When I started this blog I thought that I would not write about Bollywood in it, but here I am….
One simply can’t avoid Bollywood! It’s like trying to avoid reporting on the weather for the newspapers. If you’re a writer/reporter then you will have to do it, even though you may dislike it and mostly disagree with the weather in your part of the world and wish that it would change! Just like the weather Bollywood is all pervasive. It cannot be ignored and it affects everybody’s life. And if you live in Mumbai then it’s mostly bad (like most of the Bollywood films.)
Bollywood is everywhere and it seems to have infiltrated almost all aspects of our lives whether we like it or not. And living in Mumbai it is next to impossible getting away from its influence.
And if your love life is in dumps then you may have Bollywood to blame. Let me explain.
But first, I’d like to establish that when it comes to films and popular culture, gender (or its misrepresentation) is one of my pet subjects to ponder over and write upon,. Men are supposed to have a six pack and women are supposed to be skinny and fair. A woman should wait patiently for the man to come and ‘get her’ while she has no life without him. The so-called leading ladies lead only in the looks and fashion department. When it comes to leading the narrative, it is the hero’s prerogative.
It warrants my mention here that not all Bollywood films have the female actors as mere accessories. Some do have them at the center of their stories and their plots. That is a minuscule number though, and this post isn’t about those films.
It’s about typical Bollywood commercial mainstream films such as ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, which I saw recently.
And this film is just an example of the fact that no matter how self-centered, promiscuous, irresponsible the hero is he will most definitely get the girl in the end. This in fact seems to be the very basis of all Bollywood romances.
The less a guy cares, the higher are his chances of winning his lady love’s heart.
Because Bollywood loves to feed us the myth that a ‘good girl’ loves ‘bad’ (read emotionally unavailable) guys.
And whenever Bollywood does this, nice guys all over get this message – if I want the girl then I will have to act like I don’t care, in other words be a selfish jerk, ride or drive recklessly, smoke drink and flirt with every girl and call it my “Yoga” (like Ranbir Kapoor’s character does in this film) and then the girl I want will definitely fall for me! This isn’t necessarily true. Women are smart enough to know what they want. And therefore a ‘nice guy’ being a selfish asshole almost always fires back.
Coming back to the film, it has no story but is basically about a boy from Delhi who is an embodiment of wanderlust (and the other kind of lust). The thing he wanted the most, no wait, the second thing he wanted the most was to travel all over the world as opposed to settling down with one woman or in one job, in his early 20’s. Fair enough. No barely-out-of-teenage boy or girl from urban India today thinks – “College over! Now I’m ready to make the biggest commitment of my life to another person and settle down!”
He pretty much behaves in the same way eight years later as well, presumably in his late 20’s by now! Why else would he be singing – “Aiyashi ke one way se khud ko modna jaane na.” And, no points for guessing this – he still gets the girl from eight long years ago, in the end!
This girl on the other hand is an embodiment of the ‘good Indian girl’ who studies hard, becomes a doctor, has no boyfriend and looks like a supermodel nerd (read sanskari). She claims that she didn’t wait for the boy for eight years, yet there’s no mention of a man in her life, and nor is she shown having even an iota of love or sex life during all of the eight long years! Did I mention that the girl looks like Deepika Padukone? That’s because she is Deepika Padukone, known in the film as Naina. Some kind of a weird intellectual allusion to her wearing reading glasses perhaps?
When the hero tells Naina that he doesn’t want to eat “daal-chawal” with just one woman for the remaining fifty years of his life he means that he doesn’t want to have sex with just one woman for the remaining fifty years of his life, because in India “daal -chawal” (a very basic household dish) is the most commonly used euphemism for married sex life. Needless to say that it is insulting for daal- chaawal, because it is delicious!
And I give no points for honesty here, because it’s highly presumptuous on his part. He is assuming that a) – the woman wants to marry him. b) that she would like to have ‘daal-chawal’ with him for the rest of HER life!
But of course she does because she is the virginal seedhi-saadi (simple), padhaku (studious) type who has never had a boyfriend in her life! And the only crazy adventure she has ever been on is with our hero. So while her love-interest is shown roaming the world, actively sowing his seeds everywhere, she is just content to live her life between her family and her clinic. I am happy about the fact that Bollywood heroines nowadays have careers and Naina is an accomplished doctor (or so it seems) but why is it that we’re never shown this?
Obviously the Director of the film believes that showing a smart woman in her workplace and in her element will make her less appealing and attractive to the male audience. Which brings me to another flaw of our popular culture – the ‘male gaze.’
