Why Bollywood Romance is a Problem
Bollywood has been a huge part of the life of every Indian. Across generations over the 1980s to present day, all of us have had a lot of exposure to India?s biggest film industry and have grown up enjoying the films of our time. The middle-agers will remember the charms of Shammi Kapoor, the versatility of Rajesh Khanna and the style of Amitabh Bacchan, having witnessed hits like Sholay, Seeta Aur Geeta, Teesri Manzil and Mughal-E-Azam in their time. We millennials were gaga over movies like Dilwale Dulhaniyan Le Jayenge, Andaaz Apna Apna and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Then there?s the new generation of kids and teens that have grown up watching movies like Bachna Ae Haseeno, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Dhoom and Krissh.
Of course, Bollywood is an industry that churns out over a thousand films every year and there are many more examples of films that define generations of people being entertained by them, the topic being discussed is a rather important one. As a film industry that powerful, it is pretty obvious that Bollywood has a pretty major influence on the people of India. But as Indians who are now in 2019, having witnessed a major #metoo movement in Bollywood emerge and have become much more politically aware, we must realize just how problematic certain aspects of our favourite film industry are. The most important one of these being Bollywood Romance.
Throughout the ages, Bollywood has sort of made the concept of love and romance in many different ways. Most of these are actually quite problematic and must be looked back at and thought about deeply in 2019. We need to start looking back at the films we?ve enjoyed throughout our lives and start noticing the problematic ways in which they have contributed to the patriarchal system all of us have come to observe is dominant in our society.
There are a number of problematic behavioural characteristics Bollywood has been normalizing and enabling for decades and because of this, there aren?t many Bollywood romantic movies that age very well in 2019. Some of our favourite films are culprits of this. Let us note down these characteristics with the help of some examples.
1.Stalking: The most common behavioural trope that Bollywood promotes as ?romance? is stalking. This is something it has been enabling for decades and across generations. Right from Shammi Kapoor persistently following a female actor his character finds attractive and singing songs to woo her, constantly invading her personal space and managing to win her heart over the course of the song to Akshay Kumar?s character in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, who stalks and tries to click a picture of a girl, without her knowledge. Stalking has been one of the most prominent and problematic elements of romance in Bollywood. The two examples are undeniable examples of normalizing a problematic behaviour pattern among men.
2. One-Sided Romance and Toxic Masculinity: This is another example of Bollywood romance being problematic. Most Bollywood romantic films depict a very one-sided, male-dominated perspective on romance. We have become far too accustomed to a portrayal of boy-girl relationships in Bollywood where the guy is mostly in charge of initiating the relationship through stalking, flirting and singing songs, performing several chauvinistic gestures to win over the girl, who is mostly depicted as a trophy for the main character (the male actor?s character).
Notable movies that are guilty of this include but are not limited to Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, Every Salman Khan Movie from the 2000s and everyone?s favourite Dilwale Dulhaniyan Le Jayenge (it is right there implied in the title).
3.Manipulation and Coercion of Consent: This is by far one of the most problematic aspects of Bollywood Romance. In some instances, these examples have even normalised rape and that is how bad things are. We?ve seen instances where Aamir Khan?s character in Dil threatens to rape Madhuri Dixit?s character but refrains from doing so because ?he?s not that kind of guy? and ends up with her simply because he didn?t rape her which is supposed to be a gesture of goodwill on behalf of a man. We?ve seen Bollywood show men manipulating, lying and impersonating more influential men to woo the girl and the girl falling for all of that and at the end of the film, STILL ending up with the guy just because ?his love is pure?.
Examples of this include Padosan, Golmaal (2006), Awara Paagal Deewana, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein and Bareily ki Barfi. There are several situations in these films where the male character has shown extremely manipulative and invasive behaviour and ended up winning the heart of the female character.
4.Reinforcement of Gender Stereotypes and Roles: Bollywood is all too familiar with the assignment of gender roles. In many of the Bollywood Romantic movies, we see a certain gender stereotype assigned to the male character and a certain gender stereotype assigned to the female character. Most of the time, the male character?s importance to the plot far outweighs that of the female character. Barring that, the male character is often shown as protective, reckless and violent. The female character?s role is usually side-tracked to that of a supportive figure in the male character?s machismo and as a trophy to be won. As a matter of fact, we see many common instances of the manic pixie stereotypes in Bollywood films. This is basically a caricature of the female character as a naive, carefree and good-natured human being who is usually excited and talkative, in stark contrast to that of the male character?s persona which is that of an emotionally restrained and mature individual who must take life extremely seriously.
Examples of this include Jab We Met, Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, Wanted, Sholay and Ishq.
Based on all of the above observations, the main conclusion we can derive here is that Bollywood Romance has, for decades been a major contributor to some of the most problematic patriarchal norms, reinforcing toxic masculinity, misogyny and one-sided gender stereotypes. The problem lies primarily in the manner in which Bollywood has consistently normalised problematic behaviour and encouraged many forms of troublesome and inherently toxic male behaviour while at the same time painting a rather suppressed and conservative public image for women to look up and aspire to. As one of the largest film industries in the world and the most prominently influential one in India, Bollywood owes it to Indian society to improve the ways in which it makes an impact on Indian people and protects its women. It is about time the industry caught up with the times and got its act together.