As the world works towards becoming more inclusive, and fair, people are slowly becoming more self-aware and dismantling the problematic behaviors, actions, and words that had been normalized for years.
This is why, we can’t help but call out scenes from Bollywood movies that, at one point, perhaps had us laughing out loud but in hindsight, are problematic and need to retire from our movies and our lives:
(The list does not include songs and running gags)
1. 3 Idiots: Rancho’s ragging
Let me start by saying that in a country where ragging is often taken to extremes, the casual depiction of it is something we could do well away with – or at least, that’s the kind of thing that should come with a warning. But, harassing someone by threatening to pee on their door is not okay, and neither is it okay to electrocute someone in response. Let’s just pick better examples to show someone’s genius?
2. 3 Idiots: Chatur’s speech
Do I even need to list out why Chatur’s speech, which started and ended with rape jokes and overt sexualization of breasts, was not just unfunny, but also highly problematic? And yet, to date, it’s regarded as one of the funniest scenes from a Hindi movie. Perhaps because years later, it’s still listed as a “funny scene”.
3. Pyaar Ka Punchnama: Rajjo’s speech
Ah, the viral speech from Pyaar Ka Punchnama, that spouted hundreds of copies, and left men, and a fair share of women (at least at the time), guffawing is actually nothing short of a misogynistic rant. The women in the film were painted in an extremely shallow manner, which made it appear as if the men were the real victims – but the speech, that judged men and women for being friends, talked about ‘shutting women up’, mocked all women, among other things, is not exactly hilarious.
4. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Raj and Simran bumping in the train
In Bollywood’s dictionary, romantic comedy equals eve-teasing, and DDLJ is the prime example of that. Accidentally getting stuck in a train compartment with a girl is NOT an excuse to immediately hit on her by ignoring her personal space, making her visibly uncomfortable, and forcing yourself on her lap – all of which Raj did in the span of 3 minutes.
And the reason we need to call this behavior out is because, even in 2019, YRF thought lack of consent is funny.
5. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Raj pretends to have hooked up with Simran.
For starters, let’s just admit that lying about sexual encounters is not funny. However, another part of the scene that riles me up is Raj’s dialogue, “Main ek Hindustani hun. Aur main jaanta hun ki ek Hindustani ladki ki izzat kya hoti hai.” So women who are not Indian, don’t deserve respect? Just because you’re catering to NRIs does not mean you disrespect an entire gender.
6. Sanju: Sanjay Dutt recounts his sexual partners
Why do men believe that boasting about their number of sexual partners is a matter of pride? When the question is about the number of women you’ve slept with (again, why was this even needed in the film is a mystery), why do you need to specify that prostitutes should be kept separate? Are prostitutes not women? Prostitutes deserve the same respect that you’ll award any other person who you pay for a job. And treating your sexual partners as a figure to be rounded up reeks of casual sexism. It’s neither funny, nor a matter of pride.
7. Badrinath Ki Dulhania: A man getting abducted, implying male rape.
To say this scene did not age well would be a misnomer considering how recent the film is – in other words, this scene was not funny even when the film originally came out. Though a section of society that seems to also include the movie’s makers certainly thought of molestation as hilarious. Newsflash – rape isn’t funny, no matter the gender of the person being attacked.
8. Kal Ho Naa Ho: “6 din, ladki in” dating advice
What might have struck as a witty statement from the King of Romance when the film came out originally, is actually nothing more than glorified objectification of women. The statement reduces women to objects to be conquered and sadly, that objectification does not seem to be ending any time soon. All’s not fair in comedy
9. Kal Ho Naa Ho: Every scene with Kanta Ben
While instances of cross-dressing and making fun of effeminate men are sadly, a running joke in Bollywood, what the ‘Kanta Ben’ gag did was turn male friendship into a joke (of all the things to take from FRIENDS), while also ridiculing same-sex relationships.
10. Kambakkht Ishq and Housefull 4: Forcibly kissing a woman
Yes, the blatant disregard of consent is so common in Bollywood that there are multiple movies where a woman is forcibly kissed by the hero, either to shut her up or as a way to show affection. The two listed here are just the tip of the iceberg! But forcibly kissing a girl is not okay, irrespective of whether she is your crush, your partner, or the Queen of England.
11. Housefull 4: Neha wrongly accuses Dharamputra of rape.
Housefull 4 was an assault on our senses and the fact that it came out in 2019 and still incorporated dialogues like iske gender ka tender nahin hua, main abla hun, tabla nahi is nothing short of a travesty. But at a time when a movement like #MeToo tried to change the world, the creators of Housefull 4 thought that a woman wrongly accusing a man of rape is the right premise for a joke.
12. Raanjhana: Turning stalking and rejection into a comical gag
The projection of stalking as a romantic gesture in Bollywood movies has been called out numerous times. And yet, it never ends. Worse still are movies like Raanjhana that make it seem “harmless” by turning it into a joke. Stalking is not harmless and it’s high time it stops being presented as romantic or funny. And rejection does not mean trying harder.
These scenes barely scratch the surface when it comes to Bollywood’s tendency to normalize problematic behavior. Running gags on fat-shaming, color-shaming, cross-dressing, and caricaturing communities for their accents and behavioral traits is as common to Hindi-language movies as songs with sexist lyrics that are literally called “item songs”.
The world is changing, and Bollywood needs to do better as well.