Normalization of Abuse as depicted in Hindi Cinema
Updated: Nov 8
3rd November 2020
India is one of the largest cinema hubs in the world. The Indian Film Industry is a culmination of many film hubs differentiated by regional languages, with the Hindi film industry or 'Bollywood' dominating the rest. Keeping the pandemic aside, Bollywood has been the world's 'largest' producer of movies since 2007. India was also the world's leading film market till 2018.
Apart from cinema halls, films are also made available to the audience on television. Nowadays, film and television content is available on the internet through the Over-the-top or OTT platforms. The market share of OTT platforms is growing rapidly and is expected to grow by 43 per cent by the end of 2023. A survey on the activities Indian households did in the lockdown due to coronavirus showed a massive spike of 48 per cent in the involvement of activities like watching movies and television shows online.
Mass communication is a dominant medium that helps expand knowledge, and Cinema has a vital role in increasing the speed of social development and change. The whole world identifies with Cinema, making it a universal medium.
Hence, Cinema has an enormous influence in India because of its reach and its impact on its audience.
Stalking is one of the crimes that is plaguing women in Indian society. Despite stringent laws in place, it is one of the heinous crimes that are still prevalent.
For a long time, Hindi Cinema has portrayed stalking and obsessive love in a romantic way. It has been normalised to such an extent that people forget that it is a crime. As per the Ministry of Law and Justice, Stalking is a crime in India.
However, from actors like Akshay Kumar to Shah Rukh Khan, almost everyone in the Hindi film industry has been a part of a film that portrays the same.
We have often come across movies showing this standard narrative of the lead actor attempting to 'woo' an uninterested actress. In his pursuit of courtship, the male protagonist often follows and pesters the actress, later painted in a 'romantic' light. This is often sensationalised with a romantic music number in the said film.
Instances of these behaviours can be seen in the critically acclaimed movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha in the song Has Mat PagliPyaar Ho Jaayega. In the song, Akshay Kumar's character not only pesters the uninterested Bhumi Pednekar, but he also goes to the extent of disguising himself as a tea seller and clicks pictures of the actress without her knowledge or consent.
A still from the song Has Mat PagliPyaar Ho Jaayega, where Akshay Kumar can be seen taking a picture of actress Bhumi Pednekar without her consent.(Source – T-series on YouTube)
Badri Ki Dulhania, R... Rajkumar, and Ranjhaana are a few other movies that glamourise such crimes. Stalking and Misogyny have become the masala element added in almost every Bollywood film for 'entertainment purposes' to ensure that it does well at the Box Office while also pleasing the audience.
Our society's gender equations make behaviours like Stalking and Eve-Teasing look normal. Unfortunately, Bollywood has a significant hand in the further normalisation of such crimes.
Apart from Stalking, Sexual Abuse – in some form or the other – is another narrative commonly portrayed in Hindi films. The portrayal of consensual sex is hardly shown in Hindi cinema. There has always been more emphasis on aggressive behaviours like molestation, abuse, and rape.
We live in a day and age where film content is readily available to people of all ages, and when people consume such violent content at young ages, it creates a negative mindset about the issue.
Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar — while attending a session organised by Amazon Prime Video and Screenwriters Association on 'Women Shaping the narrative in media and entertainment' — said that she had only seen physical abuse in Hindi films while she was growing up. "It was crazy because we were allowed to watch rape scenes, molestation, and assault, but we weren't allowed to see consensual sex," she added.
Films like Bulbul, NH10, and Pink show the reality of what women in this country face daily and educate the audience about what is right and what is wrong — but unfortunately — they portray very graphic content. This impacts the human psyche and, in turn, creates our perspectives on how we look at sex. Consensual sex is hardly shown in Bollywood, which is very problematic as it sends the wrong notion.
With the release of movies like Thappad, Bollywood is getting better at portraying crimes against women. However, unfortunately, the normalisation of stalking and abuse is still very much prevalent in Hindi films.
(Sources- Deccan Chronicle, The Wire)
Edited by- Hithesh Jain