BANDISH BANDITS & THE IDEA OF A DUTIFUL WOMAN
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Amazon Prime recently released a new drama series Bandish Bandits, directed by Anand Tiwari. The series has already acclaimed a much deserved appreciation owing to an insanely talented star cast and also what can be called the best Music composition and production in 2020.
However, amongst the many facets that the show presented I couldn't help but reflect upon the one which I resonated with the most. That being the institution of patriarchy. I personally found this series to be a dig on an age old idea of a woman and her 'duty', not restricted to a sole entity. Her duty as a daughter, mother, lover, wife and daughter in-law. Usually when talking about wholesome relationships the idea that emerges is one of support, love, sharing and understanding. However, when it comes to a dutiful woman, it is all about giving. Giving her relationships everything she can, with all her valour, prioritising the wishes and commands of her loved ones, sacrificing all things she ever held dear, be it the passion to sing, or the only man she truly loved, all in order to aid the ego of the men in her life.
I am talking about the plight of Mohini, played exceptionally well by Sheeba Chadha. One might say that she had a fair choice between providing shelter to her father, or choosing to marry the one she loved; but can this be called a real choice? Mohini diligently did everything that was expected of her by her family, everything that the society would proudly label as the role of a dutiful woman. One whose wishes become non-existent in front of the demands and honor of her family. A woman which the society would later applaud and present as an example to young girls and women.
So who is a dutiful woman? Simply, the one who adheres. Adheres to the unreal expectations imposed by the society. One might wonder why is it so important for a woman to be dutiful. Well, because of the constant moral policing that still happens in our society by self acclaimed leaders, who'd decide what kind of girls should be respected and the ones that shouldn't be. There won't be certificates distributed stating if a particular girl shouldn't be respected, that'll be too simple. What happens instead is much more impactful and equally degrading. The society has ways of telling you what girls don't deserve respect. Name calling happens, when certain nouns and adjectives are especially associated with them. Slut shaming also is a consequence of this process. You'd be called loose, shallow, slut, unfeminine, and ill-mannered if you don't tailor yourself to fit this narrow definition of a dutiful woman. Why? Because a certain fear is instilled amongst girls who choose to digress. Which is why girls from a young age are taught to keep the toe within a line. This social conditioning is often times so thorough that women end up policing each other, mostly failing to see what's right or wrong for even themselves in this attempt to fulfill what's expected of them.
Towards the end, there's a scene in which that character played by Naseeruddin Shah apologizes to Mohini, the character played by Sheeba Chaddha for all the wrong done. And Mohini just cries, she cries her heart out, adjoining both her hands, caught up in a dilemma. A dilemma which most women could relate to, where a woman fails to emote and decide what's wrong or right under the umbrella of duty. A remarkable scene that captures such complexity with much ease. A stark remark on the society in which men conveniently apologize and a woman owing to the duty and love she has or should have for her family is bound to forget and let go of.
Towards the end, Mohini is invited to sit and eat with the male members, which she diligently does, contend with a little respect she has gained.
After watching the series my younger sister asked me if I thought that in the next season Mohini would be allowed to live with Digvijay. Even though I found the possibility quite unreal I told her that even if such a thing was bound to happen, Mohini wouldn't go, she just wouldn't be able to leave her family to finally unite with a long lost lover. Sacrificing is all she was ever taught. Intriguingly, we discussed the same narrative and possibilities if gender didn't have such a strong threshold and how things would be different if Mohini was allowed to sing.
I might remember this drama series due to its many phenomenal performances; that of Atul Kulkarni, the depth of which is still settling in but I feel I will remember this piece of art as an exceptional dent to the Institution of patriarchy, from the shackles of which, both men and women wait to break free from.