The Threat of Bollywood in the 21st century
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
"When you are deeply in love and deeply connected to a woman, if you don’t have the liberty of slapping each other, then I don’t see anything there." This was the response of movie director Sandeep Vanga when he was questioned on his latest movie, Kabir Singh.
Being a movie lover myself, I decided to give Bollywood movies a go. Why not? Bollywood movies draw in mass numbers of audiences all eager to watch the latest release, being the 2nd biggest movie industry (second to Hollywood), I was aware of the with most banking millions of dollars at the box office world wide. Entering the cinema to watch Kabir Singh, the only thing I was definitely sure of was that the movie was going to run for almost 3 hours (2hr 58m).
I was expecting colourful culture, upbeat music and romance yet what I witnessed was a dark twist of my fantasy expectations. Pure shock oozed from my eyes as I watched audiences clap, laugh and even cheer at the treatment of women during the recently released Bollywood movie, Kabir Singh. The movie prevails in receiving heavy criticism due to it's violent and degrading approach towards women. Yet movie director Sandeep Vange remains shocked at the criticism and states that it 's 'bizarre' and 'unhealthy'
Watching Kabir Singh, I was shocked that the movie was even allowed to be screened to audiences. Never had I witnessed so much violence and physical as well as verbal abuse towards women. The treatment towards women was so normalised in the movie that I acknowledged it was an on going theme rather than one or two occurrences. What was beyond shocking was the audiences reaction to certain scenes. It seems that regardless of how modern British society is, certain cultures prefer to submit to more outdated social customs.
The movie revolves around the relationship of Kabir Rajdheer Singh and Preeti Sikka, played by Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advan. Demonstrating themes of toxic relationships, drugs and violence, the film places strong focus on the hardships of love. Yet can you call it a releastic portrayal of love when you consider that "Preeti" had near to no lines until the middle of the movie. The character does not even exchange any words with Kabir, her mere appearance is enough to enchant Kabir and take hold of his heart. Surely this exemplifies that women should be submissive and accepting of male attention? Later facing verbal and physical abuse, the relationship between the two prevails, despite all the odds.
Similar to Kabir Singh, Naukar Vahuti Da also portrays a diminishing view of women, however at a different angle. Women in this movie are portrayed as monstrous rather than submissive as demonstrated in Kabir Singh. The movie narrates the life of Shvinder who is played by Binnu Dhillon. Also focussing on relationships, the movie centralises on a marriage which is broken up by the female, giving her undertones of being inconsiderate.
Other female characters; played by Upasana Singh portray the circumstances of a female who chooses to not marry at a young age. Often referred to negatively, the female is seen as 'useless' and hence has the strong motive of getting married. Although the film unfolds through a comedic lens, the dialogue between the male and female characters and overall portrayal of women indicates (as similar to Kabir Singh), that women are limited in their voice and life choices, with their priority being marriage and children. Mission Mangal which assumedly celebrates the role of women in India also forwards the same notions. Is Bollywood simply prone to portraying women in a limited way? Is this just an inevitable outcome of the way society is structured in India? Whatever the answer is, it definitely deserves focus and investigation as the power of movies is unquestionable and should be utilised with more awareness.