We Indians love movies. Over time, films have become an indispensable part of our lives and culture. Bollywood to many, is a religion. We celebrate these movies and worship actors like gods and we continue to look up to these ‘superstars’ as role models and herein lies the problem.
Bollywood doesn’t care about its audience; plain and simple. In the wake of rise in horrific crimes against women in India, people have been asking Bollywood to introspect. Many of them called out to Akshay Kumar who demanded a safer environment for women on Twitter that he is also a part of the problem, which is partially true. He has been a part of multiple films that featured wildly misogynist and homophobic dialogues and actions.
These are not some old movies from the 1990s, these are his recent films which he did despite being aware of the changing sensibilities of political correctness. But, Akshay Kumar is just one of the many examples from this fraternity which has a longstanding history of disgustingly prejudiced behaviour towards women and other marginalised sections of the society.
Multiple bigwigs were called out for their predatory behaviour during the #MeToo movement, which resulted in some of them being shunned by their colleagues in the industry, but not for long. A prominent example of this being Anu Malik who went on to judge a popular reality show despite multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment.
Another example is that of Sajid Khan who was made to step down from a project last year after a major public outcry against him. This year, Riteish Deshmukh took to Twitter to wish this man warmly on his birthday, all past forgotten. Akshay Kumar also made it clear that he would work with Khan in the future if he is acquitted. This just goes on to show how little we can expect of Bollywood.
For decades, Bollywood has treated its women as a source of titillating the male gaze and it still continues to this day with the inclusion of item songs in every major film. There is no point in denying that this obviously has an impact on the attitudes of the men and women watching these films. Many of us would probably say that these kinds of films are being watched by the “uneducated or lower socio-economic” groups of people and that any well-respected, educated person would never be caught dead watching them.
This is a very classist outlook which is also not entirely true as these films rake in millions which would not be possible without an overwhelming response from all the sections of the audience. I have seen droves of college students entering movie theatres to watch films such as Housefull 4 and enjoying it!
Bollywood and its servile attitude towards the authorities is nothing new. For years, the Bollywood heavyweights have pandered to the people in power, politicians and otherwise. From campaigning for politicians to helping them whitewash their public image, these Bollywood stars have done it all. And it wouldn’t be wrong as they are of course entitled to have their own political opinions, but this does not seem to be the case. It appears that they simply keep up the sycophantic attitude towards whoever holds the most authority at the given point of time and which continues to change every few years.
We expect Bollywood stars to be our heroes. Our voices of dissent. Our moral leaders. We expect them to care enough about society. Maybe because some of us so closely associate them to the larger-than-life hero they play onscreen, or simply because we expect a higher degree of morality from our public figures, but this has always been a grim reality. These public figures have somehow always exhibited a rather loose ethical and moral compass, be it their films or public statements.
They seem to often ignore the fact that both their actions and words tend to have a much larger impact than others. Of course, it is unfair to expect perfectly moral behaviour from anyone, but one is not wrong to expect the minimal amount of morality from someone who is a part of the lives of a majority of the country’s population. Time and again, Bollywood stars, with the exception of only a handful, have proven to be unworthy of such kind of patronage. They do care more about expanding their fame, fortune and fan base. The sooner the audience realises this, the better it would be for everyone.
The people of this country need better idols and it is not the lack of such idols that is stopping people. It is the absence of a certain ‘glamourous’ aspect. In a country of more than a billion people, there is an incredibly large number of people who can prove to be the kind of heroes we need. It would also mean a lesser obligation for these film stars to pretend to care about people and freely pursue their monetary desires, which is not wrong, just quite unrighteous.
We are the ones responsible for placing our faiths in these heroes and not hold them completely accountable for something. We are equally guilty. These are certainly not the heroes we need, but the ones we deserve as a society.