We like our action heroes in Bollywood. We love them even more when they are in uniform. Be it Ajay Devgn's Singham, Akshay Kumar's Rowdy Rathore, Salman Khan's Chulbul Pandey or Ranveer Sigh's Simmba, we all love them.
After all, they have a lot in common. They have a panache for throwing superhuman punches with ridiculous ease, they deeply care about the society and somehow during the course of the film, always find themselves taking the law into their own hands to help people.
They are truly wonderful. They solve everything from international conspiracies to small-time murders.
And we love them for it, we thank them for their service and then go ahead and change our social media DPs in their honour.
And yet, none of us has ever had their stolen mobile phones found by the cops, or our wallets. Actually we don't even go to the cops for any of these things!
In fact, we spend our entire lives trying to avoid looking at a cop, let alone speaking to one. Going to the police station is also big NO.
Be real with me, guys, every time you see a cop walking towards you, don't you just hope he's just gonna ignore you, irrespective of a crime you may or may not have committed.
So why are we so drawn to an entirely imaginary version of something that actually exists but operates way below our expectations?
I mean, for an average Bollywood viewer, a cop isn’t just responsible for maintaining law and order, which, BTW, the movies will show him failing at, only to come back for revenge using violence, killing scores of people if he has to.
Sure, it's all cool to watch but at what cost? Indian cinema (yes, not just Hindi cinema) historically has glorified police brutality and continues to do so.
It's a simple formula. Show him having empathy for a character that the audience would like, do some nasty shit with that character, and then let the cop use violence to extract revenge as the public shuts their eyes.
It's not even a trick shot anymore, it's just a cheap shot. It's the simple catering to the fetishes of violence, encounters, torture etc.
Oh, and BTW, filmmakers will try and mask this violent streak with a greatly funny one-liner that will also appeal to the fragile male ego of the men in the audience. The line then can be heard being used by audience members in their real lives till kingdom come.
Police waale ko thokne ka anjaam pata hai kya hai? Ikkis saal jail aur thukkai alag se. Aur usi police waale ne agar tumhe thoka, toh promotion alag se aur bahaduri ka medal bhi.
- Chulbul Pandey
Now, imagine a police officer saying this to anyone in your presence. Remove the accent, remove Salman Khan's imagery. Just imagine a cop telling you that he can do anything with you and if you retaliate, you're not only going to jail but you are getting a serious beatdown as well, while he gets promoted for beating the life out of you.
Of course, movies are written in a way to justify all this. In Singham, Ajay Devgn's titular character brutally beats up people in the middle of the street, destroys public property, all in the name of some distorted form of justice.
In Ranveer Singh's Simmba, the lead character indulges in a fake encounter in the presence of not only his colleagues but the public he's supposed to protect.
That's extra-judicial killing. And in case you're wondering, that's is what allegedly happened to Jayaraj and Bennix earlier this week.
kids, men do you think saw these films, and then found the calling to go become cops?
Now that doesn't imply that cop films are what compel police brutality. But one has to hold them accountable for justifying it. They have to be held accountable for glorifying a system of oppression that provides men in uniform the autonomy over our lives, innocent or otherwise.
And it's not just these big movies with male leads either. Rani Mukherjee's Mardani too sees her character beat up people black and blue.
This shit is everywhere we watch. Our TV shows show cops going out of their way to beat people up. And it's not like all this started with a Dabbang. Our film industries have been at this for decades.
The movie Khakee saw a fake encounter. Amitabh Bachchan has played a violent policeman a million times before. Even regional cinema that Bollywood often heavily borrows from is cluttered with films about violent cops operating outside the law.
They have perpetuated this myth that because the system somehow favours the criminals, cops have to bend the law to seek justice and always with violence and they can never be questioned because we just always have faith in them.
...this country actively consumes cop propoganda and glorifies it. so when you see a man being beaten by a cop in real life you automatically assume that the cop is rightfully doing so. STOP normalising brutality.— dakshta (@chickenachaar) June 26, 2020
We've been so accustomed to police violence that we just assume it's natural. We see someone being beaten up by cops and our first instinct is to blame the victims. We saw videos of cops rushing inside Jamia and beat up students in their library and our first instinct was that the students must have done something wrong.
CCTV footage has emerged now showing police personnel attacking Jamia students who were studying in library on December 15.— Arvind Gunasekar (@arvindgunasekar) February 16, 2020
Delhi Police had denied any such brutality earlier, now video evidence has come out, what action will MHA take ? pic.twitter.com/DTX6CCA0N7
This is what movies have done to us. We think tear-gassing and lathi-charging protesters is okay because the movies told us they are.
Remember this? Looks familiar to you? That's exactly how George Floyd was murdered.
India: a cop in Rajasthan kneels on the neck of a man before brutally beating him for not wearing a mask.— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) June 6, 2020
Indian police brutality against religious minorities, particularly Muslims is so normal that it almost never invokes protest. pic.twitter.com/lYZFkB1sQy
Oh, this you must remember!
Hunger Games, Day-64; Just another day in what is now known as the Police State of India: pic.twitter.com/yBhJn1qFiL— Jayant Bhandari (@JayantBhandari5) May 23, 2020
How are we going to justify this?
According to The Hindu, at least 5 people died in police custody every day in 2019.
An IndiaSpend report published in 2019 says that 100 people were reported to have died in police custody in 2017, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. Of these, 58 people were not on remand.
They had been arrested and not yet produced before a court, while 42 were on police or judicial remand. In 62 cases pertaining to custodial deaths, 33 policepersons were arrested, 27 were charge-sheeted, four were acquitted or discharged, and no prizes for guessing how many were convicted.
You've all seen hundreds of videos of police just mercilessly beating down people during the lockdown. And yet once this pandemic is over, we will have movies depicting how a duty-bound cop had to use violence on people for their own good and later felt really guilty about it.
Look, we can all ask Bollywood to say a few words against police brutality but it's pointless. If they do condemn it, it will be nothing but hypocritical since they are the ones perpetuating this systemic violence and justifying it in the name of heroism and duty.