White, yellow and red…how three Bollywood stars defined fashion at Cannes this year
The breathtaking display of gowns at the French Riviera once again saw its annual addition of Bollywood glamour, with an interesting display of stars and their costume selections. It’s hard to pick favourites but I liked Deepika Padukone’s ensemble presentations, the most, for its very striking colour choices. Meanwhile, Sonam Kapoor managed to startle because I found she looked ravishing in a nude-coloured gown, but the most surprising thing this year was perhaps that Aishwarya Rai, a regular at the Cannes circuit, had really managed to put a good fashion foot forward and avoid any fashion missteps, unlike a fair few times in the past.
Recently, the televised chat show Koffee with Karan concluded its fifth season, and the show had included some stars whose work I tend to like, such as Shahid Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, in what seems like a growing sea of ‘Page 3’ random faces. But what is this ‘Page 3’? Page 3 culture in India is associated with tabloid coverage of parties and high society/high class activities. On the surface, it looks pretty normal (and even a tad bit mundane) – Page 3 is just India’s answer to tabloid journalism and all the stars who appear in it. But Page 3 has sensationalism attached to it and is regarded as something of a phenomenon, which is tough to grasp really – it’s just a colourful spread of gossip and stars in tabloid newspapers, and nothing else.
Page 3 is filled with celebrities, whose work or societal contribution has managed to grab attention, they need that recognition, and they also need to be entertaining enough for aristocrats, or for middle-class families, who deserve to be entertained every morning when they open their newspapers and turn to Page 3.
I think in India sensationalism is attached to what should simply be regarded as gossip journalism and nothing else, no matter how scandalous a star’s latest life story is. Sometimes it’s an eyesore: I don’t think it’s very interesting to learn about people I normally don’t like to work with on a regular basis. Another facet to the whole ‘Page 3’ story is that people aren’t always very candid and upfront about a large part of their lives that everyone may be able to see on Page 3.
I don’t like to go round and round with the same sets of confusion as lovers of that ridiculous aspect of Page 3 culture might: I think actresses, for example, really should be more open when their careers haven’t really gone anywhere, even though they began with a bang (somewhat). Is that really so hard to do – not pretend to be something they are not? I would guess not but some people really take fakeness to another level. In my world itself, composed of actresses I find interesting, not every actress in town has had the same lengthy (and legendary) career trajectory as industry veterans, such as Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan, and it’s so obvious.
There isn’t always a lot of clarity on every aspect of this Page 3 culture, however, which begs the question of what kind of a role model these celebrities really roll themselves out to be for people who like to tune into their glittering lives, round the clock. Stars, or successful people in the public eye, have the good life, they are well-known and they know how to balance a lot of work, with a healthy dose of fun – people want to incorporate all of that into their own lives, as well, which is why they are good role models. I doubt Page 3 appeals to readers for those exact reasons because it is really for people who want to appear on it to be heard, to be seen and to be famous; aside from that celebrity bandwagon, Page 3 is really truly meant for faithful followers of Bollywood gossip.
Growing up, I have always had the fortune to visit my grandfather’s agricultural estate. It was mainly vast amounts of lush land in colours of yellow, green, orange and the rare red, situated close to India’s borders. The episodes were boring and I spent most of my time daydreaming about the landscape and about history episodes I found very interesting, such as the Second World War.
Whenever I think of those moments today, I get reminded about the landed gentry in the United Kingdom and zamindars in India and Bangladesh. My maternal great-grandparents were zamindars, so it’s hard to not think about how the two classes are so different from each other, and yet so alike – it’s astonishing, to say the least.
The landed gentry is a social class in the United Kingdom, comprising of land owners. They were not aristocrats (mainly, upper class people in their respective countries) but they were in possession of large amounts of lands, from which they would earn an income. Meanwhile, a zamindar, used to be an aristocrat but the system no longer exists in Bangladesh because of its abolition in the fifties, following Bangladesh’s independence from the United Kingdom.
In addition to that awful abolition, during my great-grandfather Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s tenure as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the abolishment of what could be regarded as the zamindari ‘class’ – it used to divide the society into various segments, such as lords etc., was carried forward with entirely.
Zamindars were aristocrats in the Indian subcontinent and they had control over large amounts of lands, as well as peasants from whom they would collect taxes. During Mughal rule in India and Bangladesh, zamindars were appointed to collect income from peasants and zamindars in Bengal particularly, were people who had lands, or were peasant-owners etc.
The Bengal Presidency, when the British still ruled in the Indian subcontinent, comprised Singapore, Burma, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh.
Bengal makes up: West Bengal in India and Bangladesh, and the zamindars of Bengal (or the zamindars of the Bengal Presidency) were enormous in Bengal’s villages. They became prominent, during British colonial rule in India and Bangladesh, all because of the opportunities provided by the British in the two countries, which at the time was the one singular state of India; the British Raj was truly one of the greatest empires in the world.