The leading lady of the film is a doctor but instead of a lab coat we see her in designer sarees with barely there blouses. The makers would claim that this is what the audience wants to see (and by ‘audience’ they mean the menfolk).
But then why don’t they reflect upon what the female audience wants to see. Maybe they need some pointers from one of them.
It’s really not that difficult. Women want to see a man who cares. Not just about himself, but for another person, his parents, an animal, a tree, global-warming or anything. Just anything under the sun that makes him seem like less of a selfish jerk! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he needs to be Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. He is most welcome to have an edge, a thirst for adventure, a dangerous side to him. It’s exciting. But Bunny fails to turn up for his father’s funeral! I mean for God’s sake!
Yes that’s what the grown-ass hero of YJHD is called – Bunny. Now, I don’t know about a twelve year old girl, but as a woman I would be thoroughly embarrassed to introduce my love-interest to anyone as ‘Bunny’. He’s a grown man so please give him a decent name.
YJHD is a coming-of-age film and the plot line, especially of the first half seems eerily similar to multiple Hollywood movies. Since the last century Hollywood has been making movies on clueless young brats who get out of high school or college and are ready to explore the world (read – get into a whole lot of trouble). Of course they get screwed in the process, but they also learn a great deal. (And that’s why these films are called coming of age films).
Since it’s a well-accepted trend in Hindi films I’m not going to critique YJHD for re-cycling Hollywood junk and then presenting it to the audience with the tried and trusted Bollywood formula of a lavish wedding and some heart-wrenching family drama.
Instead I wish to ask this question – Why does an educated accomplished and independent woman like Naina settles for a guy like Bunny? Or why is it that in most Bollywood movies the guy who cares the least ends up with the caring girl? What is wrong with Bollywood? Is it some kind of a twisted fantasy of the filmmakers? Just asking.
The list of men in films who are the quintessential bad boys is endless.
But why do smart women in films choose these men?
Admittedly some women have the ‘I’ll fix him’ or ‘I’ll change him’ syndrome. But Naina isn’t supposed to be such a woman. She’s a Doctor for crying out loud! Then is it fair to put her in the same category as women who think that a man will change for them? If he didn’t change for five hundred women before you then do you really think that he will change for you?
Smart women do not fall for the emotionally unavailable man and then wait for him to turn into their prince charming. They move on with their lives. Except on New Year’s Eve Naina sits at home in her pyjamas watching TV! Weak characterisation of female characters is easily, one the biggest flaws of Bollywood movies. Just by making her loose her glasses and giving her barely there saree blouses you don’t make her a strong and empowered female character, you make her a sex object! But talking about the male gaze in films would require me to write a thesis, not just a blog post.
Bunny may be her antithesis, fun to her boring, madness to her sanity and adventure to her routine, but not necessarily a partner for life.
Because opposites attract, but opposites don’t last.
Yes, Bunny is charming and interesting but it takes a whole lot more to have a solid relationship. I wonder how many young girls who saw this film thought that just like Bunny the boy they are in love with will also change one day, drop everything and come to them. I’m guessing quite a few. That’s the reach and influence of Bollywood, which it shrugs all the time to continue making mindless and even damaging films in the name of entertainment. But Bollywood forgets that with great power comes great responsibility.
It’s not just men; people don’t change overnight. Nor do they suddenly change their whole lifestyles and give up on their dreams just like that. They do it for a solid reason. Not after spending 5 drunken days and nights at a wedding with someone. Realistically, it takes a while for most people to make that shift. I’m not saying that wild men and women don’t fall in love here, but how long does it last for them? How long before they itch for the next adventure, next adrenaline rush or the next challenge to conquer? And what would a wild man do if his wife wants to sit on the couch watching TV on New Year’s eve?
I’m guessing that if Director Ayaan Mukherjee were to make a sequel he would call it ‘Yeh Jawani Thi Deewani’ and have a heavily pregnant Naina sitting on the couch at home waiting for Bunny who would still be running after attractive women, only this time around he would find it a little hard to run due to his equally pregnant beer belly.
And that you may say is a cynical approach. And perhaps a pessimistic way to look at a romantic film. But I would prefer to stay grounded instead of losing myself to the false hope that Bollywood creates with its romantic films. Yes, I too have had my fair share of attracting the ‘bad boys’ but I’ve never been the kind of woman to fall for one and then wonder where he is on a cold winter night (which I prefer spending curled up in bed reading a book and sipping on hot chocolate by the way. Cliched? Yes it is!).