Love. The word is enough to evoke an array of emotions in each of us. Love, especially romantic love, is an important part of our lives. It is capable of providing us the comfort and companionship we always wanted and bloom into a life-altering experience. When we talk about love and romance, can Bollywood movies be far behind. Romance is the blood of this industry, and in almost every movie has a love story as its back bone; even the full on action packed pictures have a hint of romance to make the story more appealing. Aren’t we all secretly romance lovers, who are filled with glee as the lead pair unites; or are filled with despair when two star-crossed lovers fail to make it?
For an entire generation, Dilwale Dulhniya Le Jayenge, which propelled Shah Rukh Khan to the status of national heartthrob, is a lesson in love. And for all young people in our country, the ideals of courtship are derived from Bollywood. Hence, the film fraternity plays a big role in defining the culture of wooing and love. Is it not then reasonable for us to expect that the movies act responsibly regarding what they show? The recent release of the film ‘Kabir Singh’(a remake of the cult Telugu film Arjuna Reddy) has opened up a debate about representation of toxic relationships on the big screen, and what part they play in influencing the youth today. The film is replete with instances of commodification of women and misogyny, and glorification of the abusive hero. The internet witnesses heated debates about the topic, with people calling it the right to creative freedom and expression of art.
Talking about creative freedom and expression, I must say that art can imitate life and go even beyond that. It can show all that the artist wants: the good, the bad, the ugly. But when you are in a business like Bollywood, where you know that the content you produce will reach god knows how many people, work that will inspire and condition millions, you must be responsible about what you show on-screen. This is NOT a call for censorship. I as an artist am a vehement advocate of freedom of expression. Show what you like, but do ponder over what message you give to the police. The problem is not with representation, it’s with glorification: of toxic masculinity; of women as properties to be wooed, won, or taken, by hook or by crook; of abusive relationships portrayed as passionate!
Movies like DDLJ, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Ranjhana and Dabang, all critically or commercially successful, have painted a picture of pursuing a woman that involves stalking, emotional blackmail and even physical harassment! While the former are still older works, but the last two are the movies of the woke generation. It’s not that some twisted lovers haven’t used these tactics in real life; it is only fair you show what happens in our streets. What is disconcerting is the portrayal of these ‘aashiqs’ as true, triumphant men who will do everything to make a woman bend. And women are showed to be nothing more than things- to be owned and harassed by men, always needing a male protector, swooning over possessive, domineering lovers. Those of you who do not believe that movies wield such influence, I have my friends who have had first hand experiences of psychotic stalkers proclaiming to woo women.
The rest is continued in part 2 of the article, please proceed.