Bollywood has a reputation for producing cheesy, romantic movies—and frankly we enjoyed these as kids. It is as we grew up, our mind challenged these unrealistic cliche love stories. But even then, these stayed with a lot of us. For example, many brides in our country prefer and go for a Bollywood themed wedding which means extravagant wedding decors, dresses, and stuff. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing so, as a bride can have her dream day anyway she wants. But these are not the only things Bollywood presents in front of us. In our country, we actually grew up watching Bollywood movies, and our children will probably do the same. So, it’s important for us to challenge these unrealistic and insulting notions. Some of the upsetting and unsettling aspects of the Bollywood love stories are stated below.
Unrealistic and cliche storylines
Bollywood movies generally revolve around love stories. Though this precedence is changing slowly, it’s still there. In most of these storylines, the male protagonist chasing behind the female lead despite her initial lack of interest, is omnipresent— which often includes persuading the girl even though she said NO in the first place. This sends a message to the viewers that “No”, when uttered by a woman, means an indirect “Yes”, because in the end, the male protagonist always gets the girl. He persuades the girl by behaving like a complete loafer, pestering her to give him a chance, passing lewd comments on her, and so on. Apparently, the girl starts liking these derogatory behaviours and ends up with the guy despite being abused mentally. Then comes the end where the male lead always has to fight someone who’s double the size and strength of him, and comes with a good backup. But the protagonist fights them and always wins.
The next problem is about the female protagonist, aka the heroine, who has to be beautiful in the conventional, stereotyped sense. She’s always of long height, slim stature, and fair skin, setting up a disturbing image for an ideal woman. Even in competitions like Miss India—a platform from where a lot of actresses enter bollywood—the height requirement is 5’5″. Bollywood has a great influence in India, along with neighbouring countries like ours. Therefore, various companies producing skincare products like Glow and Lovely (formerly Fair and Lovely), weight loss pills and supplements, height increasing products etc. make their way to the top of the charts. Seemingly in Bollywood, beauty always means slim figure, fair skin, and long height—implying that these are the only acceptable features in a woman. Women with different features are always given supporting roles of best friends, sisters or cousins who are cranky and jealous of the female lead’s beauty.
Clothing and makeup; true beauty lies in appearance
According to Bollywood logic, the female protagonist’s clothing sends out more or less the same message about their behaviour and personalities in every film. For example, the heroines wearing desi clothing are often calm and composed whereas the ones wearing western clothing are cranky and immature. Also, the girls who don’t prefer makeup and go for a simple look are always discouraged. They are persuaded into believing that they are only beautiful with makeup and nice clothes. And it actually happens. The minute she applies makeup and wears a girly outfit, she becomes attractive. The same boys who wouldn’t even look at her before, can’t take their eyes off her. And of course, the protagonist goes crazy for her and then commences the usual bollywood chase.
The characters of villains written in Bollywood are often absurd. For example, strong women who are not afraid to voice their opinions are often casted as villains. Then, parents. Parents who want their daughter to marry with a well-settled boy instead of a loafer, become the villains. Then again, the boy who respectfully asks the girl to marry him and promises to provide her with a stable life, suddenly becomes the villain. Not to mention that the girl actually prefers a life of instability and insult over a life of stability and respect. She often breaks up the wedding in front of hundreds of people and leaves with the protagonist—the same girl who couldn’t think of breaking the wedding yesterday, considering her parents’ humiliation.
There’s always a hypersensitive character who is the female protagonist’s best friend. She has nothing better to do apart from sorting her best friend’s love life. She either hates or likes the protagonist, but in the end, she always roots for the violent, abusive protagonist. The best friend is often shown as an immature, cranky person who’s always defending her friend as if she herself couldn’t do it.
It’s not like Bollywood doesn’t make good movies. But they are very few in number. The mainstream movies support toxic masculinity, insane beauty standards, and cliche storylines—all of which leave negative effect on the general mass who follow these.
Movies are supposed to be a source of entertainment, they are supposed to make us feel good. But if they influence us to start questioning and feeling insecure about ourselves, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose? What I mean to say is, choose your source of entertainment wisely. Enough with these banal storylines that focus only on outer beauty adorned with unrealistic standards and toxic behaviour. Bollywood is gradually coming up with good contents, but those are underrated. They get buried under the mainstream Bollywood movies that defy all kinds of logic. Appreciate the movies with good content which challenge the social stigmas and norms and make them the mainstream Bollywood movies, instead of these love stories with overused plots and disturbing messages.
Faija considers herself to be a sleeping freak who likes to write when she’s awake.