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Pakeezah is the movie based on the story of ‘Sahibjaan’ who is forced to become a prostitute due to circumstances and ‘Chandramukhi’ in Devdas is a woman who is a prostitute by profession and her duty involves merriment of men by her dance and erotic gazes. ‘Chandramukhi’ is introduced to Devdas as a prostitute and she being a courtesan, helps Devdas to overcome his tragedy of life whereas ‘Sahibjaan’ of Pakeezah hides the fact from her beloved up to quite long time that she belongs to a prostitute’s family.

Here we can say that ‘Chandramukhi’ is quite bold and accepts her profession but ‘Shibjaan’, because she has been forced to adopt this profession due to her birth from a prostitute but she is the daughter of a royal family and that reflects her hesitation regarding acceptance. Babes in Bollywood 3 ‘Sahibjaan’ and ‘Chandramukhi’- A comparison The film ‘Pakeezah’ begins with a shot in which a courtesan is seen dancing and a background voice introduces her as Nargis, the heartthrob of the city.

But the plot revolves mainly round ‘Sahibjaan’ who is the daughter Nargis and since Nargis dies during child birth she is brought up by her aunt and thus grows up to become a courtesan. Whereas ‘Chandramukhi’ in ‘Devdas’ is introduced in her very first meeting with Devdas as a courtesan who in turn feels embarrassed about coming to the house of a courtesan and expresses his dislike for the profession, which is according to him ‘Vile and Evil’. Despite of that she welcomes him because it is her duty to help her customers relax as she gets paid for that too.

On the other hand, ‘Sahibjaan’ gets a note of paper tug in her feet, which praises her feet and even when she meets her lover she hides her name and profession to a long time. ‘Sahibjaan’ meets her beloved, Salim Ahmed Khan, a forest ranger, every time just by chance in the movie and after few meetings Salim convinces her to elope with him. She agrees and does accordingly but she is recognized by people as she was a courtesan and she feels bad about him. So Salim renames her as ‘Pakeezah’, which means ‘pure of heart’ and then takes her to the Qazi to marry her.

But unable to digest the words of people that continuously haunts in her ears, she refuses and goes back to the brothel. In the end Salim agrees to marry someone else and invites ‘Sahibjaan’ to sing and dance on his marriage where all the secrets of her life gets disclosed and the family accepts that because they had not accepted Nargis as it would have been a threat for the family honor, Sahibjaan had to be brought up as a prostitute. Thus the family accepts to arrange the Babes in Bollywood 4

marriage of Sahibjaan with Salim. This movie projects the rebellious image of women in Indian cinema. Also the boldness and courage that Sahibjaan shows is admirable. She is ready to live the life of a courtesan throughout her life but is not ready to spot her lover’s life because of her image. Chandramukhi in ‘Devdas’ is a courtesan too but she tries to heal up the wounds of Devdas because he comes up to her with a broken heart as his beloved, Paro is married to someone else.

Chandramukhi takes care of Devdas and eventually falls in love with him knowing very well that he loves Paro who is his childhood love and is unable to forget her. Devdas drinks for the sake of self-destruction and ruining his life because he feels guilty about not accepting Paro when she came to him one night. When he is drunk Devdas unconsciously compares Chandramukhi with Paro and finds that she is more caring and understanding than Paro but also accepts that he loves Paro. Chandramukhi is completely devoted to Devdas and even stops him from drinking and is very much concerned about his health.

However Chandramukhi can be considered as the most challenging and spiritual character in the movie and Devdas also is captivated by her beauty and though not ready to accept to stay in a courtesan’s house, he still postpones to go away the first evening. There is yet another scene in the film, ‘Devdas’ when Paro comes to Chandramukhi’s house and insults her of being a prostitute and warns her to be away from Devdas. But when Chandramukhi treats her politely and takes her to a small shrine where she says that Devdas resides, Paro is overwhelmed by her dignified and dedicated love for Devdas.

Babes in Bollywood 5 When Devdas is warned by doctor that a little bit of overdose of alcohol would kill him, Chandramukhi takes care of him and nurses him so that he returns back to health. But when Devdas insists that he wants to go to Paro’s house as he had promised her, she fully supports him and asks him no question over that. Chandramukhi is last scene here bidding farewell to Devdas standing at the door of her haveli. Her dedication and purity of love for Devdas is clear because she very well knows that this is the last glimpse of her love and she will see him no more.

‘Devdas’ is considered as the first Indian cinema with a tragic ending because initially filmmakers believed that audience would be disappointed to see a tragic end as they come to relax and entertain themselves by watching cinema. But in 1935, when P. C. Barua made ‘Devdas’ in Hindi as well as in Bangla, he proved everyone wrong and almost started a new trend in Indian cinema. After this tragedy was also started to get appreciation by the audience and time showed both tragic actors and actresses like Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari as the most remembered ones.

