First things first – I will openly admit that I haven’t seen any of your movies on the big screen. Not everyone likes every film genre – and I’ll frankly admit that you can’t impress everyone.
That is not to say that I haven’t seen any of your movies. After all, I am a product of my society – a society that is, and continues to be, influenced by the movies made by the Indian movie industry – and by extension, the movies made by your family. Maybe that is why it took me as long as it did to pen this letter. But, the recent comment you made during the launching of the trailer of “Judwaa 2” was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, here I am.
I am a typical 90s kid (much like you), whose idea of ‘love’ stems from movies like “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” and “Hum Aapke Hai Kaun”. Urmila Matondkar and Madhuri Dixit were, and continue to be, an inspiration for me. So, it is only fair that when I remember comedy and romance, I remember your father’s movies – movies that displayed physical assault, sexual and emotional harassment for comedic and romantic purposes.
It took years of understanding and awareness to grow up and realise these things for what they are. While they weren’t the only movies that used these acts as means to ‘showcase’ romance between characters, they were, without a doubt, the most influential ones, considering their success and loyal fan base even today.
It is this legacy that continues to influence the youth to this day. Boys in smaller towns look up to you – and your movies like “Badrinath ki Dulhaniya”, “Main Tera Hero” and “Dishoom” have a deep impact on their psyche. They even stalk, harass and are condescending towards the girls that they like – only to get angry when their actions garner dislikes instead of interest.
Once a teenage acquaintance told me privately: “Pata hai movies mein jab hero car lekar peeche padta hai and tang karta hai to bada romantic lagta hai. But when it happens in real life, toh seriously, haalat kharaab ho jaati hai (You know, in the movies, it seems pretty romantic when the hero starts chasing the heroine in his car and keeps on nagging her. But when such an incident happens in real life, the situation gets really grave).”
As it turns out, that day, a bunch of boys coming from a tuition class decided to follow the rickshaw on which a girl (from the same class) was travelling, all the way to her home – just because one of the boys in that group liked her!
I have seen the original “Judwa” – and honestly, as far as films go, it is a cringe-inducing two hours, 15 minutes of my life that I won’t be revisiting. It is not just offensive – it’s also outright absurd. So when you release the sequel of the film, the trailer of which has scenes like the hero forcibly kissing a girl and harassing his romantic lead and her co-passenger in a flight – it is a new low not just for Bollywood, but for our country as well.
It is just sad that in today’s day and age, I have to spell out how harmful this depiction is, when the viewing audience consists of mostly teenagers and children. What makes it even more worse is your statement: “My film is for twins, families and children specially. I remember going for movies with my maasis and cousins. I would buy a samosa and a beverage and watched the film which helped me make the best memories with my family. I want the children to make the same memories today. I want to make films for which a mom can take her children and watch it with them.”
In a world where movies like “Neerja”, “Naam Shabana” and “Pink” (two of which spawned your co-star Taapsee Pannu) are already out there, your upcoming movie is a major setback.
Between the rape culture that is prevalent in Indian society and the long struggle women have to undertake in order to be taken seriously by her peers (ask Kangana Ranaut), which mother would want to take her kids to see such a movie?
Why is it so hard to be a part of movies that treat genders equally? Is it that difficult to turn over a new page and try to step away from male chauvinistic roles?
Your father is a talented director and so is your brother. You are one of the major Bollywood actors of this country. If there are people who can use their influence and power to instigate change in the way female characters and concepts like love are portrayed – surely, you are one of them.
I understand that as long as their is an audience for such films, there will be film-makers who will continue to make such movies. But, like Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Your position comes with a power which may be far more subtle than Spiderman’s – and is equally, if not more, dangerous and purposeful.
It is easy to not respond to this letter. It is equally easy to dismiss it – as your colleagues and seniors tend to do, when they are addressed in an open letter. After all, I am just a common face in a crowd that consists of the people who, together, make up the second-most populous country in the world.
But, not every easy path is the correct one. However, that, like your movie choices, is your call to make.
A girl can only hope that you become aware of the long-lasting impact left by the movies you choose to dedicate your time to. It is never too late to be self-aware or learn from your mistakes. After all, behind every change was that first person who stood for it.