Bollywood has come a long way. From portraying women in the roles of mothers, wives and daughters, to giving them more concrete roles like working mothers, wives and daughters. Her career aspirations are often shown as counterproductive to her traditional role as a doting wife (cue Aitraaz), and are merely a tokenistic approach to showing an independent woman onscreen. The depth of a female character and its development stops as soon as she is portrayed as a man’s love interest. From there on, her only goal is to either appease the man, give into his stalker behaviour, fall in love with him or best, just marry him. What else are we women good at anyway? Of course, there are certain movies that have broken these gender barriers and have had some exceptional storylines and performances. But these are very few.
Here we bring you a list of movies that are cult-classics but at the same time glorify sexism and misogyny.
1. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994)
Women are good for one thing and one thing only- getting married. For a movie that goes on for more than 3 hours, you would expect that all the characters are equally explored. But no. Only men can work while women have to be shy and help in the kitchen. And if one wife dies, no worries. Her younger sister will come raise your child, because who cares what she wants. Aurat ko sabse zyaada khushi maa banke hi milti hain na. Sacrifice is everything. But at least Mohnish Bahl agrees to disagree.
2. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)
We have all grown up watching DDLJ with our hearts in our hands. As women, we adored the romantic (read- creepy) character of Raj and hoped to be a Simran one day. And boy, did we become Simran one day. As adult women, we were met by scores of Rajs everywhere who would stalk us from our college or put their head on our lap without our consent. What a dream come true!
3. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
Kuch kuch hota hai Anjali, tum nahi samjhogi. That’s right, hum nahi samjhenge because women are only supposed to dress pretty and sing some prayer. Who cares if they have a degree from Oxford? Also, this trope of “a tomboyish girl transforming into a beautiful princess so that the man falling for her can be justified” is so real life, and not at all objectification of women.
4. Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999)
It’s bad enough that our generation is veering away from arranged marriages, but now we women are protesting our cooking duties? Shame. I think it’s time we were forced to watch Hum Saath Saath Hain so we can learn some family values. Kyuki only that house where women cook for everyone and men go to work is a happy house.
5. Tere Naam (2003)
What is the best way to woo a girl who has constantly neglected your advances? Stalk her? No. Kidnap her, physically abuse her and threaten her with rape. Because that is exactly how Radhe wooed Nirjara. And what’s better is that she apologized to him for kidnapping her and then fell in love with him. Some matches are truly made in heaven, especially non-consensual ones.
6. Dabangg (2010)
Police brutality is real. But if it is used to force a girl into marrying a policeman, it is romantic. Forcing and blackmailing a woman’s father into getting his daughter married to him worked wonders for Chulbul Pandey. What an inspiration for young men and women of India from the Bhai of Bollywood.
On a rather serious note, we have been watching Bollywood movies since we were kids, and they have largely influenced our ideas of masculinity, love, consent, role of a woman, marriage and many such important social topics. As women, we internalized the false synonimity of persistence (stalking really) with the eventuality and inevitability of falling in love. It was a compliment when a boy from school or college would keep calling or following us around just to get our attention. And as men, they had to live up to ridiculous standards of masculinity where violence was shown inherent to their nature, taking no from a girl was not an option and crying meant they weren’t ‘man enough’. But as we all grew up, we realized how messed up Bollywood’s idea of men and women in Indian society is. We learned from reading books and observing independent and fierce people around us that there isn’t a set of characteristics than can define all men or all women. And we saw through the facade of gender roles that Bollywood had predefined for us. Kudos to our generation for coming this far and breaking heteronormative gender barriers!