Harassment and abuse, of any kind, on any gender, is a criminal offense and not a form of comedy. And yet, time after time, Bollywood has treated women being harassed as romantic, and men being harassed as comedy. Here’s proof:
1. Badrinath Ki Dulhania
In Badrinath Ki Dulhania, when Badri is molested, his friends, and his partner, laugh at him and pass lewd remarks – as if the idea of a man being molested is nothing but a big, fat, joke. The fact that this movie came out in 2017, only makes this worse.
2. Housefull 4
Throughout the franchise, there have been ample instances of problematic scenes being passed off as humor, but the worst was the latest film – where a reincarnated Giggly (Johny Lever) begins with caricaturing the trans community and relying on cross-dressing for jokes. And then goes on to harass Pehla Pasta and force him into a relationship. What exactly is supposed to be funny here?
3. Housefull 4
Yet another instance from the movie is when Rajkumari Meena wrongfully accuses Dharamputra Mahabali of raping her, just so she may ‘trap’ him into marrying her. There is nothing about this scenario that is funny because rape is not something to lie about, and trapping men into marriages is a form of abuse, not comedy.
4. Kal Ho Naa Ho
Naina invites Rohit for dinner, but due to some confusion, he ends up at Jazz and Sweetu’s house instead, and Jazz presumes he is Sweetu’s blind date. And because she finds him attractive, Jazz comes on to him, even though it is extremely clear that he is uncomfortable with the attention. The idea of an older woman hitting on a younger man against his wishes has often been used as a source of comedy relief. Even though, it’s nothing but plain harassment.
5. Kambakkht Ishq
I genuinely struggle to understand what the creators were
smoking thinking when they made this film. And while there is a lot about this film that is hard to digest, one of the top scenes has to be when Simrita (Kareena Kapoor) slips pills in Viraj’s (Akshay Kumar) drinks and then proceeds to seduce him – just so he may sleep and she can operate on him. Not only is this highly absurd and problematic, but I am pretty sure, this is an actual crime that the movie passed of as a hilarious misadventure.
There are so many problematic things in Dil, that it’s actually hard to pick just one. But in a wrestling match, the ‘punishment’ for the loser is to kiss a girl who is overweight (yes, it’s peak fat-shaming). What is worse though, is that the person who loses is shown to repeatedly say no, and even struggle as he is being kissed, and yet the laughter track does not end. No means no – no matter the situation or the gender.
7. Main Hoon Na
When Ram joins Sanjana’s college, he comes across Mrs. Sonali Kakkar, the Hindi teacher. And even though he clarifies he is a student and not the fellow Chemistry teacher, she continues to stroke his arm, comment on his muscles, and for the want of a better phrase, throw herself at him? And we’re supposed to just laugh at this!
8. Awara Paagal Deewana
Just as common as making a joke out of harassing men, is turning male domestic abuse victims into a caricature. Like it happened with Dr. Anmol Acharya, who is literally described as a man constantly dominated by his ex-wife and ex-mother-in-law. And no one thinks Anmol being abused, physically and mentally, is distressing and not funny?
There are hordes of sexist things that Masti, and its sequels, pass off as comedy. But, in the first film itself, similar to Awaara Paagal Deewana was Amar’s treatment in Masti – constantly ridiculed by his wife and mother-in-law for not having a ‘fit body’ and being forced to work out. Marriage should be between equal and any part, scared of their partner or partner’s family, is a cause of concern, not of comedy.
10. De Dana Dan
In this absurd crime comedy, Akshay Kumar plays a domestic help whose job is not just hazardous to health but also includes constant torture (mental and physical) at the hands of his employer (Archana Puran Singh). Why are we portraying abuse as humorous? Sub-standard working conditions, mistreatment of labour working force, and employers taking advantage of employees are not topics to joke about.
11. Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi
Shalu falls for Raja and even though he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings, she continues to try to win him over and ever refers to him as a strange person for not trying to romance her. Why? In fact, after accidentally hitting him with her car, she comes to apologize, and goes on to woo him – despite his explicit refusal. The story doesn’t end here – in just the next scene she asks her uncle to ask for his hand in marriage, because he doesn’t give her ‘lift’. What I’ve described is not funny or romantic – it’s stalking.
The world is constantly trying to unlearn, change and be better. It’s time Bollywood evolves too!