Sunday, 2 April, 2023
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Women scientists fulfil Mission Mangal but Akshay Kumar can’t see beyond sindoor and make-up

Mission Mangal’s poem has Bollywood placing scientist women in roles of good Hindu wives and daughters. The core competency is an add-on.

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Yeh kangan shor machaayega…jitna ooncha ho aasmaan, yeh sindoor door tak jaayega” (These bracelets will make a big noise… this vermilion in your hair will touch the sky) – so recites this generation’s self-styled Mr India, Akshay Kumar, in the latest promo video for his upcoming film Mission Mangal.

The poem is littered with such gems. There’s “Kajal se hai itihaas racha” (She scripted history with her kohl) and an emotionally wrenching bit about “Bharat ki betiyaan” (India’s daughters). My favourite, though, is the pithy “Mangalsutra gale mein hai, par Mangal pe hai nazar gadi” (She wears a wedding necklace, but her sights are firmly set on Mars). Clever, clever wordplay – if our nationalist feminist saviour was participating in an elementary school poetry competition.

But as it happens, this is a movie about ISRO’s Mars mission, and if you are wondering why sindoor, kangan, kajal and mangalsutra are being given so much prominence instead of rocket launchers and payloads, join the club.

According to the teaser, the goal of the movie is to “celebrate the women of India”, who are “determined”, “fearless” and “inspiring”. A noble goal. But when every marker of the womanhood being celebrated is their jewellery and makeup, largely the kind associated with married Hindu women, then it is a problem. It associates the identity of all Indian women with these accessories.

The emphasis on objects of makeup is unmistakable. One may argue they are part of Hindu tradition, but Mission Mangal is not all about honouring Hindu women, is it?

Also read: Mission Mangal poster: Does Bollywood need an Akshay Kumar to sell women’s success stories?

Would Akshay Kumar have gushed in a similar fervent tone for these scientists if they wore burkhas? Would the majority of the audience receive the teaser, and the film, with as much adulation or would it express pity for the women? But hey, why get into tricky questions when we can spend this Independence Day thumping our chests in pride at our favourite movie theatre? (#BMKJ just to be on the safe side.)

The casual representation of all things Hindu as Indian in the name of tradition is not new. Recall when the Haryana government came out with an ad in its magazine featuring ghoonghat-clad women. “Ghoonghat ki aan-baan, mhara Haryana ki pehchaan,” it said. The pride of the veil is the identity of our Haryana.

Of course, lawmakers later fought the backlash by saying it was only reflecting a tradition, not forcing anyone to wear a ghoonghat. But here’s the thing. When you associate traditions with the pride and identity of a state, you are using verbal and visual cues to communicate the message that conforming to these traditions is desirable and patriotic. So, when Akshay Kumar, in an Independence Day movie about an ISRO mission, celebrates the women of India who wear sindoor and mangalsutra, he is making it clear what is being celebrated.

Tata Steel once had a jingle that went, “We also make steel”; the Mission Mangal poem can barely look beyond the normative standards of how the Indian (Hindu) male society wants the Indian (Hindu) woman to be seen.

Also read: Akshay Kumar’s Canadian roots go deeper — from campaigning for a PM to owning mansion there

What the teaser does is situate women firmly in the roles of good Hindu wives, daughters (of the nation, no less) and then, despite and after these primary identities, also scientists. The core competency is an add-on, the real attribute and strength is being a good traditional Hindu woman with all the sindoor and mangalsutra. These are the ideal modern Indian women – rooted in tradition yet ambitious, but not so ambitious that one of them might be the voice of this poem. Oh no; it has to be Akshay Kumar.

After all, who would be interested in a movie about women scientists if it (and they) didn’t have a man’s endorsement, right? What do women know about science anyway? Sorry, Ritu Karidhal and M. Vanitha, your and your colleagues’ achievements are apparently meaningless unless endorsed by a man, especially the saviour of Bollywood. But can you teach me how to apply wingtip eyeliner?

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  1. Worst article ever… All it does is spread hatred, and shows how innovative people can be when it come to sharing hateful feedback…. It wouldn’t have occurred to the poet that something like this could ever happen… did it ever occur to u that the poem was written in such a way because all those scientists could be hindu married women? Usme bhi jabardasti burkha gusa dete kya?

  2. The teaser – the song – the poem – is a plug for a movie that is sure to inspire several women and girls to step out of any cultural barriers imposed by society or by themselves and dream big. The lines tell them that they DONT have to throw away cultural signposts that they identify with to be part of a a dream like Space Exploration. Let’s please not make this about male chauvanism or insensitivity towards Muslims – these are genuine forward thinkers like R.Balki (English Vinglish) and Akshay Kumar (Padman) that we are talking about. There is nothing wrong if a ‘hero’ says inspiring lines to bring in female audiences to come watch the movie. The real ‘heroes’ the scientists will work their magic to change the audience for the better.

  3. My mistake. Copyright infringement case was filed by the woman director against the team of Mission Mangal. I for one would like to watch the original movie with a woman’s vision about women.

  4. Sorry, my bad. Copyright infringement case was filed by a female director against the Mission Mangal Team. I for one would like to see that version rather than this male-imagined spectacle.

  5. Completelly agree with this article. This is what you get when men try to write women. Please also do note that there already is in process a copyright infringement case in the court of law against a female director.

  6. All the fuc..g above comments are from dumb ass psuedo nationalist male chauvinist who either don’t understand english or don’t get the gist of the article. Samira is not against hinduism or women wearing sindoor or mangalsutra, but their portrayal as women rooted in tradition seen through a men’s eyes. These women are not celebrated for their scientific or technical skills but for being a being seeped in tradition.