When in 1956, Bimal Roy remade Devdas, Dilip Kumar was the center of attraction and this remake was concentrated on Dilip Kumar because till then Dilip Kumar had specialized in tragic roles. But the impact that Barua’s Devdas had on Indian psych is unquestionable. So much so that youngsters who had suffered the same kind of rejection or tragedy in their love life started following the path of Devdas i. e. , of self-destruction by taking to access drinking. ‘Sahibjaan’ in Pakeezah is a good example of female protagonist and at that time it seems courtesans possessed a lot of power too and she had the courage to establish

Babes in Bollywood 6 morality and confront the society that proves her wrong and vile. These kinds of scenes created great impact on audiences’ psychological and emotional satisfaction. When Shahabuddin asks Sahibjaan’s aunt about his daughter, she says, “Yeh abhi tak sirf Nargis ki beti hai. Yeh us waqt tak tumahri beti nahin hogi jabtak voh is ghar mein byah kar ke nahin aayegi aur tum mere kothe par iska dola nahin lene aaoge” (Till now she was only Nargis’s daughter. She will not be yours until she is married from this house and you come to my brothel to carry her palanquin).

These kinds of films projected an active and rebellious image of women in Indian cinema regardless of her vile profession. Many film critics are of the opinion that films are actually made by targeting male audience and so even female protagonist films are projected keeping in mind the male audiences’ demands. The way the actresses are projected, it is actually that the actress is offering her femininity to the audience and the camera focuses on their curves and erotic styles too. Sex appeal in the actions of the actress is important along with beauty, charm and grace.

The prostitute is usually portrayed as a victim of circumstances in theses films and it is her fate that she chose such a profession and she waits for a real hero to come and rescue her from the hell and honor her too. Also a remarkable difference between ‘Sahibjaan’ of Pakeezah and ‘Chandramukhi’ of Devdas is that both depict two different and almost opposite culture. Where Sahibjaan portrays the Muslim culture and plays Muslim pros, Chandramukhi is a Hindu and is seen offering pooja and goes to the temple and so on. The culture as well as the rules of the two societies is different and this is depicted clearly in the two films.

Babes in Bollywood 7 Their images are perhaps stereotyped and the dress, speech, social and religious practices are well defined and yet appreciated by the audience. The need to be loved is apparent in both the character even if they are from different societies. The only difference between the two is that the Muslim woman has to go ahead two important steps to be more specific, one is of her community and the other her gender. Though the portrayal of a Hindu woman is not much different in an Indian cinema regarding her position in the family or society and in taking major or minor decisions as well.

Both of them are apparently independent but in fact completely dependent regarding decision making whether it is her life or marriage or something else. The films based on Muslim culture and society also depict the real problems lying within the society and try to highlight them because films also play a vital role in changing one’s thoughts. However this has negative impact too like the case of Devdas of 1935, which influenced lots of youths at that time to take the path of self-destruction

Many film analysts have written that the filmmakers have a very important role to play and they can portray the actual position of women in society in such a dramatic way that has a direct impact on viewers’ mind and soul. The fact is that women in Indian society or Muslim society throughout the world are overtly quite aggressive or active but ground reality is something completely different. They are active and work for other with a different strategy but when it comes to their concern they are dependent upon their father or husband to decide what should be done.

There is lot much to be done and this will need some more time and effort to change the problem at the root level. This will Babes in Bollywood 8 ultimately change the way society looks on women and they too will have the same position as men regarding making decisions and choosing their own soul mates as well. ‘Devdas’ has a history of around 10 remakes and all based on the Bengali novel written by Sharat Chnadra Chatterjee in 1917 with little or no changes depending upon the era in which it was made.

Recently when the filmmaker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali remade the film, Devdas, in 2002 it was almost equally appreciated and liked by the audience. This remake was all the more different regarding dress, styling and accents of the artists in this movie. The theme of the film was not new for the viewers but it proved to be one of the most successful films of the year perhaps because Bhansali kept in mind the audience of today while making the film and tried to touch their heart in a different way focusing on scenes that are liked by today’s audience.

Bhansali is also known for influencing his cast perform in a way liked by audience of today and the choreography and camera angles also mattered a lot. Chandramukhi has comparatively lesser role on the screen of the cinema but her impact is much more or perhaps equal to that of Devdas himself. In the novel itself she is projected as a strong character and her feelings for Devdas is completely different from that of Parvati. Where Parvati gets disturbed because Devdas doesn’t accepts him the night she comes to him and when he returns from Calcutta, she talks to him in a sarcastic way.

This even aggravates Devdas’s anger and he hits her physically which is against his normal behavior. Whereas Chandramukhi is satisfied by serving her love and caring and nursing him even when she knows that he loves Paro and will love her forever. Babes in Bollywood 9 Chandramukhi and Sahibjaan are two characters of two different films depicting two different cultures but their problem at the root level is similar. Both of them are victims of circumstances and their own fate. Babes in Bollywood 10

References 1. Anglefire. The triumph of Meena Kumari, from http://www. angelfire. com/film/meenakumari/meenatriumph. html 2. IMDB. Pakeezah (1972) – Plot Summary, from http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0067546/plotsummary 3. Jouvert. Devdas: India’s emasculated hero, sado-masochism and colonialism by Poonam Arora, from http://152. 1. 96. 5/Jouvert/v1i1/DEVDAS. HTM 4. Planet-Bollywood. Planet-Bollywood – Film Review – Devdas by Narbir Gosal, from http://www. planetbollywood. com/Film/Devdas/

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