Bollywood is infamous for its misogynistic songs, testosterone-driven box office, glorious macho-men, shoddy portrayal of women, mandatory item numbers, and whatnot. Many claim that Bollywood promotes rape culture in India. But is Bollywood solely to be blamed for contributing to rape culture?
Bollywood songs ooze of misogyny. The song from the movie Darr (1993), ‘Tu haan kar ya naa kar, tu hai meri Kiran’ shows that a woman’s consent doesn’t matter. Bollywood has been normalizing stalking and eve-teasing by popularising the idea that a ‘no’ is a disguised ‘yes’. The song from the movie Josh (2000), ‘Ye uska style hoenga, hoton pe na dil mein ha hoenga’ is a perfect example of this widely held belief. These lines from the song ‘Ooh La la’ from the movie The Dirty Picture, ‘Chedenge hum tujhko, ladki tu hai badi bombard’ not only normalize stalking and eve-teasing, but also objectify women. Women are objectified in every other Bollywood song. Honey Singh’s Blue Eyes which has lines like, ‘I swear choti dress mein bomb lagdi menu’ or Brown Rang which says, ‘Ban mitran di whore, I mean mitran di ho’ hyper sexualize women and treat them as mere objects.
Bollywood’s male protagonists are the ideal role model of Indian men. They glorify violence and dominance. The majority of the movies have the same blueprint – brawny, muscular macho-men who are supposed to fight the villain and protect their love- interest. The primary roles of women are that of a wife, a daughter, a mother, a girlfriend, or a vamp. Women are portrayed either as distressed damsels who need to be saved by the hero or a seductress vamp who momentarily distracts the hero. The usual Bollywood trend is slowly changing with successful women-centric movies like Pink, Queen, Thappad, English Vinglish, Mardaani etc. But still big-budget men-centric masala movies overpower these in the box office.
An integral part of all Bollywood movies is an ‘item song’ which has no connection with the plot. A movie doesn’t become a blockbuster without an item number starring scantily clad actresses dancing in a room full of men to songs with obscene lyrics or double meaning. ‘Munni badnaam hui darling tere liye’, ‘Mere photo ko seene se yaar chipkaale saiyan fevicol se’, ‘Ayi Chikni Chameli, Chup Ke Akeli, Pauaa Chadha Ke Aayi’ are very popular among numerous other item songs.
Bollywood is to be blamed for spreading notions of objectifying women, glorifying men, not asking for consent, and so on. But isn’t a disclaimer issued at the beginning of any movie stating that ‘this is a work of fiction’? Aren’t we taught that we must imbibe the positive part of something and discard the negative part? Then why is it that the society blames Bollywood for instilling notions of rape and harassment in people? The movies or songs don’t force anyone to do what they portray, do they?
Had that been the case, then the country would have been crime-free. The epic Mahabharat teaches that in a war between dharma and adharma, dharma always wins. It also teaches that disrespecting a woman will have dreadful consequences. But crimes against women didn’t stop, did they? Instead, such crimes have become more frequent and heinous. The movie Dangal (2016) has a dialogue, ‘Mhari choriyan choron se kam hain ke?’ which portrays gender equality in all fields. Yet there are many fields where women do not receive equal opportunities as their male counterparts. My Name is Khan (2010) teaches us to judge a person based on his actions, not religion. But even today, a whole community is blamed for the actions of some of its members.
So, is Bollywood solely responsible for promoting rape culture in India? No. It is the mindset of the people of India which is equally contributing to this rape culture. It is upon us to decide whether we get inspired by these fictional misogynistic Bollywood characters and songs or choose the better path and imbibe the better parts of Bollywood.