When Baghban released in 2003, my parents made sure I watched it. And I remember crying so much and hating all their kids from the film. And I totally cried when Amitabh and Hema Malini talk over the phone. Now, that I have had to move back into my hometown for a month due to COVID, I found them making me watch the movie again. This time they are way closer to their retirements, which makes me happy for them but also very very uncomfortable.
And that is also why I am writing this. Upon watching it again, after 17-18 years, I realised that the film was purely guilt trip designed by parents to manipulate their children. And that's not even the worse problem with the film.
1. The movie conveniently blames everything on the daughter-in-law.
When Hema Malini goes to stay with her son's family, she practically blames everything on her daughter-in-law. The movie plays in a way that reinforces the stereotypical trope of the evil daughter-in-law who has brainwashed the son. Your son is not a child. He can make his own decisions.
The film had a problem with working women and it kept throwing that in your face, over and over again. It's a tired old trope that portrays working, independent women as incapable of being a good mother or a human being for that matter.
2. You can't expect your children to just uproot their whole lives, their families, jobs and kids and lead their lives the way you want.
There's one argument my father often uses when I don't listen to him or don't do something he wants. It goes along the lines of 'I fed and clothed you'. Uh-huh, dad, you gave birth to me. Making sure I didn't die of starvation was kind of a packaged deal!
Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini's characters didn't just want to stay with their children, they also wanted them to change their lives to accommodate them. WTF! They work 15 hours a day, probably also on the weekends. Cut them some slack.
3. All the kids are shown to be evil just because they have other priorities in their lives- like jobs, paying rent, kids etc.
After contributing to the global population by producing 4 kids, played by actors, all of whom have or will appear on Big Boss at some point, Bachchan realises that the kids were only after his jaydaad and only wanted to be around them during festivals.
Firstly, what jaydaad, bro? Bachchan didn't save up anything during his whole professional career. He was broke AF after retirement. Secondly, of course, they only want to hang out during festivals. It's called having a life, which his kids did have, with families and jobs in cities across the country. Sab chhod chhad ke seva mein thodi lag jaaenge.
4. The film also indulges in a fair bit of victim-blaming in cases of sexual harassment.
Hema Malini follows her granddaughter into a pub on Valentines' Day where she was supposed to meet her boyfriend. But the boyfriend tries something that she isn't comfortable with and Malini makes the save. The way this scene is produced, it blames the woman for this assault on her.
What the filmmakers were trying to tell you was that if you are a woman and you go to parties and/or have boyfriends, you 'asked' for it.
5. In one of the scenes Hema Malini's character tries to teach her son how to control his wife and daughter. Because internalised patriarchy kahan jaaega?
When her son, Aman, tells her that the times have changed and he can't control another human being, Hema Malini tells him that the times will always be the same for women. 10/10, a dude wrote this part.
6. Salman Khan's Alok was a classic suck up. If Indian parents could design a kid, it would be Alok. He is truly OP when it comes to sanskars. Except he's played by Salman Khan, so even as a kid, you were like Ya Naah, F off.
This man is so sanskari, when he calls his parents, he doesn't say 'Hello', he says, 'Twameva mata cha pita twameva, Twameva bandhuscha sakha twameva' and follows it up with ‘charan sparsh'. Salman also keeps a photo of his parents at a mini temple in his house and worships it every day.
7. When his parents visit him, his sanskari sense gets dialled to 11 and he sleeps at their feet all night. FYI, you can love and care and adore your parents without doing any of this extra crap.
Look, you can love your parents however you want, I am not one to judge. But the movie's idea of an ideal child is one that sleeps at their parents' feet. That's messed up. You don't need to do that or any of that out-of-curriculum stuff Salman does in this film to prove that you love your parents.
8. The movie also draws parallels between the daughters-in-law of their four biological kids and Alok's wife, just to show you what women must do to be 'desirable wives'.
She literally worshipped a couple of people she's never met before in her life. It's a bit much when the film had spent an hour telling everyone that working women don't pay attention to their families and therefore, suck.
9. The movie also preaches that there's only one way to love your parents and that is by living in accordance with their wishes all your life no matter what. Nothing else is satisfactory.
Look, just because you choose to have a life separate from your parents or live in a way they don't entirely approve, doesn't mean you don't love or respect them. Of course you do. They are your parents.
10. The whole movie is an obnoxious guilt trip.
Indian parents have always used emotions to keep their children with them, sometimes their entire lives. A lot of us have grown up living that experience, whether we like it or not. But it should be your choice. If you want to live with your parents, that's your call to make. Nobody should be making you feel guilty for putting your own life and ambitions above all else.
So the next time, your parents make you watch Baghban, don't.