Art bestows us lowly mortals with its presence in all forms and shapes. Humanity has been thirsty for expression. Interestingly enough, this thirst has existed on both the giving and the receiving ends. Art beautifies expression into a sacred tale of love and of nature. At other times, it licenses expression of everything terrible enough to be unacceptable in mainstream civilized conversation. Art converts expression from its rawest form into a transcended version so a painting, a story, a theater performance, a song or a film sometimes say everything humanity has been missing. That is how art gets its phenomenal powers of turning tides of history and that is also how art gets to shoulder an appalling responsibility of making sure the tide keeps turning and that expression stays out in the open. Unchained and unguarded.
The society you and I happen to be a part of, fortunately connects with art and reality-defying courageous expression on many levels. Art must express and to get that expressed message across, it needs an audience. If we ask ourselves what art form that enjoys the greatest percentage of audience here, the answer is simple. Television. Now let us observe what this art does with the audience it has.
Start of experiment: Turn the TV on. You will witness a very skilfully executed scene of a woman crying because of some inhumane torture inflicted upon her poor soul. There will be a few other women inside the same household concocting a sophisticated conspiracy to have the protagonist divorced. There will be a ‘master of the house’ who, giving in to serious evidences of the protagonist cheating on him provided to him by his other women relatives, would banish the one innocent but oh so feeble person in the whole narrative from the house so she will be left to go through a horrible struggle to make ends meet and to eventually prove to the mighty man of her life that she was indeed pure. Change of channels. You are very likely to see another artfully crafted scene of another woman crying since a stalker is slowly destroying her life because she said no to him. Another change of channels. An artistic display of a woman crying because she has no parents and her relatives are mean to her and since she is the weakest being your imagination can procure, she does not seem to be able to do anything about it. Yet another change of channels. A woman, even when not crying, is visibly struggling with life in the cruel world of harassment at everyday public places, and keeps on going through it, merely keeping her ‘honour’ intact and then a hero swoops in and saves her from damnation. Change of channels again. A very beautiful actress is slaying the art of acting by throwing around things in her house, obviously crying, because her husband just beat her up and she cannot leave on account of the two beautiful children she has. Husband is justified in beating because he ran into an old scandal relating her wife to some other guy before they were married. The very next scene is another meticulously shown piece of expression but actually showing the husband talking about his characterless life while he sits on the bed of his current girlfriend. Plot twist. Woman beaten again and leaves only to be forever remembered as the worst mother/wife by all those who know her. This can go on for as long as you like but I think the message they are currently conveying is quite clear.
Woman: weak. Man: strong. Woman with a man’s support: only way for her to survive. Woman who leaves her husband: characterless until proven innocent.
But the dangerous precedent set in these precious shows should be evident to everyone now. Our art is teaching our women to be weak. It is teaching them to seek a man’s support by hook or by crook. It is teaching my women to accept with a bowed head and compromise with a silent tongue.
I think it is far overdue for times to change and for art to recognise its responsibility and for it to start making the wrongs right. Don’t you?