It was a conscious decision to not write my blog for a few weeks from the time I posted the last one. I didn’t want it to look like one ‘off’ thing I plan to do now and then eventually forget. But thank you to those who were curious if I am even going to write one! (If those of you exist…)
I have been thinking about Bollywood movies a lot lately. I want to confess that I have only watched Bollywood movies growing up. I was never a person who watched Hollywood movies (apart from a few ones) or even listened to English music! Let me put it this way, Bollywood was always my first choice when it came to movies or the kind of music I enjoy. This has now changed in the last few years!
As a kid, I crushed on Shahrukh Khan and then all the usual Bollywood actors that one can think of. My idea of perfect love was also inspired by the Bollywood movies; Larger than life visuals and unreal expectations, were always my idea of love. As a teenager, I thought that the real ‘END GAME’ of my life was to find that one perfect man who I will spend the rest of my life with. When I try to remember those days, I also remember that any kind of conversation about higher education or career with your family, would result in this one line “What are you going to achieve by studying so much? At the end, you have to get married!” Or “There is no need to be so career oriented as once you get married, you are not going to be working!”. I am beyond ridiculed by these statements when I think about it.
I understand that any form of art, whether it be films or painting etc, has to be liberating. I also realize that when talking about movies, they are major representation of the society they are made in. Meaning, only the Bollywood movies that talk about love, or family values, or any kind of unrealistic topic would be successful. There would be comparatively fewer main stream movies talking about real world problems that would have been successful in India. Today when I am more aware of the person I am and the person I want to continue being, I regret that my interpretation of love was limited to what Bollywood movies portrayed. I am definitely making efforts to unlearn a lot of what I was taught in this context but it isn’t easy.
I am sure that you and thousands of others would agree that Bollywood movies have always shown love to be ‘exclusive’. You only see the most ‘cliche’ things, like a woman waiting to find this perfect man or a girl falling in love with this rich dude. Some movies are even more ridiculous where a woman is objectified. I understand humour but the list of Bollywood movies where woman has been objectified for humour is disgusting. I want to accept that I have only started to think from this perspective after wasting my life on Bollywood movies and I am glad that at least now I see that Indian cinema has mostly been portrayed by misogynist writers or about promoting stereotypes associated with age, sex, religion and the list is countless.
How many of you remember seeing movies , Where a fat man or woman is body shamed? Where a middle aged man or woman is teased because of their age? Where a man and woman’s roles and responsibilities are defined? Where a disabled person is made fun of or seen as being a burden? Where a married’s woman’s only job is to keep unity amongst the husband’s family or else she is considered to be not well-raised? The more I think, the more I see how the Bollywood movies have restricted us in the way we perceive relations or things around us. I can actually think of movies corresponding to each of the stereotypes that I am trying to break around the South-Asian communities.
Until recently, I don’t even remember seeing any movies where there were two girls that were portrayed as ‘Best Friends’ or even were in an intimate relationship. I could name numerous movies where one woman is shown bitching about the other or there are so called ‘cat fights’ amongst two girls but when it comes to stories about friendship or love, it is always the stereotypical, two boys sharing such a magical bond of friendship or a true love story between a man and a woman. If the form of art that impacts the lives of millions of people doesn’t address the real population it is made up of, what is that art even worth! If we don’t talk about what a real life looks like through our movies, we are being responsible for raising a generation that is stigmatized when they apparently don’t see themselves fall within those ‘stereotypical’ categories. In my opinion, we have already raised a generation that is stigmatized about various things, for example about being gay or about wanting to be child free.
To add fuel to these thoughts of mine, I happened to see the trailer of a new Bollywood movie that has such ‘unreal ridiculous’ representation about the college life in India. The reality stands that most Indians are not able to afford a college and even if they afford, are definitely not able to buy the luxuries of driving a Ferrari to college. But there are Directors and story tellers who want to make such movies and we as viewers, start to dream a life that is unrealistic. Even though I see that there has been some recent shift in the making of the Bollywood movies, when I see that in 2019 our Cinema shows only stereotypical, I feel sad & hopeless!
With all this being said, I want to consciously make efforts to be aware of my own biases that were instilled in me by watching such Bollywood movies for majority of my life. I want to break the stereotypes of telling stories in our movies so that the Indian societies are move accepting and inclusive! It is such a big platform that can help elevate various stereotypes around gender, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion etc.
May be one day, when I am 60, I may break the stereotype around age and make a Bollywood movie that is inclusive in every way!