Here’s a list of films that unflinchingly put female sexual desire at the forefront, allowing the female protagonists to exist as independent sexual beings.
Life comes with an instruction manual if you are a woman living in India. Since childhood, you are told how to dress up, sit, eat, behave, and well, live. While sex and the pleasure that comes with it is taboo in our society, female sexuality is viewed to be even more problematic. It is normalised to a point that we start looking at female pleasure as something not acceptable. There are times when voicing sexual desires can bring her ‘moral’ character under scrutiny.
Since Bollywood rarely has discussions around female sexuality, we decided to sift through and cherry-pick those that do. From conversations around masturbation, celebrating the LGBTQ community, talking about lesbian love and sex-workers, the definition of a woman’s sexual consent to enjoying sex beyond the constraints of marriage, these films reflect it all without passing a harsh judgment.
Lust Stories, directed by Karan Johar in the anthology aimed at exploring female desire after marriage. In the series, Kiara Advani’s character Megha explores pleasure that might exist without a husband. Not only that, but she also schools him and her in-laws on how a woman desires more than just children.
This Deepa Mehta movie not just explored female sexuality but also focused on desires. It won’t be wrong if we say that Indian cinema failed to create something close to this erotic romantic drama. Fire managed to portray female sexuality in different settings of different relationships, which made it a beautiful watch.
Unlike most Bollywood films, Lipstick Under My Burkha showed women in their most vulnerable yet strong phase. Ratna Pathak Shah’s character Rosy is a woman with desires. She reads erotica, likes to dress up in colors, and also has a thing for a man, all of this while being ‘a little too old’ for society. The film actually focuses on how pleasure isn’t a emotion just for the ‘young.’
Sleeping Partner, the short from the anthology is about a middle-aged married couple, where husband is abusive. Divya Dutta’s character explores sex as not just something that comes as a ‘duty’ for women. She confronts her husband about how women are treated in society and reveal that she had the ‘best sex ever’ with someone else and not him.
In this three-hour-long dark comedy, Leela, a former porn star questions, “When lakhs of people watch porn, there will be four people to act in it. Why are the actors shunned, while the watchers are forgiven?” This Tamil film discusses sex and stigma through parallel plotlines of three very unique characters to provide a 360-degree perspective.
Water delves into the tragic lives of the Hindu widows in Varanasi; never allowed to remarry by the regressive dictums of Hindu law, they are confined to an ashram by the Ganga. One of the stories in the film is that of the beautiful widow, Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who is forced into prostitution by the head of the widow’s house. During the course of the film, Kalyani falls in love with a young liberal Indian law student, Narayan (John Abraham). Never having experienced romantic intimacy before, Narayan with his gentleness evokes in Kalyani her first sexual awakening. Kalyani dares to dream of a better life for herself with Narayan, and therein lies her liberation.
Note to society: Women love sex. Deal with it.
(Featured Image Credits: Instagram)