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Imtiaz Ali’s short film, “India Tomorrow,” takes a refreshing approach to gender dynamics that are seen in the commercial sex industry. The film questions the standard stereotypes associated with depictions of sex workers in Bollywood movies. Also Read - Janhvi Kapoor in Rs 2.74 Lakh Neon Dress Will Brighten up Your Dull Day
The plot of the film explores the (brief) relationship between a sex worker and her customer. It begins by portraying the stereotype of a male on top of a sex worker, which signifies the power dynamic that is often correlated with this industry. However, the tables turn when the customer, who is a stock broker, receives a troublesome phone call regarding his losses in the stock market. Also Read - List of Hindi Movies Releasing in March 2021
The sex worker, unsurprised, listens to the conversation and makes accurate predictions regarding the outcomes and reasoning of the current stock market crash. These comments initially irritate the customer causing an attempted demeaning backlash informing her of the clear differentiation of his line of work versus hers (which is just selling her body). His character portrays the stereotype of how society views a sex worker—which means that due to her line of work, she is only capable of understanding how to sell her body and it would be absurd to expect anything more.
As the phone conversation continues, the customer quickly realizes that the sex worker actually has sound financial advice to offer. This is where we see the roles begin to reverse. It quickly turns into a situation where the customer is now taking financial advice from the same woman he originally dismissed. He continues to ask her questions about how to use his money and ends up purchasing the stocks she suggests immediately.
He is clearly stunned by her insight and when his phone conversation concludes he asks how it’s even possible that she can know so much of a field which is so clearly outside her realm of understanding.
After all, from a typical misogynist point of view, it is easy to see this woman at face value: as a sex worker. The purpose of this short film is to rectify this naïve sentiment. A note from the film states that “its core argument is that in #IndiaTomorrow, anyone can bring change and achieve success.”
At the end of the interaction between the sex worker and her customer, he begins to discuss options for her future (because he knows best), to which she simply responds, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll take care of myself.” This very concept that she can take care of herself tackles two very distinct social concerns.
It is easy for society and Bollywood to pass judgement on women who work in this industry or emerge from this background. Therefore, in most films, these women are portrayed in a negative light with bleak life outcomes as well as limited intelligence and worldly understanding. In those depictions, sex workers are in desperate need of life guidance (or “rescuing”) because they are unaware of the world around them or of any options they may have. However, this judgement is extremely and frequently seen to be incorrect.
Similarly, it also strives to tackle stereotypical gender roles. In the short film, the female does not need “saving” as she so clearly explains in the end. If anything, it is the male who actually ends up requiring her assistance and advice to make a sound financial decision. It uses a casual encounter to subtly reverse the roles of the “damsel in distress” concept—it does not always have to be a woman who needs advice, help, or saving. A man can (and is often) found in that role as well.
One of the greatest takeaways from this short film is that girls emerging from this background are not limited by any means. They are not at mercy to their situations and do not have to compromise their future because of their present. They really do have a dream for “tomorrow” just like everyone else—and just like everyone else, they too can achieve these dreams.
Watch the short film here: