Male Chauvinism and Fetishism in Bangla Cinema: Rupban to Piprabidya

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For me love is the supreme manifestation of mutual understanding, and this cannot be represented by the sexual act. Everybody says that if there is no ‘love’ in a film, it is because of censorship. In reality it is not ‘love’ that’s shown on-screen but the sexual act. The sexual act is for everyone, for every couple, something unique. When it is put into films, it’s the opposite.

Andrei Tarkovsky


The whole idea and conception about “SEX” has been a taboo in our society from a long time. In our so-called “Bangla Cinema” it is the subject matter presented through awful stylistic.

Let’s take a look at the film named “Antore Antore”, directed by Shibli Sadik. There is a scene where the male lead (Salman Shah) has eaten highly spiced food and he deadly needs something sugary. He starts screaming, moaning. The female lead (Moushumi) runs to the kitchen and enters her hand in a very greasy jar of pickles, which is in itself a very subtle sexual montage. She returns to the sweaty, howling hero. She gives the hero her hand which is full of sugary pickles and the hero starts to lick her hand. Then we see the hero’s hungry licking and all on a sudden the female lead starts giving sensual facial expression. The director gives us a close up of her nervously moving feet. So, what exactly the director wanted to present to the audience? Is it love, libido or personal fetish?


‘Antore Antore’ starring Salman Shah and Moushumi

Before trying to give the answer let’s have a look at 1965’s musical named “Rupban”. “Rupban” is a folklore based film centered on kind of odd marriage between a 12 years old girl and 12 days old boy. If you listen carefully to some of this film’s songs you can easily identify those subtle expressions about conscious and unconscious lust. And, just take a look at the recent film “Piprabidya”’s story arc. How does the director embody the seemingly ironic but internally chauvinistic desire of the male lead?

pipra bidya

A scene from ‘Pipra Bidya’

One thing is very apparent from these three different situations I gave there. That is in most cases, depiction of sexual act and account of love has no difference to our filmmakers. And it has its deep root in our Male Chauvinism. Our directors have most often represented libido and voyeurism in a cheap stylistic in the name of love. They needed and still need close up of certain body parts and certain kind of sound. Many of them just simply ignored and still ignoring aesthetics of shot composition, importance of color, power of sublime subtle dialogue, minimalist making impact of underlined acting and metaphorical approach. They have been influenced heavily by certain B-grade film stylistic and absorbed those stylistic in an amateur way. Why every aspect staging sexual relation in our films has to be so loud? These situations get poorer when those immaturely filmed scenes have no connection with the main story line or have nothing great to do in the whole plot device except giving audiences some cheap erotic pain.

Is there any possible rigid definition of Art? Or is it possible to define any creative process by forms and formulas? I don’t think so. But when it comes to the aspect of a film sequence’s denotation and analysis of the story line we need to look inside of our persona. We need to ask question about our obscure inner selves.

A screen from Zahir Raihan's 'Jibon Theke Neya'

A screen from Zahir Raihan’s ‘Jibon Theke Neya’

In most of the cases-we represented woman in our film as a product for pleasure. Though, the past picture was different and more pleasant. Zahir Raihan and his contemporaries have exceptionally represented women as mother, sister and lover. We can name films like “Aalor Michil”, “Jibon Theke Neya”, “Shurjodighol Bari” and some others. But,besides those exceptions, all through the way sex and fetishism was and still is something dominated, celebrated and somehow bizarrely acted by male protagonist. These celebrations almost signify nothing about context and content of main story line. Screenplay writers intend to give some mouthful dialogue, bizarre villainous acts with female lead just to follow some bullshit formulas dominating our film industries. Why most of our posters have to be vulgar?

Love should be a truthful, honest, graceful expression in film. Why do we need such lengthy and hazy process to represent something odd between love and voyeurism? Satyajit Ray didn’t need such cheap, libido cracking way to represent Apu and Aparna’s tender love. In “Belle de jour” Luis Bunuel gave us an honest, expressive picture of a woman’s ins and outs of life, desire and identity. Even, chauvinism can be celebrated in artistic way.Federico Fellini’s “8½“, Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom”, Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and so many films proved that. But, my question is, do we really need to celebrate chauvinism as a hard and fast rule for making a mass-appealing successful film? Isn’t it true that sometimes situation and artistry can be more important than graphic details?

I don’t think permitting on-screen kissing or semi-pornographic styled illustration can entirely solve these circumstances. We must be attentive in telling honest story, making our very own films. We have to work for building up our own film language. We should work on genre, break genre and create our own stylistic. We have to be truthful to film theories and at the same time innovative and creative. Plagiarisms and blind following should be avoided. Representation of sex shouldn’t be placed just for commercial objective. We need to be true to the thin and thick line between repression and love, between libido and beauty. Praising beauty shouldn’t mean molesting and teasing. Nothing could be much entertaining than being true to your language, your soil, your tradition and your freedom; freedom of body and mind.

Art is not different from entertainment. Art entertains us through its own quality.

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