ajja, a Bollywood film based on the predicaments of women living in various parts of India, narrates the story of four women who have been oppressed and tortured by men for egocentric gains. Martha Nussbaum, in her novel, “Sex and Social Justice”, outlines five elements – internationalism, humanism, liberalism, concern with the societal shaping of preference and desire, and concern with sympathetic understanding – in her definition of feminism. The role of the protagonist, Vaidehi, epitomizes the importance of liberalism as a crucial part of feminism.
Vaidehi walks out on her husband and sets out on a significant journey beginning from the affluent city of New York and ending in a remote village in India. During her journey, she meets various women who, having been suppressed throughout their lives, now come out for their liberties. During this process, Vaidehi realizes that women have common problems wherever they live and develops the belief that the liberal tradition of equal choice and respect should also be extended to women.
According to Nussbaum, “Liberalism concerns itself with freedom and with the spheres of choice”. Vaidehi’s husband Raghu wanted the liberty to do anything and everything- extramarital affair or rape. He did not want to be restricted. “I want my space. Why can’t you give to me, Vaidehi?” When Vaidehi took a stand, she was banished from the household. She goes back to her parent’s house but they reject her too. “The family’s honor is in the girl’s hands but what about the honor of the girl?” Vaidehi cried when her family rejected her. She wanted to save her child but was not allowed to. She wanted to make a choice for herself but could not.
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