Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
Many have grown up in Bollywood in India, dancing to its tunes and rooting for its romances. Beyond its superficial influences, Bollywood being so entrenched in culture has influenced how many men think and view themselves. Modern Bollywood’s male protagonists are often drawn based on stretched-out tropes and ideas. Bollywood has come up with the ingredients for the “perfect” man. Here is the recipe:
What is a Bollywood hero if not one that has the perfect body? A six-pack, bulging biceps, and a variety of muscles I couldn’t even begin to name have become the main-stay for your mainstream Bollywood hero. Has Bollywood given body image issues to a generation of Indian men with its lack of representation of any body type (not counting the comedic relief sidekick)? Maybe but here watch this new Salman Khan movie.
Bollywood heroes are stoic, they do not express their emotions to anyone at all unless the plot calls for a heart-to-heart with the romantic interest. In an Indian society where men are already told to ‘be a man’ and not delve into their emotions, seeing the emotionally unavailable hero’s on the silver screen to idolize is exactly what they need.
You are a Bollywood hero, you meet your love interest. Arijit Singh plays in the background and you ask them for their number. They say no. You have two options, accept them to be individuals who can make choices and walk on, or go into a 10-minute song sequence trying to convince them to change their decision. I wonder what is always chosen by the Bollywood scriptwriter?
Bollywood has done everything in its power to normalize stalking. From catchy song sequences showing Akshay Kumar stalking and clicking pictures of a visibly uncomfortable heroine to entire movie plots based around stalking a love interest. India sees an incredibly high number of stalking cases, with one reported every 55 minutes in 2018 and these are just the ones that were reported.
“6 Dinn, Ladki In (girl will be mine in 6 days)”, one of many dialogues sprinkled across Bollywood just casually throwing misogyny in the faces of its viewers. After all, how can one be a Bollywood hero without objectifying women?
Take all your ingredients, combine them in a bowl, and chuck them out the window. Men should realize that they don’t need to live by what society dictates them to be and masculinity means more than the toxic traits that society forces men to abide by.
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