Some people might think that gender inequality has stopped in Bollywood, but the truth is it is just sugar-coated well nowadays. A study conducted by a team of people observed 4000 Bollywood films and found out that the story of a series or movie usually revolves around the male character. Sometimes even in feminists stories, there is a knight in shining armour present.
In Bollywood, there is more mention of the hero, and the hero owns the story, but when it comes to selling the story, the heroine is given the front stage. Don’t know what this means? In movies or series, a hero is the main character 80% of the time, but when it comes to an “item song,” a female is asked to do it to get more viewers, and the women usually own the poster in the film. Women are expected to show their skin and dancing skills to get more viewers for the film; for, e.g. Stree was supposed to promote the idea of feminism. The lead character was Rajkumar Rao, and it had an unrelated item song adjusted in the film. In contrast, bulbul, a much more intense but same concept movie, was truly a Bollywood feminist masterpiece. The lead throughout the movie was a woman, and the suspense gives you chills.
In Bollywood, there is a big pay gap but what is even bigger is ageism, where middle-aged male actors are given the role of a lover or a boyfriend whereas middle-aged women are struggling to even get a role as a mother. The item songs are also very degrading as it shows that women are just a piece of body and it also leads to body image issues for young girls.
Here are the top five most problematic movies in Bollywood, in my opinion:
Cocktail (2012): The storyline portrays both the female leads as extremely opposite, one is tagged with the image of a party girl while the other is shown as a homely sanskari girl. The friendship is tested when the boyfriend of Veronica – the party girl leaves her for Meera- the sanskari girl, where Meera doesn’t even get a say and the only reason he falls in love with Meera is because his mother grows fond of her due to her homely nature, and Veronica is left all alone and broken and then comes in terms with the situation, eventually. How can people not see how stupid and absurd is this storyline?
Sultan (2016): The lead hero – Salmaan Khan is a wrestler who flirts around and falls in love with a Female Wrestler. Later on, they get married and start achieving and accomplishing their goals together. Salmaan Khan aka Sultan couldn’t handle the fame and becomes arrogant while his wife gives up her childhood dream just because she is pregnant, don’t get me wrong for some women being pregnant and motherhood can be a goal in itself but showing it on the big screen in a society where the women is by default conditioned to give up her dreams and ambitions as soon as she becomes a mother sends a pretty ignorant message.
Raanjhanaa (2013): In this movie we can see a puppy love growing into a stalker love. The guy keeps on trying to impress the girl even when the girl has clearly told him she is not in love with him. The film has tried showing stalking and giving no personal space as a form of love, which is very problematic – giving men the idea that if you continuously stalk a woman, it is cute and you love her.
Ae Dil hai mushkil (2016): This movie has the most problematic storyline. A guy who cannot stay in the friend zone and keeps wanting a deeper connection with the female lead. Ranbir Kapoor – The male lead is shown as an annoying needy man-baby, and they have tried to glorify this image of the character so much that it makes it really hard to watch. He is portrayed as a broken heart lover but all I was able to see was an immature and thickheaded boy.
Pyaar ka Punchnama/ Sonu Ki tittu ki Sweety (2011, 2015, 2018): This movie and its sequels got popular so quickly, it really makes you think about how low people in India think of other women. Women’s emotions are ridiculed, and they are shown as very controlling and demanding, and even dumb. Laughing about it is just not right.
Kabir Singh (2019): Okay, I just needed to add this as a bonus to the list because nothing angered me as much as watching Kabir Singh did, and what deeply disappointed me was that it was a super hit film with people loving the storyline and everything about it, even females. I was so confused that how can they not feel the rage seeing Preeti being so submissive and how I had to break it down to so many people that it is downright offensive.
Anyway, Bollywood has also taken a few steps towards a better storyline, and here are some underrated feminist movies that you should watch if you haven’t already:
Thappad – A story about a woman who is a homemaker and how she is expected to forgive and ignore her husband’s misbehavior, but she fights for herself respect and gracefully breaks the patriarchy.
Guilty: This will leave you with a lot of mixed feelings. It aired in 2020 on Netflix India and is a true masterpiece; the suspense is astounding, and this perfectly sums up how Indian society reacts to rape allegations.
Bulbul: Another Netflix movie that will make you captivate your attention. It depicts a story from the older times and is a perfect watch if you enjoy thriller movies.
Parched: This movie depicts the struggles and challenges women in rural areas face and how they overcome them together. The ending is truly heartwarming and can make you cry.