When we groove to the song “Jaadu Teri Nazaar”, we should stop for one second and focus on the lyrics which objectify Kiran, and her consent is not taken into consideration while making her a prized possession. Such is the creeping misogyny in Bollywood that still exists.
It has become almost part and parcel of every Bollywood commercial film to include a dance number or an item song in the movie, that apparently will increase the profit margin of the movie. The bitter truth is, it does. A demonstration of a dancing girl in revealing clothes, with lust hungry men matching her steps behind her, objectifying lyrics is welcomed with open arms by the generic Indian audience, these songs are glorified. This was witnessed when movies like “Dabangg” came out, and Munni got “badnaam” aka defamed, quite literally.
A dancing Sheila portrayed how difficult it is for a young Indian actress to survive the Bollywood ladder of fame for any upcoming and motivated actress with talent.
There is a rising need to detect this misogyny in the system. People in power exploit the scope of recruiting debutants for a role. Such was witnessed when the #MeToo movement had spread like wildfire. Tanushree Dutta had accused popular actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on the sets of a film back in 2008. TV writer Vinta Nanda alleged in a Facebook post that Alok Nath had assaulted her 19 years ago. Influential people like Vikas Bahl, Rajat Kapoor, and Varun Grover were also being accused. Renowned director Sajid Khan was also accused of exploiting his power of recruiting actresses for a particular role in satisfying his sexual desires.
These instances tell us how powerful lust is in influencing power in the industry. These instances also show us the reluctance in the women to come out against their agitators openly, which is a direct indication that they are afraid of the power these men possess.
The movie “ The Dirty Picture” was a satire of the entire mess that exists in the industry through misogyny. It shows Vidya Balan playing the role of a struggling actress attaining fame, where her feminine attributes help her more than her acting skills. A movie filled with item songs and dance numbers makes fun of the very fact that the character of Vidya Balan was recruited due to her ability to attract Indian men. During the climax of the movie, we see Vidya Balan’s career is almost in ruins when she has aged a bit, and no director is offering her roles in their movies anymore.
The need of the hour is to question the system, challenge the traditional norms of the male actor having the highest preference and pay scale in a movie, with the female actor providing a fill-in for the male character, with a lower pay scale, and under the compulsion of having to dance in vulgar songs more often than not. The female actor is not meant to have supporting roles in movies; it is justified when she shares equal screen importance and time in displaying her skills at acting, with the male actor.
A majority of the movies have a storyline that focuses and revolves around the male protagonist with the female character walking on the sidelines aiding to the needs of her man in fulfilling the completion of the story. This can be seen especially in romantic comedies which demand proper representation of both the male and the female characters. Rarely does a movie entirely focuses on the female character, making her a protagonist in it’s truest sense.
What most of us fail to understand is glorifying songs that are sexualized, witnessing scenes where a man meets a woman on the streets, stops and starts singing, follows her, and passes comments at her in the name of singing a song, in the long run, promotes eve-teasing. Objectification of women allows male domination.
Some of the rape instances were initiated when the perpetrator took the phrase “ Pehli nazaar mai pyaar” way too seriously.
On 21st June 2019, India was in a festive mood celebrating and upholding misogyny with the release of Kabir Singh, a remake of Telugu movie Arjun Reddy.
The nation’s youth, especially the boys had this sudden urge to become the hero and get influenced by this character so much that within months of the release we witness a mass of testosterone-driven men, putting their logic aside, lacking a sense of responsibility for their own action and a feeling that they can easily get away with things, start having a beard, drink exceeding their capacities recklessly ride their bikes, stalk girls and call them ‘meri bandi’ aka my girl.
The opening scene of the film portrays the character of Kabir Singh, played by renowned actor Shahid Kapoor, having a problem to control his sexual desires, so much that he threatens a woman to undress by pointing a knife at her. This scene completely misguides the audience with “Meri Umar Ke Naujawano” being played in the background. Certain tools like background music or use of colours are used in films to set the tones of certain scenes as has been the case here. But the problem lies in the fact that where a scene like this had to be either negative or a satire shaming the male dominance over woman, and use of music in accordance with it, it glorified the scene instead. Evidently, when the scene came up on the screens, theatres were filled with cheers and hoots.
In the upcoming multiple scenes, we see a guy fashioning a beard and brandishing a personality that clearly depicted he has anger issues, smoking, and drinking to the hilt of his capacity. In quite a significant percentage of youth, there is an urge to drink. When they see their hero drinking in capacities that exceeds their imagination and getting on with his responsibilities and duties as a surgeon, it does not come as a shock that they will misinterpret the line between fiction and reality.
Movies greatly influence the audience, especially if the character is eye-catching and inspiring. Kabir Singh’s character influenced the audience in all the wrong ways possible. If a person does not know when to return back from a fictional influence, there is a high potential that this person might end up becoming a drug addict, have a drinking problem, have anger issues, and stalking tendencies, he might even face charges on domestic violence.
The character portrayal of Preeti played by a relatively new actress in the industry Kiara Advani has fulfilled all the ways in which misogyny can be preached.
This movie has a miserable focus on her and negligible influence of her character with respect to the storyline. We see Kabir Singh kiss Preeti even before they had properly started talking, and it did not come as a shock to the audience who unquestioningly cheered on as Preeti did not even protest to being kissed by a complete stranger.
Love can be blind and inseparable, but it does not drop one’s standards to a point where he or she becomes a possession of his or her partner. Kabir Singh in many instances calls Preeti “Meri Bandi”, and as the movie progresses and the limelight does not shift from Kabir Singh to Preeti even once, we start feeling she is doing nothing but only aiding the character of Kabir Singh from the sidelines.
Shahid Kapoor has also been the hero of movies like “Dil Bole Hadippa”, released in 2009. This movie acutely depicted what a woman can achieve, given a strong will and character. Equal screen time and importance were given to both the male and female lead actors. This shows that the last decade was slowly progressing towards understanding and cherishing the presence and importance of women in the Bollywood industry, with other films like “Pad Man”, “Mardaani” and “Dangal”.
The movie escalates to the point of no return when Kabir Singh slaps Preeti because she was being indecisive on his marriage proposal. A scene that was also cheered and justified by the audience. The character of Kabir Singh is like a drug, negative yet irresistible to put away.
The movie ends with the perfect happy ending a cinematic climax can provide us with. Sadly, everything was adjusted in the end, with Kabir Singh having to face no repercussions to his actions and no atonement on his part for them.
The movie could have fit in the standards of modern era movies had Kabir Singh been an anti-hero playing a negative character and all his negative attributes were not glorified.
The censor board could only age restrict the movie for their faith that adults have better judgment not to get influenced by such heavily influential characters. The movie premiers at least thrice a month on several television channels in most households even today. Even today, there are people under the influence of Kabir Singh’s character.
As long as we fail to identify the crippling misogyny under the veil of such movies, we will make it tough for the women to walk in equal footing with men, there will still be women objectification and rape. It is time we start being responsible and realize how movies influence people. It is time we get better at filtering what we see, dumping, and disregarding the negativity while welcoming the positivity with open arms.
Written by:- Sankhajit Kundu