Arth and after, taking stock 25 years down
An interesting article from Bharati Dubey from the times network
It’s been 25 years since Pooja walked out on her philandering husband Inder, in a radical ending that introduced the New Woman to Hindi cinema. Exit doormat, enter empowered woman. Director Mahesh Bhatt, in typical style, refused to listen to his distributors’ pleas to make the end more conservative. Arth went on to become a cult film.
In commercial terms too, the distributors’ fears proved to be unfounded. Starring Shabana Azmi, the late Smita Patil and Kulbhusan Kharbanda, Arth was a hit. But, on the silver jubilee of the film, Bhatt wearily acknowledges that the Woman as Doormat image far from being banished, is alive and well. “The shocking truth is that in the virtual world of films and television, the Indian heroine has sunk even lower than prior to Arth’s release,’’ he rues. “And the reason is that deep within, we want our heroines to continue to be the Barbie dolls they were all those years ago, who go through the motions of loving, living and marrying.’’
Arth hindi movie songs. Songs from Arth. hindi movie songs from Arth. Arth.Music by Jagjit Singh .Cast includes Raj Kiran, Shabana Azmi.
It was the feisty Neena Gupta who brought home to Bhatt the tyranny of the TRP. “Neena, according to me, is a true female icon who has had the guts to live life on her own terms,’’ he says. “She confessed to me that when she was making her hit serial Saas, she had to opt for the regressive end of the wife taking back her unfaithful husband because channel research indicated that only a conformist end would guarantee a hit.’’
But Shabana Azmi, who played Pooja in Arth, feels differently. “Look at the unconventional character played by Geet in Jab We Met,’’ she points out, referring to the bubbly protagonist played by Kareena Kapoor. “Or take Aishwarya’s character in Guru. She is the force behind her husband’s success. Women’s roles are really more substantial now.’’
Azmi has reason to feel sentimental about Arth. “After the film’s release, women would flock to my home with their problems. They wanted me to solve their issues. It is only after this that I started taking an interest in women’s issues,’’ she says. “Men were very upset with me then, but now they look at the film with more empathy.’’ If Arth is made again, Azmi wants the mistress to be painted in a lighter shade of black so that the complexities of the Other Woman are explored without damning her outright.
The strength of Arth is in the humanity of its characters. Pooja is unquestionably a … Finally, the defining moment of Arth occurs at its bold climax. …
Disagreeing with Azmi,
writer Sanjay Chauhan says that Arth was an aberration. “It may have been a cult film, but it did not really change the way women were portrayed in Hindi cinema. Rather, a film like Zakhmi Aurat where a woman was shown revenging herself can be considered to be a cult film,’’ he says.
Chauhan cites more recent examples of conservative films—Aishwariya Rai’s character in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Shilpa Shetty’s role in Anurag Basu’s Life in a Metro. “Although Aishwarya wants to go back to her lover, her mangalsutra forces her to stay with her husband. So, where is the emancipation of women? Similarly, a lot of people thought that Shilpa would choose Shiney Ahuja but that did not happen. She returns to her husband who certainly did not deserve her.’’
Actress Vidya Balan says that Arth is her all-time favourite film. “For the first time, a woman who is wronged decides to be on her own. Those lines still haunt me, when Pooja asks her husband if he would have accepted her if she had done the same and
he replies in the negative. It showed the hollowness of the man and his double standards. Often in cinema we adhere to things that are convenient and try to take refuge in something that does not go against the norm,’’ she says.
Balan feels that multiplexes with niche audiences have helped promote meaningful cinema. “There was a phase in the cinema of the 80s and 90s where a lot of the action and romantic films portrayed the woman as little more than the love interest of the hero. But once multiplexes came in, it gave us a chance to experiment. Even in my first film, Parineeta, the heroine openly declares that she is married and is ready to live alone. For me it was her inner strength that made her take that decision.”
REEL FACT: Arth introduced the New Woman to Hindi cinema