Stop enforcing feminism on Bollywood

It’s disappointing when Shah Rukh Khan shirks away from topic of a slightly better shelf-life, or even equal pay for Bollywood actresses. Not because of his many roles as a stalker, emotional blackmailer, misogynist have paved the way for his enlightened view on ageism. But because he is considered one of the more intelligent actors around. According to him, women work ‘5 times harder and gets paid ten times less,’ and the market forces determine the value of an actor.

And he’s not wrong.

This is the reason why Dangal wouldn’t have done well if Aamir Khan hadn’t played the tough patriarch. It’s the reason why Mary Kom, which is also about a successful female boxer didn’t do well. It’s also the reason why Sultan did do well. Then again, bhai ka picture always does well.

We do have the occasional Mardani, Queen, or Jai Gangajal. But they will never come close to the sycophantic 100-crore club, which remains dominated by the likes of Khan. Of the top 10 most commercially successful Hindi films, only one is without a Khan (Bajirao Mastani). And of the highest grossing 15 Indian films, only Bahubali and Rajnikant’s Kabali are Khan-less.

In a sense, SRK is right. Commercial cinema is entrenched in financial super-success. Seemingly, the people in the best position to change that are the Khans.

Aamir, with Dangal being his last release, is the one creating the most positive change. A film about two young girls who are sportwomen, and not romantic accessories, is something none of the Khans have done before. He may have played an authoritarian with little regard for his daughters’ wishes, but any father-daughter story from Haryana that doesn’t involve infanticide, forced marriage or honour killing is commendable.

SRK may publicly accept the sexism and ageism, but that’s all he’s willing to do. He may even go the extra mile to patronise feminists by saying women are better than men. But his films rarely demonstrate a basic respect for women. He might have done a Chak De! India, but that does not dissolve him of his criminal offences like Chennai Express and Happy New Year.

Speaking of criminals, Salman may have films with fiesty-looking women, until they fall in love with him and forget all previous personality traits. They dissolve into the quintessential Bollywood wife: attractive impregnable slaves. Salman, on the other hand, has risen even more ever since he stopped trying to put an effort into his roles.

As the actresses cast against them get younger and younger, they are in such a cemented position that they will never get rejected by the heroine. That responsibility falls solely upon Ranbir Kapoor. Age is not the only deterrant to women starring against the Khan. They will have no qualms starring against ‘pure’ newcomers. On the other hand, the industry will subtly (and overtly) slut-shame Sunny Leone. She can be an item number, but never the love interest of any of Bollywood’s most expensive men.

Bollywood’s leading women have predominantly shied away, or gone back and forth on being feminists. And it’s completely fair that they don’t call themselves the f-word. It’s because they aren’t feminists.

The only women who have openly addressed the wage-gap are Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kangna Ranaut. Yet, one is known for her whimsical behaviour, or her apparently horrifying choice of name for her own son. The other one is known for her terrible taste in men.

There have been moments of some female empowerment. Cleavage gapers have been shamed, a cricketer boyfriend of an actress spoke up against calling her a ‘distraction’, and there are some women without the ideal Bollywood-heroine body type defending their right to exist whilst not looking like a Barbie doll.

However, none of the actresses are ready to be openly feminist. They dance in heels while men wear flats. They wear skimpy clothes and dance in freezing temperatures with a fully clothed man. They are constantly nitpicked on for their natural facial features and bodies. And if they dare change something, they will be shamed for that. They work as much as the men do. Their financial success is short-lived: many of them will be out of work by the time they’ve reached their industry shelf-life – for everyone loves a movie about a man and a youngthinbeautifulperfect woman. In spite of this, if they still don’t firmly believe that they deserve equal pay, then they’re really not feminists.

So we should really stop asking every famous vagina-owner about feminism. Especially when they come from an industry created to satisfy the patriarchy through elaborate song-and-dance rituals. If we want an unbridled feminist moment from Bollywood, all we can do is wait for the occasional Queen. Or even a Sunny Leone interview.

