The Wife’s Slave in hindi means Joru Ka Gulam. Joru ka Gulam is a bollywood film which came out in 2000. In the year 2000 I was ten year old, happy in my own world, singing and dancing and laughing at Govinda’s jokes in the film. At ten years of age, I sympathised with Kader Khan’s character in the film who is a rich man with every possible luxury except that he is not happy because his four daughters won’t marry. The four sisters declare again and again in the film that they hate men. They despise every member of the opposite sex.
I felt bad for the father because at that age all I had learnt was that a young, marriagable daughter is a liability to the father and that a woman ought to marry. That was me when I was ten years old. Nobody taught me this. I appropriated what I saw around me. This is how millions of girls are brought up. Girls, very early on in their lives, know that they ought to marry and have children.
So here were four women on the silver screen who had the guts to declare that they hate men. They even compete with men and defeat them in different kinds of competitions. One might think that it’s a ray of hope. But no it’s not. Now when I look back, and I am not overemphasizing, my blood boils at the fact that a rich man doesn’t bother about his daughter’s education. He infacts announces a financial reward and a share in his wealth for grooms who would agree to marry his daughters. It’s not just demeaning but also scary because somewhere the film does reflect a sad reality – the reality that parents could go to great lengths to get their daughters married. It seems that the only thing a woman could ever do in her life is to get married. That is the beginning and that is the end.
In the film, the hero Govinda, by his cunning, finally is able to get all the girls around to the idea of getting married while having a change of heart himself. The idea that happy ending could be achieved by a woman only if she agrees to marry is wrong on so many levels. To my ten year old self I would have liked to say that marriage is not the only salvation for girls. Their father shouldn’t be pitied because his daughter’s won’t marry but should be pitied because he lacks mental ability to comprehend a woman’s infinite potential. To my ten year old self I would have said that if a woman doesn’t want to get married it’s not that of a big deal, and if a woman decides to get married it’s not that of a big deal either.
In the film one thing that particulary struck me was the transformation of tomboyish Durga played by Twinkle Khanna into the idle daughter and wife is shown by the transition in her clothes. While earlier she used to wear leather jackets and pants, after she realises the “sacred” nature of marriage and that not all men are same she debuts in front of her father in a saree. As a kid this made me overtly biased about western and indian wear, something that took a long time to go away. Now I just can’t comprehend the whole idea of associating moral values with a saree.
The title of the film means a wife’s slave or servant but in the film very subtly the rebellious girls are brought down to become the slave of tradition and patriarchy. I won’t say the four women are in anyway the flag-bearer of the feminist movement because their reasons to hate all men and the way they show their rebellion is incongruous. By the end of the film they just seem like a plot device to add a little glamour and uphold the standard ideas of patriarchy.