In many countries around the world, young girls constantly feel prejudice because of their gender, particularly for education. Although, countries such as Bangladesh and Ukraine have been able to majorly improve education attainment (plus, enrollment rates), the picture in every country in the world isn’t this bright: be it Iraq or India, the situations highlighted for a drop in denial to access in education, range from poverty to early child marriage, and many states are failing to push through important change.
There are many reasons why providing easier access to education for young girls should be a priority for governments: equipped with basic education skills, a young woman will be able to command her health needs, protect herself from incidents of domestic violence and gender-based exploitation, and also act as a patron of gender equality.
Women’s rights should always be put first, because without it women will not be able to perform the simplest of tasks, such as even play a part in their local democratic climates. Education helps women to become power figures in the world, and stand at par with men. It also provides women with the opportunity to make key public decisions and policy pushes, which outline providing accessible (and adaptable) education for young girls.
Women need help both at home and at work: education can inform young women on contraception, on why it is a good idea to build smaller families, and simply lead healthier lives. Furthermore, when more girls complete secondary school, the national growth rate also increases but at the moment there is still a gap inbetween the level of education amongst boys and girls.
What are needed are better schools and more girls in secondary schools because already there is a disparity in education attainment rate in the midst of girls who finish primary schools and those girls that finish secondary schools. Improving people’s awareness on why educating women is a novel idea can also start to break down barriers erected in societies, where normally men receive a higher degree of education than women to make them suitable for jobs and an income.
Bangladesh, for example, has made significant strides in the subject of women gaining the necessary education to join the national workforce, but even then, when it comes to dropping out of secondary schools, girls are exposed to a greater amount of risk than boys. There is a national shortage of female teachers in the country, in spite of its positive relationship with school attainment (plus, enrollment) rates for young girls; in Bangladesh, the improvement in the education sector has all been part of a national expansion plan introduced in the nineties, which had increased public spending for education and also created better schools.
Feminism is all about pressing for gender equality across the globe
One of the main concerns in feminism is how slow curbing gender inequality has been, despite the movement being a core figure in feminism. The origin of feminism claims to have been in France and Netherlands, and it incorporates a diverse range of social causes, from education for girls to property rights for women. Women in today’s times have less access to an education, in comparison to men, as well as earn a smaller income. Women in states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (the northern hemisphere) sometimes have to face a curbing of freedom to move in public spaces and communicate with people, and the problem has a religious crossover because this is both for Muslims and upper-caste Hindus.
Gender inequality for women is also evident in cultural practices in various countries, such as Libya, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. Although, in states such as Afghanistan, progress has been made in cutting Taliban stronghold over the rights of women, and consistently have them wear a burqa, the struggles of progress for women to gain a lot more freedom in their own country is far from over. Often it can be found that gender inequality stems for women from a strong misunderstanding of local cultural hierarchies, and it is prevalent, so the more that these issues are debated about, positive change befalling upon women in the world, for their rights, can be faster.
In Mauritania, intolerance towards women is unusually high. Less than thirty percent of the female working age group attain employment nationally, forced marriages for women is widespread, women have restrictive property rights (owing to sharia law) in comparison to men, there is an absence of institutionalised support for victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment, and there is a bias towards the son in the family, when it comes to education.
In Libya, when a woman is married she is offered the task of looking after her husband, as more of an obligation enshrined into law, as well as attend to household and childcare duties. For this, the husbands will provide them with relative financial security, regulation of their earrings but there is barely any polygamy in most marriages to begin with. Most men in Libya enjoy the idea of having more than one wife but most women, on the contrary, gravely oppose this point of view. However, there is improvement in sight, if the Libyan economy (with a deprived workforce), can show that in agriculture, more women assume responsibilities, due to men leaving their rural provinces.
In Saudi Arabia, gender inequality is a lost concept. Sharia law decides the personal lives of women, and only as recently as late 2013, did the country achieve its first set of women lawyers. The patriarchal family system determines a couple of major decisions in the lives of the women in the family: for example, a woman will need the permission of her mahram to get wed. This, then fuels thoughts over polygamy, which is an unreliable source of doubt for marriages in Saudi Arabia, however, which is a good sign of cultural progress for an Arab nation. In the country, other similar signs of improving states of gender equality include the criminalisation of domestic abuse, since 2013. But going downhill simply does not stop: there are still too many critical issues surrounding the nature of divorce cases because it is tougher for women to argue for a divorce in the face of primitive opinions regarding it for women, which prioritise the dishonourable nature of women in Saudi Arabia, pressing for a divorce, rather than leaving it upto their mahram.