It’s as though George Sand rips the words from Mr. Bollywood’s mouth when he says, ‘There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved’. And isn’t that the case?
Love, romance, and music have been the cornerstone of Bollywood movies from its very inception. A girl and a boy who fall in love at first sight, a stern father, pressure & persuasion from all corners to separate, and inevitably conquering everything for love to become the ultimate winner. This is the plot of several, if not all, Hindi romantic films. There’s usually a romantic undertone in our films. They are essentially fairytales with happy endings that send the spectator on an emotional roller coaster. While growing up, the majority of Indian children watched endless hours of these romantic movies and dreamt for such a love. These films gave us warm fuzzies and made our hearts skip a beat. From “Uden Jab Jab Zulfen Teri” to the movie Shershaah’s latest song, “Raataan Lambiyan” we continue to be captivated by the idea of love from every viewpoint. In short, Bollywood’s roots are firmly rooted in romance. Thus, it is paradoxical that in India, where people throng to the theatres to watch love stories, love marriages are nonetheless frowned upon and remains to be a polemical topic. Even referring to romance is still a no-no in the country. An arranged marriage is the norm in India as it is generally successful and the “only” route for most Indians to have the “successful life” they desire.
So then why do the majority of Bollywood films fall under the romantic genre?
The answer is rather simple. Filmmakers create movies that the audience wants. Bollywood does not reflect Indian society, but rather its unspoken desires. For most individuals, watching movies provides an escape from reality. We go to movies for unbridled romance in all of its grandeur. People appreciate witnessing romantic love on-screen since it is still a subject of taboo that is rarely visible. Unsure of whether we will ever find the love we desire, we seek shelter in love stories. Filmmakers are less interested in film and more interested in creating something that would the let audiences live in a soap bubble for a few moments. Romantic tales pervade every element of Indian culture from history to mythology. Bajirao-Mastani, Heer-Ranjha, Mirza-Sahiban and Salim-Anarkali are just a few of the fabled tales of undying love from our history that have shaped our cinematic culture. Lord Krishna’s adventures alone are a goldmine of ideas for amorous escapades. His unwavering love for Radha, as well as his exploits with the Gopis, serves as a perfect recipe for romance. The narrative of Shiva and Parvati is one of a kind, with romantic overtones. The tale of Ram and Sita, their calm, compassionate, and devoted love which is still respected and is inspirational today. Such love stories galore and are widely dispersed. Even Indian festivities such as Karva Chauth are centred on love.
It’s no secret that love stories have demonstrated to be the most beneficial for Bollywood in regards of box office returns. All industries want to stay afloat for as long as possible whilst generating the maximum with minimum effort. There’s an abundance of sentimentality in Bollywood since it’s a well-established pattern that ensures audience even if the effort is subpar. Indian viewers have a penchant for romanticising everything. Bearing this in mind, producers, writers and directors always use the same formula. As a consequence of poor rate of success of other genres such as Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, etc., filmmakers are unwilling to make these movies. Also these films require enormous budgets. Other genres require a lot of preparation, extensive background research, collaboration with specialists in many disciplines, and verification and validation of the correctness of the information portrayed in the movie. A love narrative, on the other hand, does not require much effort. Given our nation’s lack of knowledge, serious cinema in India lacks an intelligent audience. Most viewers will snooze through such films, therefore they are not made in the first place. Another issue is that Indian “stars” have a tendency to write themselves all over the screenplay, and if the celebrity is a romantic hero, romance should be inserted sooner or later into the script to satisfy his ravenous audience buying the tickets. The truth is that Bollywood isn’t really enamored with romances. It’s the audience that is infatuated with desperate romantic movies on the big screen.
Our notions about what a perfect relationship should appear like is influenced by Hindi cinema. But, all too often, we fail to see that this concept of love has a slew of issues attached to it. It’s past time for us to acknowledge that Bollywood is a poor instructor when it comes to romance, love, and chemistry. It is imperative that we identify the wrongdoings in the Bollywood romantic films and have the foresight to see that if these acts are performed in the actual world, it is far from acceptable. Stalking, emotional blackmail, toxic masculinity, unrealistic expectations, manipulation, coercion of consent, etc. are but a few problematic behaviours frequently depicted in Indian films. These movies frequently represent women negatively, reinforcing retrograde gender norms.
In the famous film ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,’ the protagonist Raj promises Simran that he’d never take advantage of her since she is a “Hindustani ladki” (Indian girl).What does this imply inferentially? That a woman from a nation other than India is not deserving of respect. Some may contend that with a little common sense, no one would ever entertain such notions. However, the reality is rather contrary, since many individuals, particularly from the rural population, are frequently swayed by ideals of modernity from the films and shows, often internalising behaviours they are unaware of. In ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ the villain says that “Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.” In the so called modern 21st century rather than sexualizing male-female friendships, we ought to normalise them. Because, sure, girls and boys may simply be friends without any strings attached. When it comes to unrealistic endings, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is at the top of the list. The groom tells the bride at the wedding altar that she should marry her best friend since he is the real love of her life. Sundar, a roadside stalker in the film Raanjhanaa, is given the rare status of being a devoted admirer despite the heroine’s obvious discomfort. It’s terrible to see in ‘Ishaqzaade’ that the hero is a philanderer, gun-wielding thug who tells the protagonist he loves her and then sleeps with her, which in reality is statutory rape. In ‘Kaabil’ the protagonist Supriya commits suicide as after getting raped the thought of her husband’s wounded pride becomes unbearable for her. Songs like Beyonce Sharma Jayegi with lyrics like “Ho tujhe dekh ke goriya, Beyonce sharma jaayegi (Seeing you O fair woman, even Beyonce would feel embarrassed),”often puts to light the racial undercurrent in Bollywood, which is still enamoured with fair and white complexion. In what world does a man smacks his partner forcefully and viciously in the name of love? Well, ‘Kabir Singh,’ a film that glorifies toxic masculinity, provides the best explanation. We also had Chulbul Pandey before this. Things like the lack of diversity, stalking, abuse, manipulation, gender stereotypes, etc. conveyed by these films must be combated.
“Love can transcend through Time and Space” so continue watching what you enjoy for there is nothing wrong in making love castles in the air. Watching movies is not an issue as long as no one is hurt. Bollywood is currently producing socially progressive material, which must be sustained in the long term. The viewer’s consuming habits and attention spans have evolved throughout time. Every genre has an audience nowadays. Despite the fact that Bollywood has evolved significantly throughout the years. There is still much work to be done. However, to summarise, there is a potent love triangle that exists between Bollywood, Indians, and romance which is here to stay.
– Uttara Jantwal
Picture Credits: treadtopic.com