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Everything you’ve heard about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is wrong

Movie critics are infuriating, and, for the most part, pointless. Sometimes they coddle the Bollywood industry that produces mediocre recycled films. And sometimes they criticize the same industry for not having enough variety, in spite of knowing that this system has a 95% reservation for privileged Punjabi school dropouts with famous parents.

But recently the most infuriating critiques have been of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.  For Karan Johar to make a film where the hero and heroine do not end up together is great personal growth, even though he decided to make the woman terminally ill for refusing to sleep with Ranbir Kapoor.

A common complain that critics had with this film was that the major characters do not, in the course of the film have any jobs or any sort of commitment. But surely you cannot expect a horny toddler such as Ranbir to work for a living? And his nanny, Anushka had to quit her job after she married Fawad Khan. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan had to nanny Ranbir after she left, which didn’t work out. You know how children are when you suddenly change their favourite nanny. Just because people don’t have clearly stated professions such as DJ, poet and artist, doesn’t mean they don’t work for a living.

Another very severe criticism of this film was how Ranbir constantly keeps getting rejected by Anushka, and somehow understands at the end that she only wants to be friends, even though she had been saying so the whole time. It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone having a problem with the same end in alternate realities while watching Inception.  (Yes, this is the Indian remake of Inception). At least Ranbir and Anushka don’t die at the end of every reality (well, almost).

It enraged some that Fawad Khan was part of this film. This protest, disguised as a nationalist agenda, was actually a secret attempt by Fawad Khan to unentangle himself from the giant Johar-hug that he had gotten into.

Not enough credit is being given to Ranbir Kapoor, the new SRK. He cried, behaved like a child, was the ideal spoilt hormonal MBA student. He went one step ahead and applied mehendi. He judged his girlfriend for cheating on him in the exact way he had tried to cheat on her a few nights ago and victimised himself. He even attempted to be sexist to his lover by commodifying her in front of her ex-husband. Albeit he was overshadowed by Mr. Khan himself, who did a much better job of glorifying perversion by speaking about obsessive behaviour in Urdu and making it sound like unrequited love. Ranbir even got physically abusive and wrecked the kitchen of a cancer patient in the end. Yet, he doesn’t have the command of Shah Rukh Khan. Star kids really are held up to an unrealistic standard.

This film is a milestone in Hindi cinema, which never got the respect it deserves. But if you haven’t watched Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, don’t worry; you have. Imagine you have made a variety of over-spiced but tasty dishes for dinner. Then imagine waking up the next morning, putting all those foods in a mixer.

‘The vomit that you produce after drinking that swill,

Is Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’

You should have taken up science, Kanhaiya Kumar

It’s been more than a month since the JNU debate. And the left/right, black/white, hot/cold, new/old, rational/national debate has no end in sight.

What was essentially a student rally was seen as a dangerous attack on the nation’s safety (because that’s what extremists do: hold rallies and express their opinions). Kanhaiya Kumar was presented as Satan himself as he was arrested, and Arnab Goswami shrieked awake every nationalistic conscience with back-up vocals by banshee Nupur Sharma.

This event was a revelation in many ways. It showed that the nation will not tolerate any comments on its intolerance; the nation does not want to know what the dissidents think.

 

But most importantly, the nation revealed that it is not going to forgive a humanities student for not taking up science.

 

A 28-year-old PhD student in African studies who happens to be male is incomprehensible to the mainstream middle class sentiment. And if he’s studying in an institute which solely produces MNC executives (or the occasional terrible writer), our precious tax rupees are not worth it. Yes, all three of the Indian citizens who pay taxes felt this way. Twenty-eight is not an odd age for a PhD student. In fact, there’s no odd age for a PhD student. But then if it’s not the kind of doctor whose financial prowess is inevitable, and whom you can pester about that strange growth on your side, it means nothing.

