Last Friday (16th October) saw the release of ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2’ (PKP-2), sequel to the 2011 film ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’ (PKP). PKP-2. Much like its predecessor, it is premised on the singular theme of women-bashing. It is scary how the film tries to sell misogyny and going by its successful box-office collections, it can be inferred that it has successfully done so.
The trailer begins by equating a relationship to chutiyapa (bullshit), even while showing dream sequences of three couples on holiday on a yacht. In the yacht, everyone seems to be having a good time. Yet, later, as the trailer suggests, the men feel trapped in relationships as they have to put up with too much chutiyapa.
The movie hasn’t failed to include stereotypes as far as women are concerned. Be it associating the colour pink with women, or reinforcing the belief that women can’t drive, they have done it all. One of the girls is shown to be thrusting her nail paint into her boyfriend’s face while he is driving. She is also shown to demand his password from him, which he discloses grudgingly. Another girl believes that engineers look like ‘mausa ji‘. The third girl wants her family to know her boyfriend and thus, asks him to help around her house. He does it all, from grocery shopping to decorating the house, but not without cribbing about it in front of his friends.
What I find problematic about the movie is not that it shows all its leading ladies in a negative light, but the fact it has shown them as uni-layered, shallow characters with nought intelligence. Ironically, these ‘cunning and manipulative’ women are also shown to be unbelievably dumb – they can’t drive, can’t think beyond clothes and make-up and definitely cannot be engineers! The men, on the other hand, are shown as golden-hearted, naïve people, who despite being ‘smart’, are driven to do ‘stupid’ things for the sake of the women they ‘love’.
It is indeed amusing that in an extremely patriarchal country like India, where the sex ratio is skewed and violence against women is on the rise each day, the so-called modern educated masses don’t hesitate to laugh at sexism. The mobility of women is severely restricted in India and it is for this reason that they have been historically denied opportunities to be out on their own, without the presence of a male guardian. In spite of this, a few women dare to break boundaries and learn to drive, only to be labelled as ‘bad drivers’ or ‘reasons behind road accidents’. Many families do not allow women to own mobile phones, lest they ‘go bad’. Many men coerce their girlfriends and wives to disclose their passwords with the sole aim of keeping a tab on their movements. The film happily ignores these realities.
Women are discouraged from taking up engineering as a career, not only by their families who pressurise them to get married, but also by the industry, as female mechanical or civil engineering students are compelled to take up software jobs because certain companies don’t consider them ‘fit’ for jobs which involve construction of bridges, roads and machines. Living in such a society should automatically make any reasonable human being sensitive to the daily struggles of women. But clearly, the makers of PKP-2 believe otherwise.
One of the male protagonists is shown doing household chores at his girlfriend’’s house and finds it frustrating. Thousands of women in India are made to exactly the same things and sometimes, even much worse, as they move out of their parents’ homes to live with their husbands’ families post marriage. Neither Bollywood nor its audience finds bahus living and slogging away in sasurals offensive or demeaning. Yet, a man helping around at his girlfriend’s place is downright unacceptable.
In an era when a few Bollywood movies, like ‘Queen’ or ‘Highway’ have tried to show women as individuals in their own capacity without typecasting them as mothers, daughters and wives, it is extremely unfortunate that PKP-2 takes a leap backwards. Making fun of romantic relationships would have been in much better taste had the characters been realistic and the perspective free from gender bias.