watch him squirm.
This list will soon get really weird, so we might as well begin with a serious movie. An Oscar nominated movie, for God’s sake. Elle is exactly the sort of film men like Pahlaj Nihalani have sworn to bury - it’s about strong women who live their lives under the shadow of masked monsters out to attack them. In Elle, this is literally what happens. Isabelle Huppert, who went on to score an Oscar nomination for her performance, plays a fiercely independent, successful middle-aged woman who is raped by a stranger in her own home. But how she reacts to the terrible event is what makes this one of the most important films of 2016.
The House of the Devil
A case could have been made for the inclusion of the classic Rosemary’s Baby in this list.But perhaps because it is directed by a man who has been proven to have been horrendous to women (Roman Polanski was accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old four in 1977), and for the fact that the film’s heroine - after essentially getting raped by the devil - grows to accept it, we’re going with the next best thing: Ti West’s cult classic, The House of the Devil. Like Rosemary’s Baby, this film too involves a young woman being forcibly impregnated by a demon, but unlike Mia Farrow’s character, she has a bit of fight in her.
The CBFC is usually quick to victimise women. In fact, they give the impression of a deviant waiting in the shadows, ready to leap out at defenceless girls. The ‘antagonist’ - if we can call it that - in David Robert Mitchell’s terrific It Follows doesn’t have a face. But if one were to project the CBFC’s worldview onto it, it would make all sorts of sense. The basic premise is this: When our heroine has sex, she gets cursed. In order to break the curse, she must pass it on by having sex with someone else. If she can’t manage to do this, the curse will ‘follow’ her around, at a walking pace, until she does. Besides, of course, of the STD allegory, the film is about slut-shaming, promiscuity, and everything the CBFC considers too ‘lady oriented’ for decent folks to watch.
You can’t really fault Jennifer’s Body, starring an at-the-peak-of-her-powers Megan Fox, for playing coy. After a botched satanic ritual, Jennifer, a high school cheerleader, turns into a monster who literally eats men. So in addition to being a non-vegetarian, she also appears to have waged war against Nihalani’s favourite gender. And what’s more? The damn movie’s directed by a woman. How dare she?! Next thing you know, they’ll be asking for Oscars too.
There’s nothing feminist about Gaspar Noe’s Love. It finds a spot on our list simply on the strength of its deliberately provocative premise: It’s a uncomfortably graphic movie which includes several scenes of young people - in various states of undress - indulging in threesomes. There’s unsimulated sex. Lot’s of it. Enough, in fact, to prompt people to wonder if it qualifies as porn. And the whole thing is shot in 3D (let your imagination explain to you how the technology could be utilised in a film like this). Not only would Nihalani ban Love without seeing a single frame of it (the icky poster would be enough), he would likely slip into silent prayer.
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar