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Dear Bollywood, We Are Sick Of You Turning Women Into Rehabs For Men

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Imtiaz Ali dropped Jab We Met in 2007 and Geet gave most preteen and teenage girls new personality goals. Geet was an aggressively bubbly girl who coloured the grey, purposeless life of Aditya with her cheerfulness and constant chatter.

In 2015, through Tamasha, we met Tara, and Geet has something in common with her. Just like Geet, Tara gives purpose to Ved’s life and helps him realise his dream. On similar lines, in 2013, Yeh Jawani Hai Dewani,  Naina’s glow-up acted as a wakeup call for Kabir, the khanabadosh, to become responsible in life.

The characters of these women are only few of the numerous others that reflect Bollywood’s obsession with women whose world revolves around the male protagonist and these women don’t have a personal life without the man.

The portrayal of these characters is the result of the unrealistic stereotypes attached to women, referred to as the desi Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG), that  Bollywood has been perpetrating for ages to cater to the male gaze.

Nathan Rabin, a film critic, has defined this girl as, “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.

The comment was made in the context of Hollywood but it holds equally true for Bollywood. The desi Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the epitome of perfection. She’s a dream, not only for men but also for women.

Geet in Jab We Met
Imtiaz Ali dropped Jab We Met in 2007 and Geet gave most preteen and teenage girls new personality goals. Photo: Social Pakora

Why Are Women Responsible For Men?

For ages, the responsibility of mending the reckless and negligent behaviour of men has been put on women. Is the son doing drugs? Is he a spendthrift? Does he refuse to work? Is he depressed?

For these numerous problems, Bollywood has one solution — arrange his marriage with a sanskaari woman because the wife will magically fix everything ‘wrong’ with him just like Naina fixed Kabir’s selfishness, Geet fixed Aditya’s sadness, and Tara fixed Ved’s cognitive dissonance. 

The idea that each woman has an inherent ability to change the men around her for the better has set impossible standards for men and women alike. Cinema has massively contributed towards reinforcing this sexist thought through this trope of ‘the giver woman’.

Such film plots diminish the personality of the female characters by reducing them to mere props in the self-journey of the hero. They rarely follow their own dreams and are always there to “inspire” their male counterparts by either exaggerated optimism or an inhuman level of patience, or both of these.

The idea that each woman has an inherent ability to change the men around her for better has set impossible standards for men and women alike. Photo: Indian Express

‘The bad boy who gets saved from his demons by the quirky girl’ is an all-time Bollywood-favourite storyline. This portrayal enables a false sense of self-importance in men which bites them hard in the real world.

Not only does such a portrayal absolve men of responsibility for their actions, but also shifts the onus of their behaviour on women in their life.

The deeply sexist assumption that women are natural care takers and healers makes it convenient for the society to shift blame of failing relationships on women. Inspired by the MPDG, not just men, women also grow up with the fancy of being givers and ‘that girl who changes his life’.

To each their own, but the problem with this thought is that it seeks for change through outside impetus. Real change comes from acceptance and receptiveness. Nobody can save anyone, and that’s what Bollywood can’t seem to get right even with their shallow women characters.

I will not even dignify Luv Ranjan and Kartik Aryan’s sexist, misogynistic garbage like Pyaar ka Punchnama by citing their example but beside that, there is a problem of ‘human’ portrayal of women in Bollywood. While cinema is a representation of the values of our society, our values are also heavily influenced by what we see on the screen.

It might seem like news to Imtiaz Ali and the rest of men in Bollywood but women have struggles beyond makeup and shopping. Their purpose of existence is more than giving wake up calls to men.

For a change, have the hero realise he needs a life revamp through self-realisation instead of a woman telling him. We’d like to see some female characters with depth and qualities and flaws. 

Movies like Piku, Lipstick under my Burkha and Masaan, amidst numerous others, are examples of a sincere attempt at narrating stories that do not revolve around the salvation of the male protagonist brought about by a flawless dream girl.

The trope of Manic Pixie Dream Girl only exists in movies. She’s too perfect, she’s not real. Mood swings, bad days, migraines, frustration, insecurities, anger and other unrepresented emotions are real not only for men but also for women.

It is high time women are represented for who they are and not for who men want them to be. 

The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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