For decades, female sexuality has remained a hushed topic onscreen, with no focus on the demands, needs or pleasure of a woman. But not anymore, as the OTT space scripts a change in the narrative, while stripping off the taboo around such subjects, changing mindset — one show at a time.
“Female sexuality is finally being acknowledged in storytelling. This is a positive change. Women are finally being acknowledged as sexual beings and not merely as objects of male desire,” says actor Rasika Dugal, who received acclaim for her role of a sexually dissatisfied wife, who looks for sex outside her marriage in web series, Mirzapur.
There was a time when the subject of sex came with a bundle of awkwardness, sometimes wrapped together with suggestive lyrics, or visual metaphors like brushing of flowers or dimming of lights. Yet, sex was hardly a female affair, and that is what the filmmakers are out to change now. Be it a story of four friends exploring their sexuality in Four More Shots Please!, or importance of consent in Aahana Kumra’s Marzi, or a more complex look at sex play in recently launched, Bombay Begums.
According to filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, sexuality has been used as a weapon to repress people for long — a notion which is being challenged in the streaming space.
“OTT platforms allow the point of view and the duration to look at women in a more multi dimensional manner. I am particularly pleased by that,” Ali, who created She, tells us. He continues, “Sexuality is something that in our society is often used as a weapon to repress people. And being able to make a story about that was very interesting for me”.
Interestingly, now, the focus is not just on sex, but on exploring one’s sexual identity, and owning it up without any hesitation. If there are women indulging in self pleasuring acts, then there are also women struggling with their sexual orientation. Not to forget, the women who are just having fun, and learning by the mistake on their way. Some examples in sync with it include, Lust Stories, A Married Woman, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, and Made in Heaven.
Dugal finds it encouraging that “scripts are now exploring and celebrating femininity and having a female protagonist helming a show/film is no longer just an act of tokenism”.
“However, filmmaking is a visual medium and there is a long journey between the written word and the visual. Often things get lost in translation. Sometimes, even the most well-written and well-meaning scripts end up with sexualised images/ visuals. Possibly because of deeply-ingrained and long-standing references. Even with the best intentions we are finding it hard to break away from those,” Dugal rues.
According actor Shweta Tripathi Sharma, whose introduction scene in Mirzapur showed her character indulging in an act of self pleasure, feels it is time to normalise the conversation around women having sexual desires.
“We should definitely normalise conversation around this, and a lot of other things also. Because this happens, there is no point shying away from all this happens. Let’s not be hypocritical,” she says.
Recalling her introduction scene, Tripathi says, “I really didn’t think it was a big deal. But there were so many journalists who asked me about it, and I was like ‘Come on, please yaa.. As actors, we literally put ourselves out there to tell a story toh iss cheez ko itna bada mat banao, and don’t make it so trivial’.”
However, there is a lot responsibility that comes while handling the subject. “I think that emotion is more important than the act. So as long as that intention is correct, I think it should definitely be explored,” notes Tripathi, who adds that she will never associate herself with a scene which is done just to “catch eyeballs”.
She asserts, “there is a huge responsibility that we have as actors, and as storytellers, and we should not exploit the power”.“We should own up to that before anybody else tells us ke kya sahi hai aur kya galat hai.. Our moral compass should be in the right place,” Tripathi adds.
Director Abhishek Pathak also feels that “the way the content is perceived by the audience has also changed in a positive way”. To this, Tripathi adds, “The more educated we are, the better it will be. I think the audience is definitely more aware”.