 

Several people were infuriated that a 28-year-old man is still studying when his family earns Rs.3000 a month. Yes, if a boy coming from such austere conditions and a moral obligation to become financially successful doesn’t fall into the rat race to a comfortable lifestyle that supports capitalism, it surely must be infuriating.

 

Kanhaiya was even compared to Sundar Pichai in a post, which systematically proved how a privileged NRI who works for the biggest big brother finds it easier to love India than a financially dependent free-thinker.

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Even so, the highlight of this discussion was when Modi awkwardly touched it, as if it were a world leader. Well-meaning patriots wanted to know why a PM who never takes holidays from travelling, and who has constantly worked to make our 70% agrarian nation an industrialist paradise could be criticized. It’s almost as if his bizarre pop culture references in the U.S.A, brushing aside Zuckerberg for a photo-op, and back-hugging Hollande were in vain. A 15-year-old girl challenged Kanhaiya to an open debate. This confused bhakts, who did not understand the concept of arguing without death threats.

 

The nationalism argument extended to the army as well. Under normal conditions, admission to the Indian Army is tough. But due to numerous requests by the public whose last contact with the army was the movie ‘Border’, they’re now considering letting Kanhaiya Kumar in. As requested, he’s going to “go to border n fyt, den tok”.

 

He was arrested, detained and attacked. But, like a true politician, he used it to advance his persona and make a powerful (albeit logical) speech. This made his opponents start a wonderful social media trend hashtag: #MeAt28, where they celebrated their privilege and conformity.

 

Some say that people like Kanhaiya Kumar shouldn’t be given the freedom to say that there’s no space for dissent. I truly believe that he should have taken up science. He would never have had the chance to develop an eloquent stream of thought if he was crumbling under college, coaching classes, job-chasing and other virtues of our education system. So if you have an opinion that bursts the happy privileged bubble of the taxpayers, be prepared to be told by the nation how you are a terrorist who is also a liability (much like babies). Because you didn’t pay for your place in the world. Your opinion has already been paid for.

Why an SRK-Kajol fan decided not to watch Dilwale

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Beyond all the heavy-breathing, suicidal, self-sacrificial and psychotic behaviours that Bollywood tries to pass off as romance, we had SRK and Kajol: lovers who actually looked like they have fun together (after the heavy-breathing-passion phase). She, with her unibrow and terrible fashion choices, and he, with a rather large nose, rag doll hair and worse fashion choices, created magic on screen in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. And again in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and My Name Is Khan. Kajol then went on to fulfill her gender’s destiny of getting married and having children; and Shah Rukh went on to do what his gender is aspires to do: younger women.

 

Their pairing was truly revered, which is why it was appalling that we, as a society, let their reunion be directed by Rohit Shetty. Especially considering the fact that his idea of humour is midgets in forests and South India in general. It’s like finding your lost dog and then letting Cruella De Vil babysit him.

 

Every piece of news about Dilwale became a topic of national concern. Like the song Gerua, which looks like Suraj Hua Maddham high on editing tools. Or the trailer, where you can find Rohit Shetty’s CV, Rohit Shetty’s car fetish, every shade of every colour on the spectrum being present in every scene at the same time, and Varun Dhawan dancing in front of European Union flags. Oh, and the presence of Kriti Sanon, because I’m sorry but you can’t just make movies without a hot woman under 30 and survive in mainstream Bollywood. Or the news about how Dilwale is up against Bajirao Mastani, a period drama exemplifying our fascination with our past, as long as it revolves around our historical figures’ sex lives.

 

The most striking comment was, perhaps, Varun Dhawan saying that Dilwale was like Inception. If by that he meant it would make viewers wonder whether there is actually an end to this film, he may have been right.

