2012 Jyoti Singh aka Nirbhaya case, 2019 Dr Priyanka Reddy case and there are numerous other rape cases out there which are not as publicized but happened somewhere and the culprit escaped anonymously.
Right after the Priyanka Reddy incident where she was brutally raped by four men and later burnt alive to die in the state of Telangana, a woman named Anu Dubey showed up near Parliament, holding a placard, she was also harassed by police officials for showing up to protest. A country which tolerates rape and harasses who protest against such brutality, it is time to reassess some of the aspects which are going wrong.
One of which is our very own Hindi cinema. Though in one hand, cinema has evolved to a great extent along with the audience, on the other hand, there are still some films and songs which are taking rape jokes with a pinch of salt.
The recent example of such is 2019 ‘Pati Patni Aur Woh’ starring Bhumi Pednekar, Karthik Aryan and Ananya Pandey. A marital rape joke in a 2019’s romantic comedy is extremely unsettling and disturbing. In a typical Aryan style monologue, he says“biwi se sex mange toh hum bhikhari, biwi ko sex na do toh hum atyachari, aur agar biwi se sex hasil karle na … toh balatkari bhi hum hain”.
This is not the first time Bollywood has seeped into a carefree rape joke. Another box office success 3 Idiots by Raju Hirani, starring Kareena Kapoor and Aamir Khan, has a dedicated monologue by one of the IIT student, Chatur in which an entire speech is very well received by the larger audience, but now when you look back, the speech was extremely misogynistic and problematic“… pichle battis saal se inhone nirantar iss college main balatkar pe balatkar kiye hain…” the two other students changed his speech from Chamatkar to Balatkar in order to prove a point that it’s important to understand the concept rather than memorize it. Though the film was made with a good intention to comment on our education system, the execution of the same trivializes several issues in the name of entertainment.
Not only is it a form of misogyny and minimizing of women’s issues or comments on severe crimes such as rape but molesting men has also been normalized in Bollywood. In 2017, Badri ki Dulhaniya has done something similar. In one of the scenes in Singapore’s street, some masquerade goons attack Badri played by Varun Dhawan and rob him, tear his clothes and touches him inappropriately to which, his friends including Vaidehi played by Alia Bhatt makes fun of him for being molested. With the new wave of awareness, a scene like that is extremely unsettling.
And that’s not all, films starring big names who are followed by millions of people, especially the youth, have also knowingly or unknowingly promoted misogyny and subtle sexism such as in Kal Ho Na Ho, one of the blockbusters where Shah Rukh Khan says a line “…6 din ladki in”. Another film with a big star cast is Kambakht Ishq starring Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor where Kumar suddenly breaks into a kiss with Kareena Kapoor when she was trying to make a point. A popular song from the ’90s starring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan says“…ye unka style hoenga, hothon pe na dil main ha hoenga” which completely do away with the concept of ‘no is no’. The Khan of Bollywood, Salman Khan comments after his film Sultan that he felt like a raped woman after practice.
All these personal remarks on rape, songs and movies, often have stars with a big name who generally has followers with outrageous numbers.
However, Bollywood is not the only reason behind this issue as the subject is much wider. But the fact remains cinema is the most popular medium when it comes to influencing people. And the responsibility lies with these big stars. The question is are they ever going to learn?