We have discussed the state of romanticized stalking in Hindi cinema time and again. It is one of those pillars that holds the genre of romance pretty strongly in Bollywood.
For a country that considers movies to be its go-to entertainment option, we take whatever that's shown in them quite seriously. For decades, Bollywood has been glorifying stalker cum aashiqs who relentlessly pursue their 'love-interest' in ways that might seem 'cute' but are downright creepy!
However, it seems like Bollywood has turned a deaf ear towards all the criticism that stalking-for-love receives in today's day and age.
The latest example that glorifies this creepy practice, which very much exists in the real world, is the song 'Hans Mat Pagli' from the Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar-starrer, Toilet- Ek Prem Katha.
You should watch the song before reading further:
It was back in the 90s that we saw a huge growth in this trend.
From SRK's scary avatar in Darr to Sanjay Dutt and Govinda resorting to 'humorously' stalking women in Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Bollywood has had a major role to play in normalizing this practice.
Fortunately, this trend was dying a silent death before a full-fledged stalker movie called Raanjhanaa hit theatres. Sadly, people once again mistook Dhanush's creepy behavior as janam-janam ka pyaar.
What Toilet- Ek Prem Katha's song does is take the creepy-lover a notch higher.
Here Akshay Kumar is not only seen following Bhumi, but he also secretly clicks pictures of her.
We understand that this movie is based on the story of a newly-wed couple, where the wife is hit with a mess after she discovers that her in-laws' house doesn't have a toilet.
Even though the plot is a direct rip-off of Vidya Balan's 'Jahan Soch Wahan Shauchalaya' campaign for Swachh Bharat, it does look like a promising film that can spread the message more effectively, given the popularity of cinema and Akshay Kumar all over the country.
Unfortunately, this popularity might just take an ugly turn when this song reaches the roots of India.
It will once again validate the practice of stalking for love in areas that are devoid of all the 'intellectually-righteous' social media debates that you and I engage in everyday.
In the film's defense, they probably picturized the song like this because it reflects reality. And you know what? It does, which is precisely where the fault lies.
With a medium as powerful as cinema, the film makers can do wonders to change the mindset of people who get their information from cinema and TV. With smartphones reaching far and wide in our country, more and more people are taking up social media, but again, there's a long way to go.
In Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Alia Bhatt strongly shuts off Varun Dhawan after she finds him stalking her everywhere. But you know how Hindi cinema functions, right? The girl does give up at some point and ends up happily ever after with her ex-stalker-current-lover-boyfriend.
Hans Mat Pagli takes stalking to another level altogether. Remember how Hrithik did the same in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai and we found it cute? We don't live in the same problematic world anymore and it's high time Bollywood understands that.
The biggest disappointed is that Akshay Kumar, an actor who jumps at every opportunity to speak against the wrongs in our society, suddenly seems okay with playing a character that stalks and creepily takes photos.
His character might pay for this in the film, but right now we can't say because what we see in the song is highly problematic and needs to be called out.
As a woman who has faced similar instances of men secretly taking pictures, hiding in crowded spaces, this is something that we are just not okay with.
Last month, a video of a man shamelessly filming a woman while she was traveling in the metro went viral. The question of security and safety again boomeranged in our faces, this time in a new avatar.
Akshay Kumar might shun all this by saying that he was just doing his job. But all I have to say is that your job will require you to do things that you might not believe in, but it's up to you to say yes or no.
And here, Mr. Kumar you clearly said 'yes' which leaves us disappointed and questioning your choices, however much disguised they might be in a film that is made with the objective of bringing a positive change.