Sunday Debate: Is Bollywood leaving its stereotypes behind?

Has Bollywood abandoned the clichés that its worked with for decades? Or do they still surface in one form or another? A fan and filmmaker fight it out
Even though Bollywood now has films with female protagonists like Pagglait (right), movies with toxic masculinity like Radhe (left) are still being made
Even though Bollywood now has films with female protagonists like Pagglait (right), movies with toxic masculinity like Radhe (left) are still being made
Published on Nov 13, 2021 09:20 PM IST
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ByUrvee Modwel, Ribhu Dasgupta Urvee Modwel, Ribhu Dasgupta

“Stereotypes in pop culture impact beliefs and attitudes”

By Urvee Modwel

According to Urvee, films like Darr, Anniyan, Kabir Singh, Raanjhanaa and Tere Naam normalised sexual harassment, stalking and assault, equating them to ‘love
According to Urvee, films like Darr, Anniyan, Kabir Singh, Raanjhanaa and Tere Naam normalised sexual harassment, stalking and assault, equating them to ‘love

Whether it’s gender stereotypes, caste stereotypes, or casual racism and sexism, chances are that your favourite movies have them all.

Films like Darr, Anniyan, Kabir Singh, Raanjhanaa and Tere Naam normalised sexual harassment, stalking and assault, equating them to ‘love’. In a country where there are too many reports of sexual crimes, this needs to change.

Even in 2021, women are barely more than decorative objects. Let’s not forget the biases that exist towards men as well: kindness, vulnerability, crying are all seen as inherently feminine.

How can you tell if that bearded terrorist (or Nawab, because there are only two roles for Muslims in cinema) is Muslim if they don’t wear kajal (Padmaavat)? What about the south Indian in a lungi who says ‘aiyyo’ at the end of every sentence (Chennai Express), the Goan lady who mixes her genders when speaking Hindi (Finding Fanny/Happy New Year), the friend who exists purely for fat-shaming jokes (Kal Ho Na Ho), the older woman shamed for having desires (Lipstick Under My Burkha)?

Stereotypes (and sexism) in pop culture impact not only public opinion, but beliefs and attitudes, which leads to normalisation.

Several movies have been made with the aim to break these stereotypes, but are they enough to fight mainstream cinema’s biases?

Urvee Modwel, 32, is a member of Team HT Brunch

“New-age writing, female writers and directors...Bollywood is changing”

By Ribhu Dasgupta

According to Ribhu, today, the stories in Bollywood are meaningful and well-rounded, which helps the audience to progress in their thoughts
According to Ribhu, today, the stories in Bollywood are meaningful and well-rounded, which helps the audience to progress in their thoughts

For decades, Bollywood, which has dominated the Indian cinema scene, has been the hub of stereotypes. But since the 2000s, it has been changing. Dil Chahta Hai (2001) didn’t focus on the ‘hero and heroine’ theme but on friendship. Munna Bhai MBBS (2003) introduced comedy into romance in a non-cringe way. Then came great productions like Barfi (2012), English Vinglish (2012), Queen (2014) and Piku (2015).

In the last 20 years, there has been new-age writing, writers championing women characters, an increase in female directors, writers and actors leading content in their name. Today, the stories in Bollywood—not just indie movies—are meaningful and well-rounded. This helps the audience to progress in their thoughts, inspires younger audiences to think differently, and gives people the confidence to voice their opinion when content is regressive.

We have a place for all kinds of content. Varied films co-exist. Look at Rang De Basanti (2006), Black Friday (2007), Dev.D (2009) and Udta Punjab (2016)—these wouldn’t have been made in the 1990s.

The content we see in films is the result of a two-way process: Filmmakers choosing to try different content, audiences asking for new content and not accepting mediocrity. The younger audiences, primarily, is asking pertinent questions due to exposure to global content.

Ribhu Dasgupta, 35, most recently remade The Girl on The Train in Hindi

From HT Brunch, November 14, 2021

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021