Instant info and ambitions

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 13 April 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Not just Hindi cinema, every other element of popular culture, be it music, dance, advertising, reality television, internet or digital media, appeals to the young woman of today -- and caters to her as well.

Until a decade ago, years of training in Bharatanatyam would blossom in the long-awaited 'arangetram' performance. Now, new-age television has turned reality shows into the aspirational debut platform. Increasingly, girls are signing up for customized courses in dance and music that promise to put them on stage within a few weeks or months. Likewise, the country's leading beauty contests have made Tier-II and Tier-III cities their hunting grounds, driving finishing schools and English classes in every small town.

A minority is still willing to invest time and patience into learning a real skill. They might enroll in institutions like the School of Classical Ballet and Western Dance in Malabar Hill. "Reality TV is influencing women's tastes in music and dance, but classical ballet is not like instant coffee. Ours is long-term training, so we draw dedicated artistes to our school," says Khushcheher Dallas, whose mother founded the institute in 1966.

Advertising wields a strong cultural influence on society, and with women increasingly holding the purse strings over the years, advertisers are turning their gaze in their direction. Alyque Padamsee, communications specialist, says, "The young woman of today, whether she is a homemaker or professional or volunteers her time to a charity, has her feet planted on the ground. It is she who is making most major purchasing decisions, except perhaps for a house. Notice how commercials for schools, colleges and courses in higher education are also targeting women," says Padamsee, whose creations right from the Lyril 'water nymph' to the 'no-nonsense' Lalitaji have made a paradigm shift in empowering the fairer sex.

Padamsee says that young women today are far more informed than their mothers were, thanks to technology and digital media. "My daughter Shazahn, who is in her early 20s, helped me select a new mobile phone and then graduated to helping me buy a car," he says.

The path to popular culture is paved with positivity, but a few craters remain. Parents and social activists caution women about falling prey to exploitation. Lawyer-activist Flavia Agnes expresses concern at the insidious violence perpetrated on women through popular culture. "It is not vulgar dances or scanty clothing that worries me. I am disturbed to see how the aggressive hero is shown to ultimately win over the girl he was pursuing against her will. From Raj Kapoor to Shammi Kapoor and now Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan, we see the hero hunt down the heroine, who finally smiles coyly and gives in to his advances. It sends the wrong signal to men on the street, who stalk women or throw acid in their faces if they do not succeed like the hero did."

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