Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Bollywood’s idea of a love story is kidnapping someone

Don’t get me wrong, I love Bollywood with all my heart, I do. 

What I don’t love about Bollywood though is it’s excessive need to justify and glorify stalking. Stalking isn’t funny or amusing, and it’s definitely not romantic – but Bollywood has been profiting off of this problematic behavior for so long.

If only Bollywood stuck to its actual peculiarities, such as intricate storylines, romantic songs, elaborate choreographies, and gorgeous costumes – instead of normalizing stalking and harassment.

The most recent example of this is the song “Has Mat Pagli” from the 2017 Bollywood film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. The song depicts a man twice the age of the woman, following her (in jest), trying to take pictures of her (without her consent), and the lyrics literally translate to “don’t laugh or you’ll fall in love”.

What must be noted here, however, is that the woman is clearly uncomfortable with the entire ordeal. Not once is she shown to even smile about the fact that this man is casually obsessed with her.

Oh, and get this: “Has Mat Pagli” is a romantic song.

If that doesn’t give you a crystal clear picture of the extent to which Bollywood glorifies stalkers, then I don’t know what will.

Another case in point is the 2013 film, Raanjhanaa (the title translates to “beloved one”), which was a romantic movie. Once again, it centered around the hero of the film stalking the heroine to get her attention and fall in love with him.

If I started listing out the examples, I’d never stop. But a few more would be films like Darr, Anjaam, Tere Naam, R Rajkumar, and of course, the cult classic – Sholay.

There is a scene in Sholay where Hema Malini (the actress) pushes Dharmendra (the actor) off her horse carriage and he sings the following lines for her, “Koi hasina jab rooth jati hai to, aur bhi hasin ho jati hai.” 

This line literally translates to, “When a beautiful woman gets angry, she gets even more beautiful.”

Consent is not even a concept for Bollywood, or so it seems, as every hero is out to stalk his way into the heroine’s heart, no matter what she might actually want.

Now, here’s the deal – this is dangerous and has real-world consequences.

In 2016, a Snapdeal employee Dipti Saran was kidnapped by her stalker who stalked her 150 times and apparently studied her for a year before kidnapping her. He claimed that he did this, after being inspired by Shah Rukh Khan’s character in the 1993 Bollywood film, Darr. This is the implication of romanticizing stalkers in movies.

The fear of harassment for women in today’s world is constant and real anyway. It really doesn’t help that mainstream media, instead of aiding and providing solutions, help perpetuate such behavior.

I’ve had boys coming up to me, defending catcalling, stalker behavior, and telling me to “chill it.”

Apparently, I’m being too much of a feminist when I say I don’t like this aspect about Bollywood and that I genuinely don’t enjoy movies that romanticize stalking.

I’d rather be a bitter feminist than a submissive and ignorant human being who enjoys something just because it’s made to be laughed at, or whatever.

I will not support anything that attempts to harm my own safety and the safety of women worldwide.

Such films are the reason why young boys (and even older men) think it’s okay to get after a girl till she says yes, these films are the reason why consent is yet to be an internalized part of sex education, and these films contribute to keeping rape culture alive and well in today’s society.

Bollywood filmmakers need to realize the influence their stories have on young minds – it is vital for them to take responsibility and see to it that they don’t encourage problematic behavior like stalking and harassment, and instead portray those in a negative light and discourage it.

We need an immediate end to the glorification of stalkers as “heroes.”

 They’re criminals and they don’t deserve love and they definitely don’t deserve the heroine – they deserve to be punished. 

We need a shift from this regressive, misogynistic mindset, and we need it now.

Because this shift is what will bring about a real change in the young minds, this change will teach young boys what consent is, and why it’s not okay to force a girl to fall in love with them. Basic socialization these days begins at home and the media plays a massive role in that because everybody has access to YouTube and the film industry now.

It’s high time we got films that promote progressive ideals of consensual relationships between mature adults and not the ridiculous glorification we are so used to “laughing” at.

By Arushi Tandon

Arushi is a Sociology major based out of New Delhi, India. She graduated from the University of Delhi in 2017 and has since worked across sectors which include non-profits, journalism, HR, travel and education. She currently works at Ashoka University as a Teaching Assistant. A voracious reader and literature fanatic, Arushi finds happiness in reading, writing and pursues creative non-fiction as a passion project along with academic writing professionally. Enthusiastic about issues around gender, culture, lifestyle and health - this trickles into her writing and work.