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Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya: An attempt at deconstructing the power structure

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Picture credit: andhrapulse.com

By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Reviving the vestiges of Hindu mythology, Sujoy Ghosh’s attempt at recreating the titillation and a subversive idea of patriarchy has kicked off a furor across the board.

Picture credit: indiatoday.in

Ranging from applauds to criticism, literary ostracization to video leaks, the 14 minutes saga, Ahalya, has left people stupefied at the maverick’s masterpiece. If mulled over considerably, Ghosh’s new take at the forlorn mythological character has rendered a new method of presenting myth with a post-modernistic approach.

The original story kicked off with Brahma’s daughter Ahalya marrying Gautama. Being irked at the duo’s union, Indra donned Gautama’s look and bewitched the charismatic and coveted Ahalya. Gautama on running into Ahalya and Indra’s conjugal moves punished both of them. Ahalya was turned into a stone whereas Indra was cursed with a thousand female genitals hanging from his body.

 

Ghosh’s masterwork despite being a revamped version brings forth a modernized take on the same. The story kicks off with inspector Indra knocking at the door. The tale in its very first scene unravels the mythological characters, with a tinge of stealth and spookiness encapsulating it. Ahalya, in the mythological version, was portrayed as coy and overmodest; however, Ghosh’s Ahalya was charismatic and bold feigning to be demure.

Contrary to the original version, it was the stealthy lass who entices Indra, while Gautam Sadhu (Gautama)- Ahalya’s grey-haired husband- witnesses the furtive advances of her unbridled spouse and Inspector Indra’s lechery gradually creeping in. However, cracking upon the stereotype Ghosh’s Ahalya gets salvaged despite her adultery and Indra gets fixated and reduced to a doll.

From Ramayan to Mahabharat, every Indian mythological cock-a-hoop had a tinge of patriarchy engraved in it. Be it Sita being asked not to transgress the Lakshman rekha or Draupadi being at receiving end, begging and wailing for help, while Pandavas stood helplessly at the behest of their adversaries’ advances.

Picture credit: missmalini.com
Picture credit: missmalini.com

Every Indian mythological tell-tale sets forth a tone of a strong patriarchal order where in the woman is nothing less than a medium to corroborate the strength and virility of the male characters. Lord Rama wouldn’t have been charismatic and enchanting enough had not Sita’s vehement cries for help, after being abducted by Ravana, juddered Rama and forced him to put his prowess at work.

Similarly, despite Ahalya being the prime character of the mythological tale, was reduced to a mere tool, a bait with Gautama’s and Indra’s prowess nibbling on it. Indra in a bid to get back at Gautama used Ahalya as a pawn. Despite, Ahalya’s unadulterated intentions and being beguiled in a trap, she was censured and chastised.

Ghosh’s version of Ahalya has touched upon issues like- deconstructed patriarchy, chauvinistic normativity, female virility and sexuality respectively. The furtive advances of Ahalya ravel out a new era wherein female adultery isn’t ostracized and castigated.

Further, his attempt at deconstructing the generalized power order, has set forth a stage to present mythological narratives with a post-modernistic flavour; for instance, may be a refurbished Ramayan might roll out a plot wherein Rama has to give an Agnipariksha for accusing Sita of adultery, or where Pandavas’ virility get tested to which Draupadi stands helplessly.

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Fight For Gender Equality Faces Resistance From The United Nations: Study

Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, was sworn in December 2016 after a campaign in which many countries urged selection of a woman.

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U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses delegates during the opening session of a UN Migration Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Dec.10, 2018. VOA

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has inched up slightly in the eyes of women’s groups who said on Wednesday he has delivered on some promises to make the global organization a feminist institution but faces a major backlash and resistance.

The Feminist U.N. Campaign, a coalition of women’s rights groups, advocates and U.N. staff, gave him a grade of B-, up from the C+ it gave him a year ago.

The coalition launched its report card after the secretary-general said he would be a feminist leader when he took office two years ago.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Global movement

In that time, the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and assault has become a global movement.

Guterres has promoted women’s rights and equality publicly, sought gender parity in leadership and rolled out efforts against sexual harassment and gender-based violence, the report said.

But an internal backlash and bureaucracy threaten his progress. His efforts to make structural changes have met “considerable resistance” from staff and member states that resist women’s rights, it said.

Lyric Thompson, an author of the report and a director at the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women, said she thinks Guterres has “a genuine intent and interest in being a champion” of women’s rights.

Women's March,
People carrying signs join hundreds of demonstrators in the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 20, 2018. VOA

“The question is can he do everything in his power to be a feminist leader who enables that transformation and who makes it the new normal?” she said to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The U.N. is “years away” from being a feminist institution, and attitudes of immunity and privilege operate to scuttle equality efforts, she said.

Just last week, a U.N. survey showed one third of its staff and contractors experienced sexual harassment in the past two years.

More than 30,000 people answered the survey, complaining of offensive jokes, remarks and sexual stories and of being touched in ways that made them uncomfortable.

The U.N. has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with such accusations over the past few years after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse accusations against U.N. peacekeepers in Africa.

The head of the U.N. agency for HIV and AIDS is stepping down in June, six months before his term ends, after an independent panel said his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.”

Women
Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, center, address the human rights conference titled “Protecting Health Rights of Women and Girls Affected by Conflict,” during the U.N General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. VOA

‘Considerable progress’

The secretary-general’s office said it was pleased that the women’s groups saw improvement in Guterres’ handling of gender issues and agreed that more needs to be dome.

Also Read: Women Living in Countries with Gender Equality have better Cognitive Test Scores: Study

“At the same time, we believe the secretary-general has achieved considerable progress within the complex U.N. system at achieving real reforms to make the U.N. a better workplace for women and men alike,” his office said.

Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, was sworn in December 2016 after a campaign in which many countries urged selection of a woman. The U.N. has not been headed by a woman since its creation in 1945. (VOA)