 

Even the reviews drew upon everyone’s love for entertainment and the lead actors as a reason to watch the film. These are the words that critics tend to use when they need to include one obligatory pseudo-positive comment about every Salman Khan film that comes out. Even Taran Adarsh seemed like he had been hit by a tranquiliser in his review, and Anupama Chopra’s critique was actually interesting to read.

 

Rohit Shetty took SRK and Kajol and treated them like any other random Bollywood couple. Instead of trying to use the magic they create on screen, he tried to put them into recycled scenes from Mission Impossible 2, How I Met Your Mother, Love Actually and DDLJ. Just because you like ice cream, Biryani, jalebi and pasta, it doesn’t mean you have to mix all of them together and force feed it to victims of mass hysteria.

 

All I wanted was to watch Shah Rukh and Kajol through the eyes of Karan Johar. Which is why, I decided against watching the film that would probably destroy the image of the couple who started the trend of road trips in Bollywood. And even though they were propagating Bharatiya sanskaar all the while, they still managed to look cool doing that.

 

P.S. On the other hand, maybe I should watch Dilwale. I still haven’t gotten over Kuljeet Singh and his homies beating up Raj at the station. Watching this movie might just help me feel better about it.

 

 

Tanu Weds Manu Returns – The worst rebound relationship ever

The last time Kangna was on screen, she inspired many girls to be dumped by their fiances and take off on an adventure.

In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, she’s in a double role where both her characters are strong women  (which merely means they were attributed characteristics other than bubbliness, vivaciousness and a dramatic switch to ‘decent’ clothes after falling in love with the hero).

But the movie drags on in a bizarre series of events, leaving you wondering when the original disastrous couple are finally getting back together. At least, you hope that he’ll end up with Tanu because Kusum is way out of his league. However, it’s not a complete waste of a film. You do get to see a sardar in shiny garba attire playing dandiya.

 

Kangna has been praised for her performance, and also for being the first female lead to carry a movie into the sycophantic hundred-crore film club. Not that she doesn’t deserve the laurels, but what I really want to talk about is R. Madhavan’s character, Manu. Being a doctor, a quintessential ‘good guy’, a resident of London, a doctor, a resident of London, a quiet well-behaved person and a doctor, he is accorded the kind of self-worth that was previously only reserved for beautiful virgin princesses.

In the dramatic series of events that follow, Manu goes on to demonstrate one of the worst rebound relationships in the history of mankind. He stalks a young college girl who looks like his wife, makes her stand up to fight with her conservative Haryanvi family so that she could marry him and then refuses to have any semblance of courage to speak up and tell her the marriage isn’t going to work when he feels it isn’t right. His wife, Tanu, though neurotic, shows the stubbornness and grit to get back her husband. On the other hand, the only thing Manu is stubborn about is his refusal to think before making the decision to marry.  And to be a nuisance to Raja Awasthi whenever he attempts to get married.

Tanu was a player and doing absolutely nothing in London instead of enjoying all the attention and freedom that she previously did in Kanpur. That’s not a sign of a very mature personality, and Manu would have realised that if he had bothered considering that before, but he was too busy being the creep who kisses an unconscious girl, and then wants to marry her (that seems to be his reaction to everything).

As I write this, I have realised that Manu Sharma is in fact, the quintessential Bollywood heroine. He has no personality, waits around to be rescued  and has no particular interests other than wanting to be married. Tanu and Kusum would do well to take a cue from Rani and go away on a trip far away from him—they would forget all about Sharma.

Online feminism is like a donation box

They’re the ones whose mundaneness we marvel at, and whose career decisions we jeer at. Celebrity culture has provided even the most insignificant of us the opportunity to assume roles moral superiority, and fashion critics. If it wasn’t for them, we would have only funny animal videos to fall back upon for small talk. 
It’s only logical that we ask them for their opinion on issues and have feelings of outrage or rapt admiration. This is precisely why we started asking every vagina owner who’s been on TV/movies about women’s rights and feminism. It’s like asking every car owner about the inner mechanisms of the vehicle. Or asking every bank account owner about the economy. But since feminism comes under humanities, opinions are much easier to fake.  
We love nothing more than when women pretend to be humans by declaring their love for food, requesting to be asked about their work rather than their booties and asking for as much pay as their glorious male peers. It even makes us care about currently-irrelevant women like Mallika Sherawat and her tiff with a reporter, and potentially irrelevant women like Radhika Apte. That’s internet feminism, I suppose.