  7. worst article I have ever read…. fathoming unfounded negatives from the positives is The prints new founded mantra…
    God save media

  8. Are you serious? What is wrong with you Sameera sood. You forgot your principle only harping on interest. (Pun intended delibartely). The women force is there to stay, in every field. Do you mean these are only looking at their professional area and forgetting other areas. you have freedom of Expression but not others like trailer maker.

  9. Even gods cannot satisfy you. So much of negativity to each of Hindu traditions and culture. Mam, please do visit a good psychologist you really need it.

  10. The writer is paid by some negative mindset.. insted of seeing positive features he is trying to take our socity in backward directions… he should be ashamed of writing ….

  11. Hey stupid sickular writer don’t you play your pity sickularism to undermine the hindu culture. Yes, hindu people represent india. Muslims represent arab, pakistan and all muslim countries. India is Hindustan. Keep your fuc**ng knowledge to yourself and your family.

    Who are you to determine what is indian and what is not. If you want movie with burqa scientist, then go make by yourself. Invest your own fuk**ng money and make a movie.

    If you love burqa, then marry your son with a burqa girl, or let your daughter wear burqa for the whole life. But don’t give fukng knowledge by the shitty article.

    There are people who are more educated than you. You don’t need to give them your ‘gyaan’.

  12. This is fully shit.. height of negativity actuality these so called fake secular journalist or editors creating rift & draws line in society if u r so worried then what have u done for these Muslim women or men except spreading negativity.bliidy tukade tukade gang.

  13. Really? How talented you people are where you can find any silly point to prove your agenda. Like how someone can find fault in such a beautiful video. If bashing one single religion and unnecessary playing victim card for another religion is secularism. Than I stop being secular

  14. What a rubbishy article this is?? This movie is made on real time event considering 5 ISRO woman scientists who are actually practising Hinduism. Akshay is trying to throw lights on our young generation who were been thought by dirty intellectual biased and fixed media like you that practising Hindu culture is against our countries integrity. He is trying to portray that our countries integrity and performance lies by adhering to our culture n tradition. I am not against any religion here. But it is fact that no woman till now in Burkha worked as scientist in ISRO. For the sake of impressing you like dirty media, something cannot be fabricated. You suppose to encourage the Muslim woman to take up career in ISRO and other premier institutions instead digging a well between us…. we will through such articles into dustbin directly. Articles like this are not for any use to construct a strong nation or maintaining countries integrity. RIP your thinking!!

  15. What has India contributed to human welfare? It’s indianness. It’s philosophy. None of the things Akshay Kumar mentioned poses as a barrier for any women. It talks about Indian women more than anything do. Makers would ve composed in a same manner if the ladies belong to another religion but then it would be haraam for religion’s lawmakers and your writers. Stop your bigotry. You can not afford to have double standards when you are in a position with power.

  16. Why are you getting literal in poetry. Poetries are not meant to be literal. There is absolutely no difference when people(right wing) critise the burkha or a skull cap and you criticising sindoor and mangalsutra. The story celebrates women behind mars mission. It’s quite possible that they may all be hindus and in the movie the are celebrating achievements of those particular women and not women in general. Attire represents culture and this is also a part of our culture. I don’t see a problem celebrating it. It will be good for the country if journalists discuss the real issues rather than creating a nonsensical issue out of nothing which doesn’t impact the common man.

  17. Maybe the author needs other avenues to pent out her own frustrations. Maybe seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist, preferably burqa clad. Seriously do people get paid for writing such trash or is it just a way to kill time.

  18. Seriously? WTF. Negatives in positives. Our movies have come a long way. Dancing around trees to getting raped as a plot device, women are achieving heights. Yes, a male celebrity is enforcing it, so what.. Its a positive thing. I loath you WRITER, because you spent so much studying something that u could have learnt growing up in a small suburban city, PROGRESS.

    • Are you really qualified enough to take my 10 mins time to read that piece of s**it ? There are women scientists in Isro who wear sindoor. And what do you mean by questioning “anything hindu is Indian”, definitely yes. The name India came from Hindu you idiot.

  19. You have all my pity for writing such a worthless piece of sh*t article. No wonder u r with ThePrint. Keep pouring ur loath and hatred towards people who don’t give a damn about u and ur sh*ty article.

  20. Reality hurts, you are So Negative. Who has stopped burkha clad woman to achieve similar things?
    1.How can they become scientists if they are not allowed to go out on their own?
    2. Without tripple instant talaq?
    3. Multiple wives system? Without education?
    4. Without basic human rights?
    5. Without voices against becoming fundamentalist?
    6. Most importantly without mingling in other gender of other religions as a colleague, or friend? Can you free them?
    Nice try Sameer.

  21. Dear The Print,

    You can only be as good as your views. Picking negative from positive things is an art and you have a bunch of writers who do that.
    How did the writer pick the difference between Sindoor and Burkha? (Inbuilt Habbit Of Writer?) .
    Also, which country had their Moon/Space or Mars mission with women wearing Burkhas?
    Why you couldnt write about seeing a Muslim women free of Burkha and taking New Heights in Technology and Other Platforms?
    You couldn’t write coz, The Mindset Isn’t Right.

  22. But then it is a fact that Hindu women with vermillion and sindoor ARE scientists at ISRO. I am not aware of any burqa clad women who is part of the ISRO team. Why underplay it?

  23. Height of fake secularism. It is becoming traditional to criticise majority and get popularity by sidelining real achievement.

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