It Takes Two To Tango

I am an NRI, translated into: no real Indian. I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears. I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

Beyonce has a problem. She envies boys and their freedom in her song If I were a Boy, but I think her anguish is mainly about games boys play that hurt girls, such as turning off their phones to pretend that they are sleeping alone. Her problem is as old as the sun and triggered in my mind, names society gives girls who got their fingers burnt after playing dangerous games with boys. Society also conveniently forgets that it is mostly boys that have assertive toys, and girls agree to the games, because of their need to hear those three little words.

Women take the blame
It takes two to tango, unless it was rape. That is why there are unmarried mothers. The very term ‘unmarried mother’ accuses the woman of wrong doing, just because she carries the evidence. Men’s bodies allow them to be evidence-free. Vidya (Vidya Balaan) expresses the plight of having a baby alone very well in Balki’s film Paa, when she decides she wants to go ahead with her pregnancy, the result of the games she played in college with Amol, played by Abhishek Bachchan.

Society identified marriage as the ideal stadium for these games but nature being what it is they happen before that. AmaZulu, our ancestors, knew about this complication so they came up with the idea of ukusoma. When iqhikiza (eldest girl in the family who looks after her sisters) accepted the love story between her sister and her boyfriend, she devised ways of allowing him to visit her.

If toys wanted to play, the couple exercised ukusoma, which means playing around the thighs but never going for home base. Boys and girls seldom deviated from this because they knew the consequences of unwanted pregnancy, especially for the girl. She would bring shame to her family and be married of to some old man if she was lucky.

The Thorn Birds, Colleen McClough’s book set in Australia is centred on a middle class woman, whose parents shipped her to Australia to marry a sheep farmer because she was pregnant with a married man’s child. I saw the television series first before I read the book, and I always got the impression that she was perpetually sad, despite her husband who loved her. He also seemed to be in pain because he knew that she didn’t love him, although they had four sons and a daughter.

Difficult option keeping the baby
Values that punish women for mistakes made by two people are alive and well. I don’t know if you noticed in Paa, but Vidya asked Amol about a condom. He fumbled in his pocket and he did not have it. He even confessed on television that he did not have a condom that day.

That is how Vidya got pregnant with their son Auro. She watched him with a stone face, not amused at seeing her business being spread all over India. It takes two to tango, but it broke Vidya’s mother’s heart to see her daughter juggle the pregnancy and her medical studies, while Amol got away scot free and followed his dreams of being a good politician like his father.

Priya (Preity Zinta) also decides to keep her child despite her parents’ objection in Kya Kehna, directed by Kundan Shah. Rahul (Saif Ali Khan) her boyfriend admits that he is the father, but refuses to marry her. Her father (Anapum Kher) finally comes around and supports her through difficult times when the family is ostracised by the community. Time doesn’t stand still for Rahul. He continues his life as a rich playboy, with his mother’s support who believes that Preity just wants to trap her son.

Support from parents
In the film Dil Kya Kare directed by Prakash Jha, family pressure forces Nandita Roy (Kajol) to give up her daughter for adoption because she did not know the father’s name or where he lived because they had a one night stand in a train. Some thugs were causing mayhem, beating people up, pulling women and children from coaches. Anand (Ajay Devgan) fought them all when he saw them trying to rape Nandita. They consoled each other afterwards and Nandita left in the morning without saying good bye.

Anand gets married to Kavita (Mahima Chaudhray), but she loses the baby she was carrying in a car accident. They adopt a child Neha from an orphanage, who turns up to be Nandita and Anand’s baby that was conceived in the train. Nandita’s father wanted her to have an abortion but the doctor strongly advised against it that is why he took the adoption route. He did not even allow her to hold the baby.

It takes two to tango is well expressed in this film. When Anand and Nandita meet years later, he blames himself for what happened on the train, Nandita reminds him that she also wanted that intimacy.

East, west, south, north, society blames the woman when there’s evidence that a game was played. It can mean death for women in some countries. In mine, parents are mad and disappointed but the child is accepted and grows up with maternal grandparents. Some women leave home and bring up their own children hence the term single mother.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.
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