36-24-36 (Bangladeshi, 2013)
Bangladesh a country largely known for textile works accompanied with the pathetic conditions of the industry’s workers has come up with this insightful and debate provoking documentary 36-24-36 by Bratto Amin. It is definitely an appreciable and worth promoting move from the Bangladeshi soil, which is identified as a follow up/ part of the ‘One Billion Rising’ global initiative.
For eons the discussion on exploitation of women in this male chauvinistic world has been discussion. From the time to time though the context and perspective of the issue changes nonetheless the topic remains constant. The impact of the societal popular definition on beauty, in the wake of the capitalist driven consumerist society we are living in, is an important angle to take on this topic and this 42 minute documentary does that with elegance.
The work doesn’t bombard you with facts and report. Nor does it wear a social critics’ hat. It, at the first point presents the populist opinions on the definition of beauty and personal perceptions of the public- of all walks of life and of diverse age group- on the beauty of women. A documentary especially with such a topic if ever had opened up with the interview excerpts of the activists and social scientists would have become preachy, beyond doubt. Thankfully it hasn’t. Instead it focuses on taking up the topic from various dimensions often that we come across yet aren’t either aware of or something that we fail to notice.
Beauty in humans is viewed almost associated exclusively with women compared to men across all the cultures and societies. From west to east though the viewpoints perhaps has some minor variations but the overall perception and opinion remains the same. The work attempts the showcasing the taboos shrouding the ‘established concept’ of beauty and their influence of the psychology behind the invention of ideal references and guidelines for beauty that follow.
Through the interviews of various women the film shows the ineffable influence of the fashion industry and the mainstream representation of ‘what beauty is’ in their psychological perception of their body and their tryst that builds up as a results of it to maintain this ‘defined’ beauty. Also it follows the mental pressure that the society puts on women regarding beauty.
Researcher and Writer Sumon Jahan rightly points out the glorification of the fair skin and its colonial link. The remnants of this pre-colonial, socially engineered, perception are aptly exploited by the capitalists to sell their products of beautification. On the other hand essayist Nasrin Khandoker reveals the impact of Barbie doll on the young minds and the construct of beauty through it in their minds. Along with her few more intellectuals, all women, share their feminist insights and take the intention of the film in the right direction- the cultural definition of beauty, it’s influence and pressure that hovers around women, and the psychological tension that the external pressure on the societal expectations and tips on maintaining her shape and skin tone to fit herself within the formulated definition of beauty.
Another interesting understanding that the film shows is on the analysis of the so called ‘item songs’ in mainstream cinema. With ease the film convincingly explains the psychological makeup of the women celebrities of the showbiz and models of the fashion industry alike and at the right moment substantiates the commoditization of womanhood through its logical arguments.
This film brings forth a quintessential debate on beauty is defined, who defines it and how their opinions are pumped into the veins of the society. Through this it also touches the perennial issues like gender inequality, gender bias and misconceptions and taboos on the topic of beauty. This work is found in Youtube and is free to watch.