It’s funny the kind of emotional damage outward displays of harmful stereotypes can have on your life. When I was a child I resembled Sweetu more than Naina from Kal Ho Na Ho, so I realised I was unworthy of love until I lost weight. When I grew up, I resembled Veronica more than Meera from Cocktail, so I realised I was still unworthy of love until I pulled down my skirt and ingrained some sanskar. But wait! At the same time, I also wore glasses, therefore I was a nerd and thus once again unworthy of love. The hundreds of mind-games Bollywood played on me led to a myriad of eating disorders, inferiority complexes, racial divides, appearance anxiety and body dysmorphia and these are just to name a few. And like me, so suffered the rest of the nation. It’s high, high time we put an end to this. 

Here are 9 toxic Bollywood stereotypes that need to be eradicated:

1. Gay BFFs

Flashy colours, tacky prints, kitschy fits: Bollywood why do you think all gay people dress like Ranveer Singh? Also, while you’re at it, stop portraying the queer community as horny sex fiends who cling to every macho straight man who is the emblem of toxic masculinity. Trust me, that’s not their type. They know better. Double also, the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t just exist on the sidelines with the sole purpose of cisgender heterosexuals dumping their problems on them. They are functioning, contributing members of society. They deserve to be main characters too. 

2. Toxic masculinity

Believe it or not Bollywood, the epitome of female desire is not a hyper-masculine man-child who swims in a cesspool of overflowing testosterone. On paper, a beefy hunk who is completely devoid of emotion and dissolves touch-and-go situations with excessive violence might sound good, but IRL they end up being abusive manipulators who gaslight their way through relationships and leave their partners with a heaping pile of emotional trauma. And no, no woman can “fix” them (plus, why should we?). They need therapy. 

3. Saviour complex

Can Bollywood stop reinforcing the same old rusty notion that has been used, reused and then used some more to shreds? Women don’t need saving. We can look after ourselves. Masala heroes need to stop infiltrating female issues to stroke their own egos. I’m looking at you, Akshay Kumar. Movie after movie you brand yourself as “mahilaaon ka rakshak,” yet your female leads lack both age and adequate plotlines. 

4. Fat BFFs

They’re always munching on the greasiest, most obscene servings of over-the-top junk food. They’re designated for comic relief, except the humour is camouflaged deep under rampant fat-phobia. They’re always the side-kick, never the main. Why? Because they’re not a size two. So what if these characters are smart, capable, have successful careers and charming personalities? We are Bollywood and if you’re not our definition of hot, you don’t matter.

5. Sanskar

Sanskar in Bollywood firstly pertains only to women and comprises three elements. Sundarta (aka she’s thin, hot, fair and communicates with jhuki huyi nazar), susheelta (aka a dog-like obedience to authority) and kartavya (aka she knows jharu pocha, cooking, bartan dhona, pati ki seva karna etc). Her prized jewel? Her virginity. In short, sanskar according to Bollywood = glorified slavery. 

6. Rich bitches

Majestic villas, helicopters flying, Rolls Royces casually cruising by alongside a procession of servants clad in butler-like uniforms. Why do we need families where tiny wives need to step on bejewelled stools and knot their husband’s $1000 tie, say things like “Parampara, Pratishtha, Anushasan” and serve orange juice in an elaborate breakfast spread? It doesn’t reflect the reality of 90% of India. All it does is project a false fantasy. 

7. The ‘bad’ girl 

Basically the antonym of the sanskari girl. She waltzes in at the ass-crack of dawn returning from her wild rave in a slutty dress and bird’s nest for hair with a champagne bottle in hand and holding a half-lit cigarette. Her sole purpose in life is wreaking havoc on the male lead’s life with her promiscuity, rude tongue and western values. 

8. Racial stigmas

Punjabis are loud-mouth, drunkards, South Indians can only be idli-sambar loving Madrasis, Biharis always have paan in their mouths. LOL, the last time I checked we left the 20th century behind us. Get with the times.

9. Colourism

Have you ever noticed that the urban city guys are all shown to be white-skinned while small-town folks are made to adorn a brown face? Think Hrithik Roshan from Super 30 or Alia Bhatt from Udta Punjab. Messed up. 

Films have a tremendous impact on society and frame the mass mindset. The longer Bollywood continues to perpetuate these stereotypes, the longer they’ll continue to persist. Do better, Bollywood.