Recently Bollywood superstar Salman Khan said that he felt like a raped woman during the shooting of his upcoming film Sultan. While this created quite an outrage, why are we surprised? Bollywood has been misogynistic in nature for decades and it has only got worse in multiplex age.
A look at how all this plays out…
1. Glorification of eve teasing: India is a strange country. First of all, the name “eve teasing” sounds so harmless and actually fun. The truth is that it should be called outright harassment or molestation. And eve teasing is glorified in Bollywood.
How many times has the hero indulged in eve teasing with a group of friends against the heroine and her group of friends? Then they get together and it’s all supposed to be OK. But what if they didn’t get together? Wouldn’t it be plain harassment?
Bollywood morality shows that it is OK to eve tease someone whom you intend to marry and it’s all supposed to be part of the wooing process. What the heroine thinks it totally irrelevant.
Another problem is that the hero also physically touches the heroine in inappropriate places during the wooing process and she’s just supposed to get angry and storm off instead of reporting the harasser/molester… sorry eve teaser to the police.
2. Saying that stalking for love is OK: Stalking is considered a serious crime in the West. It was a joke in Bollywood and India and it took only the horrific Nirbhaya rape case and the 2012 national anti-rape outrage to bring about a change in the laws.
The 2013 amendment saw stalking being a crime with a prison sentence of 1-3 years. What if we indulged in an imaginary exercise and applied this law retrospectively to Bollywood films down the ages?
How many Bollywood plots would go awry because the hero ended up in jail for stalking?
Take a recent music video sang by Bollywood singer Yo Yo Honey Singh featuring Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Sonam. In the video the two don’t know each other that well but they keep bumping into each other all the time.
In one scene Sonam enters his room and finds it full of her photographs clicked secretly over a period of time at many locations. In the video she is shown as quite thrilled but in the real world I suspect an average woman would find it creepy and freak out.
3. Really retrograde lyrics: The Bollywood eve teaser’s anthem should be “Tu Mere Agal Bagal” from the movie Phata Poster Nikhla Hero (2013). Sample some of its lyrics…
Khaali peeli khaali peeli rokne ka nahin,
Tera peechha karoon toh tokne ka nahin,
Haan tujhpe right mera,
Tu hai delight mera,
Tera raasta jo rokoon,
Chaukne ka nahin,
Tere doggy ko mujhpe bhaukne ka nahin,
Tera peechha karoon toh rokne ka nahin.
The song continues like this and to cut a long story short, the synopsis is that the hero says that he has a right (and even “delight”) to stalk and eve tease the heroine and she is not even supposed to protest it. She should in fact accept the stalking and teasing in full.
It is picturised on A-lister Shahid Kapoor and made by A-list director Rajkumar Santoshi who has been in the movie business for more than 30 years.
Even a superstar like fourth generation Bollywood dynast Kareena Kapoor did an item number with the lyrics…
Main to tandoori main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar,
Gatkale saiyan alcohol se oh yeah.
(I am a just a tandoori chicken in a tandoor yaar, just swallow me dear lover with alcohol oh yeah!)
The movie was Salman’s Dabangg 2 (2012).
The changing of Mandana Karimi’s lyrics from “Oh boy, oh boy, I’m your soft toy” to “Oh boy, oh boy, you’re my soft toy” by producer Ekta Kapoor was considered revolutionary by Bollywood standards.
The movie was Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 (2013).
I wouldn’t be surprised if the song “Dhoop main nikla na karo roop ki rani” would have been sung a million times in the last 30 years by random guys when they saw random girls on the road all across the country since the movie Geraftaar was released in 1985.
That movie had Amitabh Bachchan singing the lyrics and also featured Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Talking of Rajinikanth there is also a scene in Enthiran (2010) where Aishwarya Rai is almost molested by a coconut seller and later the hero and heroine just laugh it off and subsequently sing and dance. Crimes against Indian women are generally not taken that seriously by the Indian film industries.
4. Showcasing the alpha male vis-à-vis the heroine: World cinema has gone ahead, but most of our movies still show that the hero has to be an alpha male and he has to strut around wooing the heroine. We are yet to get out of the formula of romantic musicals.
Even if you keep churning out romantic musicals and show the hero and heroine on equal footing, it is OK. But even in 2016 it appears that it is the hero who has to woo the heroine and keep her away from harm and she just can’t take care of herself.
5. Trophy heroine for blockbusters in the multiplex age: This is a continuation of the above and the latest rage is the blockbuster where the Bollywood masala has been supersized with the prime example being Dabangg (2010). Most of the blockbusters are made keeping the hero in mind and the heroine is just a fill in the blanks kind of thing and anyone can be taken.
The heroine just has to look good with the hero. Like we have the concept of the “trophy wife”, you could say that Bollywood has mastered the art of the “trophy heroine”.
Taken all this together, you could say that Bollywood has a serious problem with the way it treats its women on the screen.
(This article appeared in Sify.com)