Code M to test case – Ekta Kapoor is right about women in the army

IIndia has seen a wave of military films and OTT series, but few have dealt with women in the forces. Now that the Navy is gearing up to recruit women as sailors for the first time through the Agnipath program, let’s look at the two recent shows that put women in the military front and center – both interestingly created by Ekta Kapoor.

In 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee had announcement that women would be recruited for all military combat roles. A year later, AltBalaji Test cases took a fictional look at what it would look like. Test cases is the story of Captain Shikha Sharma, played by Nimrat Kaur, who becomes the first “test” recruit in the army’s special forces unit. In 2020, we had Major Monica Mehra, played by Jennifer Winget, in M-Code – another offer from Ekta Kapoor. That same year, the Narendra Modi government told the Supreme Court that the women were out of shape to serve in ground combat roles. This week, M-Code is back with its second season which deals with the issue of corruption in the military, especially in defense affairs.

At Pallavi Joshi’s Aarohan in 1996 on Ekta Kapoor’s shows now it’s been a long road for female officers, even in movies and series.


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Women in OTT Combat Roles

Whether Shikha Sharma in Episode 10 Test cases or Major Monica Mehra in M-Codethe challenges faced by women in the armed forces do not stop at the front lines.

Long before the fire CDS Gen Bipin Rawat controversial remarks on why women would find it difficult to successfully take on combat roles, Ekta Kapoor has pointed out the issues quite effectively in his series. While the pilot of Test cases was directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the rest of the episodes were directed by Vinay Waikul. From sexist jokes to sharing toilets with ogling naked men, to toxic masculinity and fragile egos and finally, being sexually assaulted – Shikha faces most of the things Rawat alluded to much later in 2019 What emerges is a powerful and insightful spectacle that lets the woman decide her own course of action, while also excelling as the first ‘test case’. The highlight of the show wasn’t to say that Shikha was the female version of a hero figure who can fight all the odds without crying.

In M-Code, Jennifer Winget stars as an investigator trying to find the pieces of the puzzle in the deaths of an army officer and two suspected terrorists. What is revealed at the end is a big leap in the history of military representation. From examining the idea of ​​homosexuality within the military to caste, the show is a pleasant surprise – it packs patriotism without veering into jingoism. During the second season, attention shifts to corruption in defense deals.

Winget’s Monica Mehra faces resistance in the first season, but is a respected officer in the second. What is clear in any workplace, including the armed forces, is that women must prove their worth before they are recognized.

More often than not, instead of systems adapting to the presence of women, it is women who have to work harder to be part of the system.

Field reality

Despite Agnipath’s announcement, have things really changed? The first time women joined the Indian Armed Forces was in 1888 when the Indian Army Nursing Service was established. After being impressed with their performance in World War I, the senior army officers decided to expand the women’s wing and formed the Women’s Auxiliary Corps. This corps facilitated the service of women in non-combatant roles like communications, accounting, and administration.

In the past, Azad Hind Fauj of Subhas Chandra Bose had an exclusive female combat regiment named the Rani of the Jhansi Regiment who fought the Imperial Japanese Army in ancient Burma.

But Mukherjee’s announcement in 2016 did not lead to real combat roles for women in the military. In the Air Force, women can be fighter pilots, and now, with the Agnipath scheme, marines too, which are combat roles in their own right.


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Female officers and representation

General Rawat had raised issues like maternity leave and family life when he spoke about the challenges in the lives of female officers. Interesting way, M-Code and Test cases both examine the issues closely. Shikha and Monica have civilian partners who struggle to keep up with their dedication to their work.

While there were more than enough depictions of defense officials sacrificing lives and family lives for their country, there is virtually no mention or depiction of defense husbands.

The 2022 movie Major portrays the character of Adivi Sesh – an army officer – failing as a husband. In 2016, Arjun Kanungo’s song Fursat broke stereotypes by portraying Sonal Chauhan in the video as an army officer whose vacation with his partner is cut short when duty calls. It was a rare reversal of the trope of army wives bidding farewell to their husbands when duty calls.

The end credits M-Code thanking ADGPI, the military’s public relations wing, shows that the defense forces could be open to describing flaws in the system.


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Along the road

In 1996 actor-director Pallavi Joshi starred in and created the show Aarohan, set during the time when female cadets could not join the Indian Navy. The 13-episode series on Doordarshan was popular for being the only show about women in the defense forces in India.

With the rise and heyday of cable television in the 2000s, there were shows like Sara Akash (2004), Left Right left (2006), and Choona Hai Aasman (2007) which had female defense officers. But their struggles inevitably involved other male officers as romantic interests.

Women defense officers walk a tightrope between their personal life and their defense life. But in OTT, the first steps of change have been taken.

Views are personal.

This article is part of a series called Beyond the Reel. You can read all the articles here.

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