Another exciting but inconsequential and futile attempt at understanding women’s rights was Homi Adjania’s ‘My choice’ video. As the old saying goes, put it in monochrome and it looks important enough for every man, woman, fish and reptile to discuss. The creators of democracy clearly didn’t foresee the internet and the diarrhoea of opinions that would give an outlet to.

Internet feminism is like an open donation box for crisis relief. It began with good intentions, and if you really dig deep into the box you will find some useful donations that will help the victims. Then there are misguided charitable offerings that were meant to help, but miss the point. But most of the donations will baffle you and make you marvel at the minds of those who thought these things belong to a donation box. At least there’s one field where men and women are truly equal: in being passionate about their vastly misguided opinions.

A recent social media campaign that I came across was published in an online article with the wonderful headline: ‘Social media campaign tries to make a point about feminism, fails spectacularly’ (http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/social-media-campaign-tries-to-make-a-point-about-feminism-fails-spectacularly–eJg8ZlBFoWZ). This came with the hashtag under which the campaign functioned, #BlameOneNotAll. This was also one of those campaigns where women hold up quotes that express how they feel so that men can see how non-intimidating their opinions are and so that they can shove the image into the face of anyone who says “I hope you’re not one of those feminist types…” This is excellent news for ‘meninist’ campaigns, who can now repost these images and claim to be in love with these women.
The campaign posters, some of them as artfully composed as the hashtag, included some gems like ‘My favorite professor and he doesn’t show any inappropriate gesture’, or ‘When my parents are not around, my uncle doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable’.
This is a rather unfair trend. In fact, it has just aggravated gender inequality. You never get to see pictures of men holding boards saying ‘I saw a woman today and she did not invoke me to harass her by dressing provocatively’. Or ‘I have a female colleague and she doesn’t voice her opinions in public.’

Where do bachelors live?

It’s fascinating how something as beloved as a male child turns into something so threatening to our society as an adult unmarried individual. More than having 24 hour electricity and water supply, a point of immense pride for the landlords is ‘no bachelors’. It seems to be a great achievement for landlords to have warded off the ominous presence of bachelors.
House rentals might be one of the few places where single women have it easier. Perhaps it’s because people think they may turn the house into a minor disaster area, having had no previous contact with chores, especially the ones related to the kitchen area. Perhaps it’s because they may turn the home into a drugs-alcohol-orgy sanctuary, because that’s what young people do. Besides, its much easier to judge and publicly shame the females. Maybe landlords are afraid bachelors may start a drug racket. Or worse, have a gay party. I mean, there are only that many gay parties the police can crash per night.
Being married seems to be the best quality that tenants can have. That makes sense, because proof of having gone through the several wedding ceremonies is a true mark of patience and tolerance. This is one of the reasons an organisation like ISIS cannot survive in India. All their members would give in to the Auntyji pressure group and get hitched.

Even though there are better ways to judge the character of a potential tenant (such as non-ironically retweeting Kamaal R Khan), we choose to pick bachelorhood as the guiding stone. But you can see how people may think bachelors are evil satanic beings. In fact, some of us only stopped judging Narendra Modi’s intentions after we found out about his secret wife. Him ignoring the existence of his wife made the common man identify with him more than any other politician.
It’s wonderful how our society has come up with a universal solution to all your problems: get married. Marriage may not solve anything, but at least you can pretend to laugh at the same husband-wife forwarded jokes like everyone else.