It is no news that Indian cinema likes its female characters to be submissive, subservient, frail and obedient.However, with time changing a number of film-makers have challenged this notion and set the bar higher with strong female leads such as undercover Raw agent Sehmat of Raazi, Bhansali’s Padmavati — a fierce queen and the abominable ‘stree’ among others.
‘Kabir Singh’ is a remake of the movie ‘Arjun Reddy’ and is being remade in Tamil as Adithya Varma. Arjun Reddy was partially inspired by Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s life as a physiotherapy student and it took him two years to complete the script. The movie was released worldwide and received an ‘A’ certification from India’s Central Board of Film Certification. The movie was appreciated and given a positive response.
Mr Vanga’s ‘Kabir Singh’ earns over Rs 200-crore, so the question that arises again and again is: Why does Bollywood come up with such toxic and unrealistic content? In the film, Shahid Kapoor’s character is a hyper-masculine, misogynistic, skirt chaser and a high functioning alcoholic who doesn’t know how to cope with his emotions.
‘Kabir Singh’ impelled mixed reactions out of masses.While some people really liked it, others were down right disappointed. The Times of India rated the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, saying,”While ‘Kabir Singh’ is a welcome change from stereotypical love stories, this kind of love affair needs some getting used to” while Bombay Weekly rated the film with four out of five stars and finds it “visually compelling” having “haunting performances” and “nuanced writing”.
A protest took place against the ‘normalisation of gender-based violence and glorification of toxic depiction of love’ outside a New Delhi cinema hall on 10 July 2019. A group of friends gathered together after they saw the movie and discussed how the movie affected them. The guys found the movie disturbing and the females felt uncomfortable just by watching it. “The fact that the girl Preeti would take everything from this hyper-masculine man and wouldn’t even show a single trace of resistance really bothered me.” said one of the protesters.
“When stated that it’s just a Bollywood movie and we shouldn’t really try to put logic into it he said that movies do have some affect on the people and it is the responsibility of the audience and the film industry to show content that does not promote such behaviour. They tried talking about it in their private spaces but they didn’t get the kind of reaction they were expecting. They weren’t even ready to talk about it,” said Niyati, one of the pioneers of the protest.
“They feel guilty” is what one of the protesters added. “We just want to start a conversation, we want the people to know that it is not okay to claim women as your property. It is not okay to sexually harass your partner. And it is most definitely not okay to beat your partner. This is not what love is. This is not the kind of love we want to teach our children. We are not asking them to put a ban on the movie, we are not asking for a censorship all we want is to let people know that it is your responsibility to not promote such content.” added Niyati.
But there were some people who agreed with Vanga. Half of the audience wasn’t even talking about the toxicity of the relationship just the fact that they were building a physical relationship in the name of love. One of them even said that the female herself invited Kabir to her house, so her decision to revoke her consent wasn’t valid. Some believed that this is the harsh reality of our society and a deep rooted problem in our culture which cannot be changed.
Some believe that females must support each other to speak up otherwise they will stay oppressed for a very long time. “The problem lies in our society and culture that wants to fit the ‘fragile’ bodies of the females into tight corsets of ancient creed. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for all the social and cultural injustices India has to face today. We try to keep everything under wraps and that hampers the overall development and growth of a person. Nobody is even ready to strike a conversation about such issues. What we can do is educate people and make them so intellectually strong that they do not believe the lies such movies present to us,” said another activist participating in the protest.